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The Long, Strange, Trip of Signing Day for Lehigh

(Photo Credit: The Long Island Herald)

On ESPN, there were only passing mentions to Punxutawney Phil, groundhogs, and the ice storm last week.

In the world of hypercharged, BCS-fueled sports media, analysts waited with baited breath about Nick Saban's or Steve Spurrier's latest recruits, not the icy weather in the Northeast that would cancel or delay the many signing-day ceremonies that would constitute most collegiate-bound athletes in this area.

But Phil's inability to see his shadow, coupled with the ice storm, meant for incoming Lehigh football recruits it was more of a week of a gradual trickle of letters being signed instead of one large fanfare of signings.  Not that it takes away from the quality of the incoming class that we know so far - far from it.  But it was a much more subdued affair than in years past.

Let's summarize what we know about the incoming class of 2015. (more)

No recruit has gotten more attention from Lehigh fans than WR Josh Parris, who had the benefit of not only being one of the best athletes that nearby Palisades High School has seen in football, but also the fact that he is a "legacy" - his father, Gene Parris, studied chemistry at Lehigh. (Of course, winning the Patriot League championship, and a playoff game against the Missouri Valley Football Conference champion Northern Iowa in the FCS Playoffs didn't hurt, either.)

Another local product that has gotten a writeup from me was DB Derek Gaul - like Parris, a converted quarterback that will likely switch to the defensive side of the ball as a defensive back.

Since these two high school seniors announced their college plans, plenty of other recruits have done the same.

In New York City, Poly Prep, a powerhouse football program who routinely funnels players to FBS schools, had six players sign, all with high-academic schools. “Normally I have a bunch of I-A Boston College, Rutgers kind of kids,” head coach Dino Mangiero said. “This is just as satisfying because six kids are going to great schools. Cornell, Lehigh, Williams and Trinity are some of the best colleges in the country. These kids were such great students that they all have an opportunity to go to great schools, which makes me very happy.”

6'3 WR Alex Buford, who also plays basketball for the Blue Devils, committed to Lehigh in what looks to be a very interesting signing. A three-year starter and a frequent target in the Blue Devils' Wildcat offense, Buford will graduate with a 22-4 career record. The thought of Buford lining up someday next to rising junior WR Ryan Spadola must have Lehigh offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini licking his chops.

In contrast, in nearby New Jersey, a very different type of signing was happening - that of TE Dylan Colgate, who was the first football player in ten years to make it to a Division I school.

"I went up this past weekend, and I loved everything about it the campus, the academics you're getting are incredible," Colgate said. "I want to challenge myself academically as well as athletically. Family was a big part of the decision too, and they can come up to see me and I can come home to see them.

I've been in contact with Lehigh for awhile. They were honest, my SATs were a little low for Lehigh, I had to get them up 10, 20 points. If I got those up, they (told me they) were going to recruit me pretty hard. I immediately went and signed up for the SATs again. That was my No. 1 school and where I wanted to be."

A 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior, Colgate was a first-team all-county selection on the defensive line in 2010 after posting 56 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks. He also caught 28 passes for 370 yards and six scores, after collecting 28 receptions for 447 yards and seven TDs as a junior.

"I did want to play tight end, I really like to get out, catch the ball, block," said Colgate. "I feel like I'm a better tight end than a defensive end, that I can help a team out more on the offensive side of the ball.

"I just want to learn the offense, get better each day. If I have to sit, I'll sit for awhile. Coming from a town that focuses on academics and my parents pushing me so hard in the classroom, I knew what a degree from Lehigh could mean. It just feels like the perfect situation to be in."


Lehigh, like all Patriot League schools, have to recruit nationally. Two interesting recruiting stories come from Ohio, a rich vein of players that is frequently tapped.

From Columbiana, Ohio, DL Matt Douglas appears to have become a Mountain Hawk through a lot of persistence by the coaching staff.

A lot of colleges wanted Douglas to play for them. Lehigh University wanted him the most.

Duquesne and Charleston (W. Va.) offered scholarships, while Villanova and Mount Union were also after him. Youngstown State, Louisville and Toledo wanted him to walk onto their teams.

"Lehigh was the only one that recruited him as a defensive player," Columbiana coach Bob Spaite said said. "Their words, not mine, were they liked his toughness and tenacity. And he was high on their list. They actively picked him. They were on him very early and came up with the best scholarship offer."

Douglas said Lehigh will pick up most of the $50,000 annual cost for tuition, room and board.

"I didn't have time to look at the other schools because this was too good to pass up," he said. "It's hard to pass up an Ivy League-type school for $5,000 a year. To get a master's in five years for a very good price and a degree at a university like that goes a long way."

