When you hear a Massachusetts man celebrating a berth in the Super Bowl, you may not blink an eye. Those New Englanders have been riding high the last few years with Tom Brady and their beloved Patriots, but for St. John's High School senior James McGillicuddy, the NFL is the furthest thing from his mind this month. The 6'3" 295-pound defensive tackle and team captain is celebrating the Pioneers' berth in the Central Mass. Division 1 title, their second in four years, which sends them to the state title game - known as the Super Bowl. At 8-2 overall and 6-0 in league play, McGillicuddy's team has already clinched a spot in the Super Bowl against the Western Mass. Division 1 winner, still to be determined. The Pioneers have a bye this week and will conclude their regular season with a Thanksgiving morning game against St. Peter-Marian, playing in 23,500-seat Fitton Field at Holy Cross.
"It's a Massachusetts tradition that everybody plays their last game on Thanksgiving," McGillicuddy explains. "Then everybody goes home and gets stuffed on turkey. It's a great day."
But the four-star defensive tackle recruit will play his final game of high school career on December 4 in the Super Bowl, which throws a wrench in his official visit plans. He was originally slated to trip to Stanford that weekend, but after earning the Super Bowl berth this past week, he scurried to plan a possible visit to The Farm this coming weekend. The Cardinal play away from home on Saturday at Cal, but McGillicuddy was more than willing to have a visit itinerary creatively wrapped around the weekend's events. After discussion and reflection, the recruit and Card coaches have now gravitated toward bringing him out December 4 or 5, flying either the evening after playing the Super Bowl or the following morning.
"I want to hopefully get my decision done by Christmas - that's my goal," the prized DT recruit shares. "I want to let schools know so that they can make decisions on other kids. I know that my decision is going to impact lots of other kids, and it's the right thing to make my decision as soon as I can."
For the breadth of Stanford recruits, whether they hail from Massachusetts or Los Angeles, there are two critical events needed to catalyze a commitment. They have to apply to the school and clear the admissions process, and they need to get a look up close at school and program with a visit. McGillicuddy has both experiences now behind him, as he was just this Monday admitted to the University (1210 SAT retake). He visited Stanford in August unofficially and ever since has held the Cardinal as one of his top favorites.
"The first day I was there, I had a long flight and had to deal with culture shock," he recalls. "Back in the East, everybody is cold and harsh. Out West, they are more warm and friendly. That took me by surprise and I had to adjust. Then the second day I got to hang out with the players and really fell in love with the place."
McGillicuddy will not name Stanford as his number one school right now, however, and he is not prepared to make a commitment before he completes his series of official visits.
"I don't think it's right to commit to a school when you have only seen it once," he offers.
The top-rated defensive tackle has already put one of his official trips in the books, visiting Duke this past weekend. Fortune smiled on the Blue Devils, as they picked up their first ACC and first Division I-A win in the 2004 season in an upset over Clemson. That is the kind of win that can lend credence to the Duke pitch that they are a team on the rise.
"How did the visit impact my recruitment? Well, it reaffirmed that Duke is one of my top schools," McGillicuddy maintains. "I got to see their win against Clemson, and Clemson is a pretty damn good team."
"When you are on an official visit, you say to yourself how you can really see yourself going to that school," he continues. "That's how I felt at Duke, but when you get home, you distance yourself a little bit and return to normal. I know all my visits will be like that, so it's important that I take all of them before making my decision."
The other official trip currently scheduled would take the 300-pound pass rusher a short trip on I-90 to Boston College, who has also offered and consistently stood as one of McGillicuddy's favorites.
"I like BC a lot, too. They have a good program, good location and good academics. I also like the coaches a lot," the in-state recruit reveals. "It is like being from Ohio and having Ohio State offer you. There is a lot of pull. About 19 of my family members have gone there, including my brother there now."
McGillicuddy also holds offers from Syracuse, Rutgers, Connecticut and Vanderbilt. Notre Dame has been involved but does not look likely to pull the trigger, while Tennessee is talking like they could offer any day.
You may remember that the jumbo defensive tackle was rated as a Top 100 player by many recruiting services last spring, on the back of a stellar junior season. That was remarkable for a player out of Massachusetts, where most of the country sneers at the level of football competition. But McGillicuddy had off-season surgery on his knee, which set back his recruiting momentum. It has taken a good deal of work this fall to get back in shape and to incite the excitement once again from college coaches.
"I haven't been happy with my play this season," the St. John's senior admits. "I came into the season out of shape because I could only get in a few weeks of conditioning after my knee surgery. Only now do I feel like I'm getting back to form. Before, I was out of shape and tired a lot of the game; now I can honestly say I'm not tired in games."
McGillicuddy plays every snap both ways on offense and defense, and he has actually become faster than before his knee was scoped. His best time his junior year in running the 40 was a flat 5.0, but he ran a 4.91 early this season at 300 pounds. As one of the more prominent players in New England, McGillicuddy finds offensive gameplans scripted around him. Even the mighty Xaverian ran plays away from him while triple-teaming him with two linemen and a blocking back. He has still managed 7-8 tackles per game and 12 sacks through 10 games, plus nine forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
James McGillicuddy is ranked by Scout.com as the #2 overall player in New England and the #51 player in the East region. For junior year film footage of McGillicuddy in action, click here.
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