Posted by Brad on March 27, 2013
Growing up, football was the only sport I ever wanted to play. But the problem was all we had was Pop Warner and I was always real big for my age. The only way they would let me play is if I played with kids that were much older than me and that was out of the question, because I just didn't have the experience.
I always tried doing other stuff. At first I started doing – like most kids – soccer, but I eventually got away from that because I wasn't a big fan of it. I did karate and I actually got my black belt in karate when I was nine years old. I also did baseball and basketball.
All that was just to keep me occupied, because I still wanted to play football. And then finally, they started an unlimited weight football league in South Jersey. Since I went to a private school, they allowed me to play for the Galloway Renegades. So in sixth grade I was finally allowed to play football.
I was excited to play, but it was hard for me and at times I didn't really like it. I was a big kid, but I wasn't dominant because I wasn't aware of my size or my strength. I wasn't very athletic and not used to the conditioning. I sort of questioned if it was for me or not. It sort of took me a while to get the hang of it, because all the other kids who were playing it had been playing it since they were little and they were used to everything.
Finally, my dad just told me, ‘If you go 100-percent as hard as you can on every play you do, you could pretty much dominate all the kids out there because you're just so much bigger and stronger.' And one day it just clicked. I just started dominating kids – pushing kids to the ground. I really loved it, because it was the only sport I felt I was really good at and I could contribute to my team.
It really just changed my whole image as a kid. It gave me a whole lot of self confidence. I started making friends. So I started putting my whole focus into that.
In eighth grade, I switched schools to Southern Regional Middle School and played football there. I didn't really know anybody, but I was one of the captains. That was big for me.
I decided to go to Monsignor Donovan High School for four years and play football there. They didn't really have a good program, but I met the head coach and I liked what he was doing there and I knew I could play early there. I know that this coach was going to change the program there and it was something I just wanted to be a part of.
I came into Mon Don as a freshman and they started me out at tackle. It was probably a good place for me to start out, because the tackle in a triple-option offense isn't really the key offensive line position. So it was good for me to get the experience but not have all the pressure.
Everything was going great, but then one of the guards got hurt so they had to move me to guard. That was kind of a big deal, because it was one of the more important positions. It was a good experience for me and we went 6-4.
And then sophomore year came around and that was more challenging for me because I switched sides on the offensive side. I went from right guard to left guard. It was a little more difficult for me. We were rebuilding that year. We only went 2-8 and it was tough.
Going into my junior day, I knew it was going to be a big year for recruiting and it was going to be a bigger year for my team because we had that experience under our belts. I worked really hard on my quickness – I had the size, but my feet had to get quicker. And the other thing was I was switched to center that year, too. I was apprehensive, because it's more difficult to play than guard and tackle. You have to snap the ball and you're inside so you have to recognize things a little bit quicker. I hated center at first, but after I got a few games under my belt I started to really like it. We went 6-4, so we started to really bounce back.
My senior year rolled around and they moved me back to guard. I was a little more comfortable playing guard. We ended up going 6-4 and we ended up winning out division.
Coach Chris Kapilovic at UNC likes the fact that I have played, and can play, tackle, guard and center – and on both sides. The fact that I have snapped in games is appealing to him. Kapilovic always said it's helpful to find somebody that can snap, because it's a very key position at the college level and it's hard to do.