The season was set up for great things for Montgomery Bell Academy, and possibly an even better season for senior tight end Tom Santi. He was up to the challenge of improving on an already unheard of junior year, with 46 catches for 650 yards and 10 touchdowns. But in a scene painfully familiar to Stanford fans, the veteran tight end with limitless talent and promise went down in the first quarter of the first game of the year. Just like Brett Pierce, the Nashville tight end was spotted later in the game with crutches, sending a sinking feeling to all in attendance.
Santi went down on a screen pass, his one catch of the evening (yet another eerie similarity to the Pierce injury). The spy on the defense hit him as he was turning upfield, and Santi's left leg locked up. Two more tacklers would hit him, and his planted foot didn't go down right with the rest of his body. "It was pretty painful," he remembers.
The injury opener for Santi was no ordinary game. The MBA Big Red were facing off against Louisville Trinity High School, the top team in the state of Kentucky and ranked one of the top few teams in the country. As lethal as MBA's offense, with Santi leading the way in the receiving game, Trinity featured one of the top five quarterbacks in the country in Brian Brohm.
"You can't imagine how tough it is to sit on the sideline in a game like that," Santi describes. But much of the sting from the injury was taken out by Montgomery Bell's 17-13 upset win. The injury was diagnosed as a high ankle sprain, which can keep a football player out of action for anywhere from a couple weeks to the bulk of a season. The second game of the season was going to be a rollover affair, and Santi sat it out while his MBA teammates sauntered their way to an easy 29-0 win. But the third game on the schedule was one he was not about to miss.
The Big Red traveled to Mississippi Friday night to play Southhaven High School, the #3 team in the state. It was every bit as big a game as the Trinity tussle two weeks earlier, though this battle was going to be fought in the trenches against a team known for power rather than passing finesse. Santi practiced last week, while rehabbing and icing his ankle back to health. He made his first full appearance of the year and did not disappoint, catching four passes for 76 yards in a 45-13 statement win.
"All I can say is that it felt great to be back out there. Nothing makes you appreciate the game more than having to sit out and watch," he allows. "The ankle felt fine, and it was good to catch the ball and run with it. I had a lot of fun against Southhaven."
Just as eventful last week, Santi started receiving phone calls from college coaches again, for the first time since May. He took 15 calls on Monday alone. Did any particularly stand out?
"I really enjoyed talking to the Virginia coach," the recruit answers. "Although I didn't have a dull conversation all day, which was a little surprising. I'd say that Stanford and Virginia are at the top for me right now. Iowa is up there, too. It changes for me all the time, but those three are usually in consideration.
"I just want to make sure I don't make a decision too soon. I have some really great option and need time to explore them," he says.
Official visits are a topic of conversation with all of the coaches these days, and he already has two trips on the books. Santi will travel to Iowa City in less than two weeks for his official visit with the Hawkeyes (9/20). The next planned trip will bring him across the country to Palo Alto for a December visit to Stanford (12/6).
The final ball in the air for Santi is his Stanford Admissions application, with which he feels he is making good headway. He has already completed the basic information section and is in the process of writing his essays, as well as obtaining his teacher and counselor recommendations.
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