The little guy with the huge chip on his shoulder gets inspired on the football field by the writing on his wrist. Because before Sandro DeAngelis puts on the Calgary Stampeders helmet, the kicker takes a marker and writes N, M, D, S, D, C on his arm bar.
The letters represent members of his family, who all have contributed to his rise as a player and the reason for his success. For if it wasn't for the sacrifices his Nonna (grandmother), Mom, Dad, brothers Steve and Dan and fiancee Cassi have made, he wouldn't be kicking field goals with amazing authority in the CFL.
"It really has been a family affair," said the 24-year-old. "Without them, I wouldn't be at this point."
The DeAngelis family emigrated from Italy in the early '70s to Niagara Falls, Ont. His brothers were already playing high school football by the time he was born.
Steve encountered knee problems, while Dan went on to play at Buffalo State. Both helped coach him along.
"It was like having three dads," DeAngelis said. "Not to mention now that they're police officers, you have to stay on the straight and narrow. It's a very unique family situation but we're extremely close."
The family worked together so young Sandro could cross the border to pay about $6,500 in tuition at St. Joseph's Collegiate high in Buffalo.
It wasn't an easy feat, as Sandro's father would have to drive him 40 minutes to school and then pick him up after practice, making for long days and long drives.
But Sandro rewarded the family's efforts by being named Western New York player of the year.
From there, DeAngelis earned a scholarship to Nebraska, a football hotbed if there ever was one.
"My family went through some problems financially after losing their motel," DeAngelis said. "That was right around the time of me going into Grade 7. What made St. Joe's even more special was the finances weren't that great.
"All my family chipped in to make that dream a reality. How they did it, with the sacrifices they made to get me there, to spend the money to get the scholarship eventually, that's something I will never forget and a debt I can never pay back."
When Sandro arrived in Nebraska for his red-shirt year, he met Cassi, whom he plans to wedprior to the 2006 CFL season.
The couple lived through plenty of tough times in college, as DeAngelis was sent to the bench each time he missed a kick. After struggling through a foot fracture in his sophomore year, DeAngelis missed a convert in his junior year. He never saw the field again until the coaching staff was changed the following season. With a solid senior season, the Stamps were interested.
DeAngelis signed with Calgary, graduated from Nebraska in early May and then began a perfect streak of field goals that lasted 17 attempts.
For a guy who was always told he didn't have the right stuff for football, somebody might have to pinch him.
"It's funny, those who know me the best from Niagara Falls, they're kind of tickled for me that they see I'm living my dream every day," DeAngelis said. "If it all ended tomorrow, I'd be really happy. Every goal I set out, I've already accomplished. It just goes to show you that with a little bit of hard work and some support from family, dreams really can come true."