Mariano was one of the water boys for the Ossining High School football team up until eighth grade. He and Christian Federico would form a unique bond because of it, Christian five years Mariano's senior, playing catch before or after the team practiced. When Ossining won the Section I title in 2007, Federico rushed to embrace Mariano while his teammates celebrated on the field.
Three years later, while taking a jog around the University of Maryland campus, Christian passed away unexpectedly, thus changing Mariano's life forever.
All throughout his life, Mariano had worn the number 13, part of a family tradition. After Christian's passing, Mariano vowed to play in his honor, turning the somber event into something empowering:
"After he passed away, that's when I told myself I would try and be the best player and person I possibly can be because I wanted to follow his footsteps. He was one of the most influential people I've had in my life."
The first time he wore the number 23 was when his high school visited Ossining during his senior season of football. Mariano felt Christian's presence throughout the entire game, most notably during his game-winning drive in overtime. He has worn the number ever since that game. The outlook looked a bit bleak on being able to wear it at Syracuse, though, as it was goalie Parker Ferrigan's number. Ferrigan ended up transferring, though, as if fate willed it.
Mariano currently leads the Orange with 25 goals this season and his 2.2 goals per game average is the fifth-best in the conference.
Christian is most certainly smiling down upon his friend.