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More on Pitt’s Band of Brothers

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Some interesting anecdotes from Pitt’s three sets of brothers: Dom and Brock DeCicco, Nate and Lucas Nix and Andrew and Jon Taglianetti, who were featured in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

* Andrew Taglianetti, Nate Nix and Dom DeCicco sit side-by-side in Pitt’s locker room, so there is constant conversation among those three, as well as their brothers. They have all known each other for years, dating back to their days of playing against one another in summer basketball.

“We’ve been playing basketball against the Taglianettis since we were 7 or 8 years old,” Lucas Nix said. “We played them like 10 times.”

Added Jon Taglianetti: “We’re all pretty close. We all played against each other. We all kind of joke around about the brother wars.”

Although the Taglianettis are the smallest of the three sets of brothers, Jon said they have a strategy in place to win a battle royal that would involve teaming with the DeCiccos to defeat the Nix brothers, then turning on them.

* All three older brothers are smaller than their younger brothers (although Andrew Taglianetti is only 20 minutes older than Jon). The disparity is greatest between the Nix brothers, as Lucas (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) has four inches and 65 pounds on Nate.

“I never expected it. I was bigger than him until my sophomore year of high school, then he started to sprout. He just kept growing and growing,” Nate said, with a laugh. “I’m changing into clothes that don’t fit him anymore. It was the other way around before. It’s kind of neat, having a little brother who’s bigger than you.

“But he still knows who wears the pants. He knows what the deal is.”

* Lucas Nix is missing two of his front four teeth, thanks to an accident when he was younger. Lucas often loses the replacement crown – “He’s gone through at least six sets,” Nate said – so it’s not unusual to see him walking around with a gap-tooth grin.

“He was in elementary school, riding a bicycle (in the dark) and rode into a chain,” Nate said. “He lost two of them. We found them but when they got to the hospital, they realized one was a white pebble on the ground. So he didn’t get that one in place in time.

“He doesn’t care. He’d rather have it out. He’s a goon.”

* Being the younger brother on the same team with an older sibling has its drawbacks, as Dom DeCicco is already having fun at Brock’s expense after learning of the long-limbed, 6-foot-5, 227-pounde tight end’s encounter with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.

“I wasn’t there for it, but everyone told me that he had to wear a sleeveless shirt to lift with Buddy, and I guess Buddy went off for a half hour to ‘cover those toothpicks up and never come in again with a sleeveless shirt,’” Dom said. “That’s all around TJ already.”

* Andrew Taglianetti is listed on the depth chart as one of four potential punt returners – along with Aaron Berry, Cameron Saddler and Aaron Smith – but doesn’t expect to handle that role.

Mostly because Taglianetti blocked three punts last season.

“It’s hard to think that coach (Dave) Wannstedt will have me return punts if I’m able to block kicks because we’ve got Cam back there and AB, a good corps of returners,” Taglianetti said. “I wouldn’t mind getting the ball in my hands, but…”

* Although Andrew Taglianetti starred for Central Catholic’s PIAA Class AAAA champions and has made an early impact at Pitt while Jon played quarterback and linebacker at South Fayette and took a redshirt as a freshman for the Panthers, it was the opposite when they were younger.

“He was always a better athlete than me,” Andrew said.

Jon, however, holds no animosity toward Andrew. In fact, Jon says he’s his brother’s biggest fan, knowing all of the obstacles he’s overcome.

“Growing up I was getting all the headlines and Andrew was second in everything,” Jon said. “Once we went to Central, he went to another level. He worked hard for that. He earned everything and deserves everything he’s got.”

* The Taglianettis started working as stick boys for the Penguins five years ago – their father, Peter Taglianetti, was a defenseman on the Penguins’ Stanley Cup champions in 1991 and ’92 – and worked the visiting locker room when the Detroit Red Wings won the Cup last year.

“That’s something I really want to get into it,” Jon said. “When we started, we were there to fill up the water bottles.”

Jon still works as an “assistant to the assistant” equipment manager for the Penguins He hopes to make it a career, contemplated doing so after high school and said it once affected his desire to play college football.

When Andrew was offered a scholarship by Pitt – initially a grayshirt, meaning he would enroll full-time in January – Jon was invited as a preferred walk-on and decided it was too good to pass up.

“We were both under the radar,” Jon said. “(Andrew) was mad about the situation, with some of the schools that backed off. He said he was going to tear someone’s head off, and he did. I sat back and was a little intimidated by what went on.”

* Where Andrew didn’t work for the Penguins this year, Jon was invited by the Penguins to travel to Detroit for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in June, and made it onto the ice for the victory celebration just in time for the team photo that appeared in Sports Illustrated and other publications.

“I’m happy for him because everyone comes up to him and says, ‘You were in Sports Illustrated and you were in Detroit,’” Andrew said. “He really works hard, so it’s great for him.”

Jon treasures that experience.

“When I was asked to go to Game 7, it was amazing – just seeing what it takes to win a championship, I feel like it helps me as a football player with what you have to do to prepare every day,” he said. “I’ll never forget that final seven seconds. I hope as a player some day I can experience that. I got to witness it firsthand, but it’s not the same as playing.

“When they called that picture, I wasn’t wasting any time. I dove in front of (goalie Marc-Andre) Fleury – who was probably the MVP of that game – to make sure I was in the picture. I remember looking down at my phone and having 75 text-messages. Billy Guerin handed me the Cup on the ice and I kissed it and held it up. I’ll never forget that.”

Jon Taglianetti might even get to spend a day with the Cup.

“I’m not sure. I’m not really worried about it,” he said. “Coach Wannstedt asked me that the first day. He said, ‘Are you going to get it? If you do, you better bring it here.’”

But Jon Taglianetti won’t have his name engraved on the trophy.

“My dad probably likes that I’m not getting my name on it,” he said. “That’s his bragging rights.”

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