Cody Kritzer, Class of 2005, recalls his days as a perennial two sport All-County player, cites the lessons learned in competitive sports that make him a winner on Wall Street, compares high school and collegiate championships, and sets his sites on bringing more Cardinals' football alumni back to Westwood Regional
Q: As a two sport (baseball and football) standout at Westwood Regional what did Spring mean to you?
A: We used to start training as soon as football ended -- strength sessions in the weight room and then at night up at PBI in Ramsey - hitting, throwing and fielding. Spring lets you show your teammates, your coaches, and the teams you play how much better you got through hard work in the offseason but we always took baseball just as serious as football. Then come the dog days of Summer, triple sessions and you do it all over again.
Q: You were ‘The Record Athlete of The Week’ your junior year in baseball. What was that experience like?
A: That year we lost to St. Joes in the County semi-finals. A bunch of us at Westwood played two sports and many were deserving of the award. Any one of my teammates could have been selected but I accepted modestly for the team showing that our guys can compete with the larger, parochial schools. You grow up seeing that signature AOTW drawing in the paper every week and then, it’s YOU. It was a very humbling and proud moment for me and my family.
Q: Are you surprised that with your impressive 12-0 Football State Championship later that year no Cardinals received Athlete Of The Week?
A: No. Coach Gambardella had a “team was first” rule. He never put any of us up for the award and, that year especially, we had reporters and administrators begging him to.
Q: Wait, many teams here at Westwood and in the County have the “team first” rule yet they allow their players and their individual performances to be recognized as such. Wasn't that an extreme rule?
A: Coach Gambardella was old school and we were all on board with his “team first” mentality which led to our success. He wasn’t for every player or parent but he taught the rest of us game fundamentals, how to be physically and mentally tough, how to overcome adversity, and how to be champions. I give him a lot of credit for helping me get to where I am in life and I am sure a lot of the guys I played with will tell you the same thing.
Q: There are many life lessons in that answer that football teaches. Which one do you draw upon most?
A: To a certain extent, all of them: respecting authority, mental and physical toughness, sense of team, striving to be the best. But, frankly, overcoming adversity is the one that competing in sports really teaches you. My junior year in football we were 6-4 and lost in the first round to Mountain Lakes. We were in a lot of close games and sometimes we couldn’t overcome a mistake or perform well enough to win. My Senior year; however, we did. And we had the same ups and downs in games like mistakes, injuries, etc. but - unlike the year before - we fought through them. We overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit in the semis to beat Mountain Lakes and the next week out-dueled Butler 22-21 in the finals. I work on Wall Street where the market is up and down and I get kicked in the mouth by clients, managers, and the ebb and tide of sales. I am never too high or too low and always come back fighting through it just like a last sprint, a final bench press rep, or after an opponent scored. You get up, collect yourself and fight through it. That’s what competitive sports, especially football teaches.
Q: So, All-County in two sports, a 6’2” frame, and honor roll grades - what made you choose football and Fordham?
A: I was recruited for D1 in both sports but Football was more my passion. Fordham has so much history with the seven blocks of granite, Vince Lombardi and a great business school. I knew I wanted to be working on Wall Street after my playing days were over so it just made sense.
Q: You weren’t a starter there right away but you were on a Championship team, right?
A: Adjusting to the speed of college football was tough but coming from a program like Westwood and being coached by Joe Gambardella prepared me for the work load. I busted my butt to make the travel team Freshman year and then got on specials and ultimately was the starting tight-end in my Sophomore, Junior and Senior years. We won the Patriot League Championship my Junior year and lost to Victor Cruz’s UMass team in the first round of the playoffs with Q.B. John Skelton who now plays for the Titans leading the way for us.
Q: How did a NCCA FBS Championship at Fordham compare to your State title at Westwood?
A: It didn’t. Winning States with the guys I grew up with in Westwood and the guys from Township that became my brothers in front of our families and our community was second to none. I was so proud to witness the team down at Kean this year win it the same way. Ten years later, I am still close with all my teammates and coaches and will be forever.
Q: You are active in the Fordham Football Alumni Association and now want to replicate some of that here at Westwood, why?
A: I’m at a time in my life where I can. I follow the team on social media and in the papers and go to games whenever I can. It’s important for alumni to be around, to give back and to support the guys coming through. We are all linked through this great sport and our tremendous community. Coach Campanile and the Touchdown Club are on board and I know the guys I played with would be more than happy to help keep this program strong for years to come.
Athletic Accomplishments at Westwood Regional
2003 First Team All County Tight End
2004 First Team All County Tight End, First Team All North Jersey Linebacker
All Decade Tight End (Honorable Mention)
All Decade Linebacker (Honorable Mention)
2004 & 2005 Second Team All County First Base
Athlete of the Week (May 25th, 2004)