Former Corr winners inspired Romeo to carry on tradition

Having known and even played with several former Lt. John G. Corr Memorial Award winners, R.J. Romeo had the opportunity to witness the kind of leadership and character that the award embodies.

And after receiving the prestigious honor at last month’s Wilton High School Senior Sports Awards Night, he hopes his example has passed the torch on to others.

“I always try to be respectful to everybody and be a good friend and put out a helpful hand,” said the recent WHS graduate.

Romeo, a standout in football and lacrosse, never forgot how upperclassmen such as Brett Phillips, Sean Carroll and Weston Wilbur — all former Corr winners — took him under their wing when he was a young player, and how they were great leaders both on and off the field.

“They were really great guys, always helping others, always being there for their families and friends,” he said.

Romeo is the 48th recipient of the Lt. John G. Corr Memorial Award, which is given to the senior male athlete at WHS who best exemplifies the character, dedication, leadership and conduct both on and off the field of John Corr, a 1962 Wilton High graduate who was killed in action Dec. 28, 1967, at Quang Nam in South Vietnam.

John Corr graduated from Wilton High in 1962 with letters in baseball, football, basketball and track. After graduating from college in 1966, he enlisted in the Marines. As a lieutenant, he received nine citations and two Purple Hearts while serving in Vietnam. When it was time to rotate home, he chose to stay with his men and continue the struggle.

The Corr award provides yearly scholarship money toward the recipient's college expenses. If the winner chooses to pursue graduate study at Oxford, Cambridge or Edinburgh universities, a portion of his expenses also would be covered.

It is considered to be the most prestigious award a male student-athlete can receive at Wilton High.

Romeo said that, having collected his thoughts the past week and realizing what the Corr award signified, there were no words to express “how humbled and grateful I am to win something like this.”

On the football field, Romeo was a two-year starter at quarterback for Wilton, helping the Warriors compile a record of 7-14 over that time.

He completed a total of 119 passes for 1,157 yards and 11 touchdowns, and ran for 409 yards and six TDs. He was also the team’s punter, averaging more than 34 yards per punt.

Romeo said the seven seniors on the team took on the responsibility of making younger players feel a part of the squad.

“We had a lot of young guys. We had a lot sophomores playing on the varsity. I remembered when I was a sophomore and playing football,” he said. “The seniors were all guides for me at that point. I felt our senior class as a whole had to step up and guide the sophomores. I wanted to give them the same experience I had.”

The same attitude applied to lacrosse, where Romeo was a three-year starter as the team’s faceoff specialist (FOGO), earning first-team All-FCIAC honors this season. Last year, as a junior, he was named a US Lacrosse All-American.

This spring’s boys lacrosse team had more seniors than did last fall’s football team, but it was still young with many sophomores and five freshmen. As in football, Romeo focused on building team chemistry and making the younger players feel part of the team.

“We were like one big team. If they feel welcome, then they play better and they can relax,” he said. “We tried to lay a good foundation for the juniors to lead the same way we did.”

Romeo will take his FOGO talents to the DI level next season for Providence College.

Although he was a midfielder/FOGO when he came to WHS, Romeo was told by his summer coach that his chances to play DI lacrosse would be better if he focused on face-offs.

As a freshman at WHS, he was called up to the varsity at the end of the season and got to work with Ted Ottens, Wilton’s All-American FOGO at the time.

“He was absolutely incredible,” said Romeo about Ottens. “Even in those four weeks I got a lot better at it.”

In the year between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he focused on developing as a FOGO, as Ottens had moved on to Brown University.

“I had a lot of help from the face-off coach and a lot of help from Ted. I just kept working and working at it,” he said. “My sophomore year I won the position, and the rest is history.”