Chuck Mound Challenge brings out top athletes

The Chuck Mound Football Challenge, one of the longest running events of its kind, was held at the Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon. The Challenge attracted in the neighborhood of 200 young athletes and if the college and NFL alumni list is any indication of where some of these athletes may be heading, then chances are tomorrow's stars were in attendance today.

The Chuck Mound Challenge was held on Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands Bubble and in the adjacent Giants Stadium. The event attracted over 200 prospects from the tri-state area, some widely known to analysts and colleges, some not, while others were taking advantage of the exposure opportunity that attending such an event offered. The NFL and college alumni list is long and impressive - among them are former Scarlet Knights Gary Brackett, L.J. Smith, and Sean O'Hara, but the list also includes former local standouts such as Dan Klecko, Jim Finn, Dwayne Jarrett, Brian Toal, and Sean Mayer.

Sunday's event featured a number of local standouts from the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The top offensive lineman in attendance, in the opinion of this onlooker, was North Brunswick HS standout Mike Cole.  Cole, more than any lineman in attendance (offensive or defensive) excelled at each of the individual tests as well as the 1-on-1 competition.  Cole, now at a sturdy 265-pounds, put together an impressive 4.84 40-yard dash alongside his 4.3 shuttle time. 

Cole displayed his characteristic upper-body strength that he's become known for, but also showed an impressive set of feet to go along with fast hand movement and overall solid technique.  Cole repeatedly put his opponents on their back while on the defensive side of the ball, or simply ran around them with a rapid first step, showing an ability to attack from the edge as well: Click on the Watch Video link below for highlights of Cole, who is pictured above at the conclusion of a long and successfull day -

In addition to Cole, Joe Bonadies [Palisade Park HS, Palisades, NJ] also looked impressive.  Bonadies stands at 6-foot-5 and 275-pounds and for a prospect of his size showed very solid footwork, good hands, and impressive athletic ability for someone his size.

SOR was able to take note of several skill players, but perhaps the fastest of all of them was local standout Bryant Fitzgerald, by way of Highland Park HS [Highland Park, NJ].  Fitzgerald is a 5-foot-10 and 170-pound RB/DB that ran for 2042 yards during his Junior season on 192 carries.  Including a long of 80 yards on one of his scores, Fitzgerald took 25 of his carries to the house this past season while helping the Owls to an 8-3 overall record and first place in the Greater Middlesex-Gold division. 

From his DB position, Fitzgerald also racked up 56 tackles on the season, 35 of which were unassisted, and 1 INT. 

Fitzgerald was unstoppable during the 1-on-1s, as he methodically broke down opposing defenders unprepared to deal with such speed.  Fitzgerald put together a 4.44 40-yard dash, one he admitted as sub-par, for him.  In addition, a 10-foot-2-inch broad jump and a 4.1-shuttle rounded out his impressive day of work.

Rutgers fans should already be familiar with Fort Hamilton HS [Brooklyn, New York] - Keith Stroud, the 6-foot-3 and 190-pound prospect formerly of Fort Hamilton HS, is now a Scarlet Knight, and while that is indeed great news, RU fans may want to learn of another Fort Hamilton Tiger that may soon become a household name in recruiting circles. Levon Williams (pictured at right) stands at 6-foot-2 and 180-pounds, but for the majority of his high school days, focused on basketball rather than football.  It was only during his Junior HS season that he decided to give football a try.  In just 4 games, Williams reeled in 9 receptions for 223 yards and 5 TDs.  On the defensive side of the ball, from his Safety position, Williams totaled 27 tackles.  Showcasing his skills in the 1-on-1s, Williams also impressed in the individual drills, in particular, his 40-yard dash, which he ran in 4.54 seconds.

One of the younger prospects in attendance was Kristjan Sokoli, a 6-foot-3 and 205-pound TE/DE prospect by way of Bloomfield HS.  Sokoli is currently only a Sophomore, has an impressive frame, and put together a very solid 4.84 40-yard dash.

The top QB in attendance was St. Joseph Regional HS's Gabriel Hernandez.  Hernandez, standing in at 6-feet and 170-pounds, brought home the top-QB trophy in addition to recording the second best shuttle of all participants: 4.17.  Hernandez threw a nice ball, displayed good touch, and showed very solid mechanics. In addition to Hernandez, Najee Tyler, an impressive looking athlete that goes all of 6-foot-5 and 215-pounds, also looked good among the QBs.

David Reeves [RB/LB by way of Red Bank Catholic] looked very solid, as did Emeka Ndiche, a very impressive looking Sophomore (will be a Junior this coming fall - Bloomfied HS) that stands in at 6-feet and 195-pounds.  Jamal Clay [Ath/Mahwaw HS], Gardner Robinson [LB/Fort Hamilton HS], Elijah Grant [OL/Piscataway HS], Christian Reed [LB/Notre Dame HS], Aaron Hush [DE/Piscataway HS], and J.T. Tartacoff [DB/Montgomery HS] all looked very impressive as well.

SOR caught up with Chuck Mound, following the conclusion of the football challenge, to get his perspective on running one of the most successive events of this kind:

Matei may be reached at

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