Hudson still a hotbed for grid talent
College signings serve as proof of county's surprising excellence
Wednesday was the national day for high school athletes all across the country to sign their letters of intent to colleges. It also was a day where Hudson County continued to shine as a producer of high quality football talent.
Because there were two athletes from Hoboken High School who put their signatures to letters from such national powerhouses as Michigan State and Florida.
And two others from St. Peter's Prep had put their John Hancocks to similar letters, one going to Penn State and the other one to attend the University of Massachusetts.
And yet another standout gridder from Memorial declared his intentions to attend the University of Pennsylvania.
And then another from Hudson Catholic signed a letter to attend the University of Maryland.
All free rides to college. All because of their football prowess.
And there was the news that two former Hoboken standouts had decided to continue their football careers at new Division 1 schools. Which gave even more credence to the idea that Hudson County produces great football players.
We didn't need word from Tyrell Dortch, the best running back in the history of Hoboken, who declared his intentions to go to Michigan State, to affirm that Hudson County has great football. Or that his cousin, Ravon Anderson, himself a standout runner with the Red Wings in 1996, had decided to transfer to Rutgers and continue his career there, to cement the thought.
Or that Carlos Perez was going to play wide receiver for Steve Spurrier at Florida. Or that Anthony Henriquez, who was attending a prep school in Connecticut after earning All-State for the Red Wings in 1998, was heading to Ohio to play linebacker at Kent.
We already knew that Hudson was a gridiron hotbed. Has been for years and will be for years to come.
We didn't need to hear that St. Peter's Prep's all-time leading rusher, Cabral Edley, was going to U. Mass and show off his fancy footsteps in Amherst. Or that fellow Marauder Joe Nolan is off to Happy Valley, where he will punt the football far and deep for Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions.
Or that Jonathan Robinson, perhaps the greatest all-around athlete in the history of Memorial High School, is going off to the Ivy League to get an education at the University of Pennsylvania, making us all jealous and proud at the same time.
Or that Cole Boykin, a fine two-way lineman at Hudson Catholic, has dotted the "I" in his name on a piece of paper from Maryland.
Just with those names alone, we're seeing hundreds of thousands of scholarship dollars being offered to kids from Hudson County who would have never dreamed of getting the chance to go to college.
Carlos Perez is a native of the Dominican Republic who came to Hoboken when he was five years old. When he arrived here, he had no idea what the sport of football was all about. He ate, drank and slept the game of baseball, until he began playing in the Hoboken Pop Warner football program as a 12-year-old.
Now, he's about to go on to play for perhaps one of the top three football programs in the nation, in sunny warm temperatures, running under passes the way current NFL stars like Ike Hilliard, Fred Taylor and Jacquez Green used to do before him.
"How in the world does a kid like me, someone nobody ever heard of, get a chance to go big-time, to a place like Florida and play football?" Perez asked. "Everything just came into place for me. It was an opportunity I received from God."
Perez is a deeply religious young man who spends six days a week, two hours a day, practicing his Christian faith in the Church of God of Prophecy in Hoboken. He carries a Bible with him wherever he goes. He believes it's God's willing that he succeed as an athlete. He's a strong believer in faith. It's carried him a long way.
But strong faith in their own abilities has carried the rest of the aforementioned standout athletes as well. Dortch believed that he could succeed and be as good as his cousin Anderson was. He turned out to be much better.
Edley strongly believed that he could perform on the next level, despite a lack of size. Nolan defeated all odds and received a scholarship, even though he was a specialist. Robinson has defeated every odd possible, being raised by a single mother to a point where he became the No. 1 student at Memorial.
They're success stories, one and all, proof that Hudson County football works through and through. There are countless others who won't grab the headlines, who won't get the big-time offers, but will still find themselves standing on a college sideline next fall. And they'll remember their roots, where they came from.
That they came from tough little place called Hudson County, with only 11 tight-as-nails municipalities and one house stacked on top of another. That they came from hard-nosed schools and programs, with coaches who pushed and prodded, who expected the best and most - then expected more.
And they'll recall that they came from a place where excellence is expected, because of the tradition of greatness that was established long before these current youngsters were even born - and continues to be passed down year after year.
The cycle continues. Letters of intent are signed, kids go off to college stardom, others suddenly appear and shine. One after another, year after year. It's the way it has been in Hudson County - the place of hard knocks, the area that is constantly on the griddle when other so-called experts take their best jabs. But you know what? Hudson County just manages to keep shining through.
Want proof? Here's Tyrell Dortch. And Carlos Perez. And Cabral Edley. And Joe Nolan. And Cole Boykin. And Jonathan Robinson, who plans on majoring in pre-med at an Ivy League school and will make more money than any of us ever dream of. They're the living proof that the cycle continues. It was proven when they signed the first important document of their lives on Wednesday.
They should be proud. But at the same time, so should we. q
St. Peter's Prep's Cabral Edley
Memorial's Jonathan Robinson