"It's a big engineering school," Spaite said. "Matt will be the only education major on the football team."

Douglas has been working with mentally-handicapped children and Lehigh offers a five-year master's program in special needs education.

"When you sit back and look at it, those kids don't take things for granted like we do," Douglas said. "Our worst day would be one of their best days. It makes me feel good knowing I could make a difference in someone's life."

"The way he is in the classroom and on the field are totally different," Spaite said. "He's a happy-go-lucky guy off the field. When he's ready to compete, he has a switch he hits. Most kids can't do that."

Like Colgate, Columbiana is a small school that isn't known for churning out FBS players, though former Lehigh RB Josh Pastore was from nearby Beaver Local. The 6'4, 250 lb lineman was a real standout, a Salem Morning Journal all-Area first team selection, and looks like a real find for the Mountain Hawks.

Similar stories pop up for Lehigh's incoming class this year.

Players who were big fish coming out of schools not known for churning out Ohio State or Alabama players - such as LB Jared Heschke, out of Brookville, PA, became the first Division I player out of his school since 1998.

K/P Nicholas Marcello (pictured), was one of two players recruited to Division I schools - not exactly business-as-usual at Calhoun High School in New York. "Head coach Joe Bianca said that it’s rare to have even one football player recruited by a Division I school, let alone two," reported the Long Island Herald. “Two in one season is a credit to the program and to [the players].”

And RB Rich Sodeke out of East Hanover, New Jersey, who was offered by a host of other Ivy and Patriot League schools but went for Lehigh since he'd be allowed to compete to play at running back. ("That's just what he wanted," his head coach, Gerry Moore said. "He wanted to stick with the offensive side of the ball.")


Then there's the story of DE Reed Remington, out of Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

After his junior year, he was getting a lot of sniffs from FBS schools - until a gruesome weightlifting accident in the spring that nearly kept him from playing football again.

He was on the last exercise of his workout just before spring break, the third of eight repetitions of shoulder presses with 165 pounds on the bar. He had the bar in the air, his arms extended behind his head.

"I was struggling to lock it out," he recalled. "I arched my back to lock it out and when I locked it out, I kind of lost control over my head. I kind of threw the bar in front of me. The bar hit my head and I fell down. I was able to get my left hand out of the way but my right hand got left behind."

His right hand got caught between the weight and the frame holding the apparatus. All 165 pounds crashed down on his index finger, ripping it from its place and pushing it horizontally across the hand's knuckles until it nearly touched his little finger. A dent remains in the frame where it was struck by the weight.

Unhappily for Reed, much of his FBS interest seemed to dwindle after the accident. But more happily for the 6'4 240 pound lineman, he gutted through his injury and played every single down his senior year at Walsh Jesuit.

Reed - bent finger and all - was the subject of a pitched Patriot League recruiting battle between Fordham, Holy Cross, Bucknell and Lehigh. Ultimately - after some stops and starts - Lehigh ended up on top in the recruiting battle.


All in all, it's been a long, strange trip for Lehigh recruiting for the class of 2015.  No real splashy signing parties, no caps changing at the last minute, no sideline reporters.  Just a lot of solid kids, covering a lot of real estate, signing up for a great education without a lot of fanfare.

Not bad.


Anonymous said…
Absolutely superior write-up Chuck! Thank you for continuing to do this. Without this as a morning staple for the last 8 years my life would not be as enhanced. Hats off to the coaching staff for tbe battle they fought which I'm sure isn't quite over. In order to compete at the level LU wishes to and has, the type of turn over every rock search looks to have paid off greatly with a terrific group of student athletes. The in depth stories of their arrivals to South Mountain is excellent reading and cause for a great deal of excitement and anticipation. Having been a part of the recruiting process and recalling the official visit often, the class, atmosphere, history and type of people associated with the school and the football program were difficult to say no to. From experience, I can relate to the recruits and their parents that their choice will have far more benefits than they can even dream at this point. The absolute best four years of my life or five ha! (I didn't want to leave). Once you are a part of the football program, you are always a part of the tradition of excellence and they let you know it. I'm never too far from South Bethlehem and every time I hit the exit ramp off of 78 I feel I'm home. This group of players appears to have been assembled not only for their talent, but with future team chemistry in mind. With that being said, LET'S GO!!!!
Anonymous said…
The football class of 2015 is now listed on the Lehigh Sports website.
ngineer said…
Good distribution with a class of 26. Some nice speedsters and guys with overall athelticism.
Anonymous said…
Yes and with the constraints placed on the staff, excellent job chemistry wise. Alot to work with and a bright future ahead. I like it!

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