SJC’s special teams players rank high, despite pandemic setbacks

Photo by Joe Mumola ’20

The ranking process for high school football players plays a crucial role in their ability to play in college. This is especially true for special teams athletes, such as kickers, punters, and long snappers, who may only be on the field for a couple minutes during a game. Without much of a fall season, it can be difficult for players to find ways to get recognition from college coaches. However, SJC’s specialists have been hard at work to make sure they are ready whenever they get the green light to play.

Some specialists feel that they do not get the same public recognition as offense and defense players who are active for a much longer portion of a game. 

Kevin Fay ‘23, a long snapper ranked No. 1 in Maryland, said, “Many people have noticed a lot of 4 and 5 star recruits from offense and defense but almost no one knows that SJC special teams had multiple 4 and 5 star recruits.”

Specialist Mike Alford ‘22 said, “I think we are starting to get the same recognition as other football players because everyone is starting to notice our hard work. We are a very important piece to the team and will do anything it takes to help the team.”

According to Fay, St. John’s has had three Division 1 commits, two 4.5 and 5 star recruits, and two athletes ranked No. 1 in their position over the past three years.

Coach Petraiuolo, one of SJC’s football coaches, explained that “special teams positions are unique because unlike other positions on the field they are very easy to rank. For positions such as kickers, long snappers, and punters you can point to specific statistics that give a good representation of their skills.”

Specialist players are vying for a much smaller number of scholarships because they are involved in fewer plays and coaches are looking for players who have versatility in what they can do on the field. 

Petraiuolo said, “The rankings can give college coaches a clear picture of what skills a specific player has. In general I would say ranking is more important for specialists than for non-specialist players because more non-specialists can fly under the radar. Whereas a kicker can prove they can kick the ball a certain distance which leads to their ranking.”

Many of SJC’s ranked specialists have kept up with their training despite not having a fall season. This helps them stay on college coaches’ radar and be ready when the opportunity does arise to play.

Fay said, “I’ve been lifting and running on my own time 3-4 days a week. I snap on my own five days a week and work with my coach twice a week.”

Alford also said, “As time went on, myself and other specialists practiced on our own and we started to go to different camps to get exposure.”

Some people may be leisurely cruising through the pandemic but SJC’s own four and a half star place kicker, Daniel Reyes ‘21 is definitely not. He has been working weekly with [his] kicking coach, in preparation for his D1 collegiate career at Davidson. Reyes has been non-stop pushing himself to become better through daily stretches and workouts. Like all sports programs at St. John’s, working hard to achieve greatness is what the Varsity Football team strives for, no matter the circumstance.

Griffin Dorman ‘23, St. John’s Varsity Football’s four star long snapper, has also been working to improve his game during the pandemic through daily “accountability work,” and “virtual workouts.” The team has provided ways for the players to stay healthy as well as keeping their relationships strong “through text and FaceTime.” Dorman has attended many training and showcase camps, one being Kohl’s Future Stars in Florida, where he made it to the competition finals. These events, as well as daily drills with his father, continue to push Dorman to work hard in order to play at the collegiate level.

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