Posted by Tommy on May 4, 2015
I started playing football when I was in second grade for my town, Glen Rock. I started as a center, actually, so my career – as you’ll see – will come full circle at North Carolina. I was always a big kid, so I was always stuck at offensive line when I was younger.
I was also a wrestler, too. In seventh grade, I quit football for wrestling for a short while. I was doing really well with wrestling. I won the state championship three times. I really thought I was going to pursue wrestling. That was it. Football was, kind of, my second thing. I thought, ‘I’ll just train for wrestling and I’ll get better.’
And then my dad talked me into playing football again. He didn’t really talk me into it. He just said, ‘You’re playing football,’ so I just started playing again and I’m happy he did. Football and wrestling really go hand-and-hand. Football helps with wrestling and wrestling helps with football, and my dad saw that. I can’t imagine what I’d be doing right now, so thank God he stepped in.
I went into high school as a tight end because I was training with position coaches at tight end. I started out with the freshmen, because parochial schools keep everyone down on the freshman team. I actually caught three touchdowns in a scrimmage – that was the glory of my life. I was a little Jimmy Graham. It was preseason, but I still count those three touchdowns.
After a few short weeks, I got moved up to varsity. When I got moved up I went from No. 88 to No. 76, so my days of catching passes were over – I was now an offensive and defensive lineman. I really didn’t have any say, but really I just wanted to do what was going to get me on the field.
On varsity, I got my ass kicked. When I got moved up to varsity, I thought I was floating on water. The first day, coach lined me up against the whole offensive and defensive line. They pounded me pretty good, gave me some humble pie, and I learn right away that if I wanted to be with the big boys I had to work.
Freshman year, I got a varsity letter. I probably played every fourth series on defense. For my high school, I think I was the first freshman to be moved up to varsity – I had skipped the freshman and JV teams.
I started at right tackle during my sophomore and junior seasons. For my senior year, I played every position along the line.
The beautiful thing of going to a school like St. Joseph Regional is you get a lot of competition. You know every single week you’re going to play against good kids. I think last season I played against nine Division I defensive ends. I saw competition all year and that’s only going to help me on the next level. Honestly, I live for that. I love competition. For me, it was awesome. Week after week preparing for these big games, going into battle, and then coming out victorious was great.
My junior year, we were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and then we lost on Thanksgiving. I won three state championships in football – freshman, sophomore, and junior. Freshman year was decent, but sophomore and junior years we were the No. 1 team in New Jersey because we played in the toughest league in the nation, voted by MaxPreps. It was awesome playing on those teams – a lot of good players, a lot of good friends. St. Joe’s, baby!
It sucked not winning the state championship my last season. We went down to Red Bank Catholic, which is in south Jersey, and I was going for my fourth state championship and everyone knew it. They just came out and kicked our ass that day – that’s what it came down to. It was tough, but you learn from those games. We had a young team, so next year St. Joe’s should be very good.
I should have missed some games my senior year, but I didn’t. What happened was I injured my ankle during The Opening in July and I got the surgery right afterwards. They said recovery was ten weeks, but I came back in seven. I wasn’t 100-percent, obviously, but I didn’t miss any games.
Like I said, I love competition.