GREENWICH — Greenwich defensive end Mozi Bici already has an offer from Brown and interest in a number of Ivy League schools. Bici has a 3.6 grade point average — “Not the best but OK,” said the on and off field perfectionist.
Bici is particularly interested in math.
“I like numbers,” Bici said. “Numbers talk to me.”
Imagine, then, the blare Bici faced doing the counting as his sack totals soared last fall. He finished with 14, which ranked third in the state, a half sack behind teammate Tyler Blizzard. He was also among the leaders with 20.5 tackles for losses and finished 14th with 120 tackles.
Those statistics are Bici’s version of a sonnet.
He was part of a defense that averaged five sacks a game, a big reason the Cardinals surprisingly were undefeated before reaching the Class LL championship, where they suffered a close loss to Darien.
“It was more disappointment that we didn’t win the state final,” Bici said. “I was more mad about that. But the fact that we made it there, that was a good goal, but we just have to finish now. We have new goals. Right now we’re just focused on one game at a time.”
The Cardinals are in a strong position to make a return trip to the title game this year. They have a number of key players back. It would not be a surprise if they are ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll. That would be a nice honor, but it is where Greenwich ends up in the rankings that are of paramount importance.
Bici is coming off a breakout season. It was typical of his meteoric rise. Bici, unlike his current teammates, did not start playing football until the 8th grade. Bici said he was dependent at that time on Cardinals safety Larry DeLuca to keep from getting lost on the field.
“At first it was hard,” Bici said. “I didn’t really get the game. Every play Larry would tell me where to go. He would say you should go through this gap. He would let me know. He was my guy.”
When Bici arrived at Greenwich a year later he immediately stood out to coach John Marinelli.
“Raw talent with an unbelievable motor,” Marinelli recalled. “The play is never over with him. He could be 20 yards away and he is just going to chase it down. He just has a unique ability to sniff out a play. From a very young age he just had that instinctive nature about him that made him an incredible athlete.”
Bici said it took coaching from the Greenwich staff and a lot of time in front of the television for everything to click.
“Freshman year, that is when I really started understanding it,” Bici said. “Instead of just going after the ball I could really pay attention to the game. I watched the college game and the NFL and I would see myself at my position because those guys are the masters, and I would see how they perfected it and that is how I would learn.”
Bici was initially placed at linebacker, but during a scrimmage Marinelli was in need of line help and moved him up front to defensive end. Marinelli said Bici had several sacks and a new position.
“We knew he was going to be good,” Marinelli said. “A season later he’s a force and an All-State player. Whatever we saw in him and whatever our coaches saw in him, it was the right move.”
At 6-1 and 195 pounds, Bici is an athletic freak. Greenwich used him as a safety in 7 on 7 play and Marinelli said Bici is being looked at by colleges as a lineman, linebacker and safety.
“How many guys can you say about that?” Marinelli said.
Bici is of Albanian descent. His parents and two older brothers were born in Albania and most of his family is still there. Bici, who was born in the U.S., used to spend summers in Albania until he started playing football.
Bici initially played basketball, until he felt he was not tall enough to make an impact. That was the impetus for switching to football.
“I just love the sport,” Bici said. “I love the aggressiveness. You can just let it all out there. If you’ve had a stressful day you can come to the football field, you can leave it all out. If I had a best test score I would come out and leave it all out.”
Marinelli said he is unsurprised by Bici’s rapid ascension.
“He has the drive, he has the work ethic, he’s one of our strongest kids in the weight room,” Marinelli said. “It’s in his blood. We just put down a path for him and he followed that path and now he is a Division I recruit.”
How athletic is Bici? Marinelli has designs on using him some at an unlikely position.
“You will see him at wide receiver this year,” Marinelli said. “He has unbelievable body control. I don’t know how you are going to tackle him. You can’t go low on him because he runs so low to the ground for a big guy. And he runs with force. He looks like he is going to make a tackle with the ball in his hands. He has some of the best hands on the team.”
Bici also has an offer from Rhode Island, and his options are likely to swell.
“A goal of mine is I want to be a sack leader for the state, that’s my goal honestly,” Bici said. “Have a bunch of tackles. I don’t know if I can be a tackle leader. It’s hard at defensive end.”
Bici said that is really a secondary target. First up: winning one more game than last year.
“We didn’t know we were going to be so good at the start and we’re still not that good,” Bici said. “We didn’t finish it. In order to do that we have to focus on one game at a time.”