Valley Stream native, football player and medical student Chris Infantino was honored with the Colonial Athletic Association’s prestigious Chuck Boone Leadership and Excellence Award for both his role as an offensive lineman for the Stony Brook Seawolfs and his research and advocacy work in the realm of sports concussions.
Infantino, 23, said he was thankful that the Seawolves allowed him to return after he left for a year in 2013 to spend time with his ailing father.
“They were arms wide open about having me back,” he said of return in 2014 after his father’s death, according to an interview with the university. Infantino has had three number changes throughout his tenure with the team, first as 61, playing as a defensive player and then to 92 after his return, and again to 79, playing as an offensive lineman. The changes, he said, allowed him to have a unique perspective on the game.
As an offensive lineman he has started every game during the current season, according to Stony Brook, and helped the team rush for 208.1 yards per game.
Off the field, Infantino is currently finishing his master’s of science degree in biomedical sciences, specializing on brain diseases and injuries. He said he became interested in the area of study after slipping into a coma at age 11 due to a spinal-fluid infection.
His mother Angela Shirian said the doctors prepared her for the worst. “He was very lucky,” she said. “It was a miracle.”
His recovery was long, in which he transitioned from a wheelchair to crutches to ankle braces, a process which was frustrating for the active Infantino, who had been playing football since he was 5. “I was in a hurry to get back out on the field,” he told the Herald this summer.
From it, however, he found a way to combine his love for research and football, researching chronic traumatic encephaly or CTE, a disease that afflicts many athletes who suffer from repeated brain trauma.
Infantino said he was honored to receive the CAA award, which was named after University of Richmond athlete Chuck Boone who served as captains of both the college’s baseball and football teams, as well as its athletics director for 23 years.
“Getting that award named for someone as prestigious as Chuck Boone means a lot to me,” he said.