It was fixing to be an incredible Friday night for college senior, Nicholas and his fellow football players. They were currently sitting in a blue Dodge Dart with two young girls, a whole bunch of marijuana, and some liquor.
But nights like these rarely end well and whatever the girls were planning to do with their new friends, it was certainly not what Niko had in mind. It was to be a night that would haunt him for the rest of his life…
Niko and his friends were rolling along, but it seemed that the farther they drove, the worse the neighborhood became. A few minutes later, when they pulled into the driveway of a two-story house. The girls led the football players up into the house through the side door, but before the party got started, 10 masked men, brandishing bats, pipes, knives, and guns, burst in behind them.
Suddenly, all lights in the room went out. Niko sprinted for the door but felt his leg shatter before he reached it. His femur had been broken in two by one of the assailants. Still, he got to his feet and hobbled to the door. As he looked out the door window he saw the two girls on the other side, holding it shut tight…
Drag Them Away
The assailants as it turned out, were a group of thugs in their late teens and early 20’s being led by a man named Elliot Rivera. At the time, Niko didn’t know this. In fact, all he knew in that terrible moment, as they dragged him and his friends away, was that they were in serious trouble. The men had soon tied Niko’s and his friends’ hands and legs with duct tape.
Despite the fact that Niko Kollias was a 6-foot-1, 215-pound defensive end at the nearby University of Rochester, he was helpless to do anything but wait and try to appeal for mercy. Sadly, mercy was not on the menu that weekend. For the next three hours, the men proceeded to shoot, stab, and beat him within an inch of his life…
Men in Masks
Time went on and soon Niko and his friends were given slight respite from the abuse. He could hear their assailants in the adjacent room, laughing, smoking weed, and plotting what they would do to them next. They had screamed about revenge as they hurt them, but what had Niko even done?
The men then forced Niko, bleeding and completely exhausted, into the shower to wash himself off. He wondered when it would all end, when they might let him go, or maybe, when they would grow tired and kill them. Little did he know, the girls, the ruse, the attacks, all of them had everything to do with his school sport: football…
Football and Piano
Nicholas Kollias, who had grown up in Chicago, arrived on the University of Rochester campus in 2012 in order to study his two loves: piano and football. It was the perfect place for him to do both because it had a Division III football team and the renowned Eastman School of Music. It was everything he’d ever wanted.
He played mostly on special teams for the Yellowjackets. Once he reached senior year though, he had made his way up to full defensive. At the same time, the school recruited freshman linebacker Isaiah E. Smith from the Bronx. It proved to be good for the team, but ultimately bad for Niko…
Isaiah Smith had grown up in a bad neighborhood and under some rather unstable circumstances, yet he ended up developing into a good student at the University: both on and off the field. Unfortunately, he also had a reputation for wanting to break into the on-campus drug trade and make a little extra money on the side.
To Kick or Not to Kick?
Surprisingly, the coaches knew about Smith’s indiscretions and overlooked them. After all, he was a damn good football player and he was helping lead the team to victory. Those kids who were better athletes always had a much longer leash than their fellow ne’er dowells. There was just no way he was getting kicked off the team, no matter what he did…
Two weeks after the Yellowjackets’ final game of the season Smith was caught on camera sneaking into a student apartment complex with four other young men and carrying about four pounds of weed. Before they could be let in, the four men were attacked by another three men who stole the drugs and left them wounded on the floor.
Questions and Charges
Police at the hospital questioned Smith and soon found that his story was not making much sense. They determined that the whole attack, pepper spray and all, had been Smith’s idea. They eventually collected enough evidence to charge him with burglary, robbery and assault. Niko and his teammates were dismayed to learn that Smith would be kicked off the team…
Five miles away from the University, 19-year-old Elliot Rivera had begun to plot his revenge. His cousin had been attacked with a hammer during the drug deal gone bad. He didn’t know much about what happened, nor who had attacked his cousin, but what he did know, was that at least one of the attackers was a University of Rochester football player.
This all brings us back to the night of December. 4, 2015, a typical Friday night that had turned into a nightmare for Niko Kollias and his friends. They had been hanging at their frat when they received the call from a teammate about two girls who wanted to meet them. If only they hadn’t gotten in the car that night…
The men had videotaped Niko and the other captives. It was only 30 seconds long, but the next 40 hours would be filled with all manner of physical, psychological, and sexual torture. Niko pleaded for his life, even as his body was full of gunshot wounds and covered in blood. But the video had a message: “Look at your boy. He got nothing to do with this; he started running.”
To make matters worse, the men knew that Niko, who was white, was not involved at all in the drug robbery. But it didn’t matter. They had plans for him. Finally, after his shower, the men gave him a crutch and allowed him to hobble along into a tiny dirty bedroom. They even gave him food and water. He had no idea what was happening…
The following Sunday morning, the masked men cranked up the music again and barged into the room. They were angry and started yelling at Niko that he had been lying to them. His credit cards, which they had stolen, had been cancelled and they couldn’t get any more money. They were going to kill Niko and his friends and he was too weak to stop them.
Eventually, the police realized what was happening and connected the dots. The SWAT team came blasting into the house in the nick of time and quickly arrested Rivera and his compatriots. They quickly got Niko and his friend to the hospital. They looked as if they had survived a horror movie, and truly they had…
All told, nine people went to prison for the kidnapping and torture of Kollias and his teammate. Rivera, who was essentially the mastermind behind the whole plot was sentenced to 155 years in prison. He laughed when the judge handed out the sentence.
Strength from Music
Despite his torture, Niko is doing well. He may not be able to play football but he seems to find solace in playing the piano. When asked about his ordeal he explained that,: “I made the conscious decision to live, survive and overcome the challenge I was faced with, and that’s exactly what I did.”