Two years ago, David Allen never gave a thought to becoming a football player.
“I weighed 330 pounds and had high blood pressure,” Allen said. “I couldn’t play football because I was overweight and my health.”
But something clicked inside Allen’s head. Thanks to the efforts of Union City head football coach Wilber Valdez and Allen’s father, Sean, a former high school basketball player, David Allen was steered toward the path of healthy living.
“I lost 80 pounds in six months,” Allen said. “It was all about determination and wanting to play high school football. The exercise came from Coach Valdez. The diet came from my father, who knew a little bit about fitness.”
Allen said that he really didn’t have a strict diet to follow.
“It wasn’t so much the food, but when I ate it,” Allen said. “I didn’t eat late at night. I didn’t eat junk food. I didn’t have the sugary stuff, like cake and ice cream. I still ate regular food, but I was able to get the weight off and get healthy.”
For the last two years, Allen was a mainstay on the offensive line for the Soaring Eagles. Last Wednesday, Allen’s hard work and dedication was rewarded, when he signed a national letter of intent to attend Delaware State and play football there in the fall.
“I think it was right around the beginning of my junior year that Coach Valdez told me that I could play at the next level. I didn’t believe him. I told him I wanted to play in college and he set up the goals for me to follow.”
Allen, who will be an offensive lineman at Delaware State, said that he liked the coaches and the school when he visited there earlier this year.
“It felt like a family to me, much like Union City feels like a family,” Allen said. “It felt like I was home. I made friends there right away. I felt like I had family with me.”
Jersey City’s Nate Ortiz, a former St. Anthony product, and former St. Peter’s Prep product J.R. Robinson are both already playing at Delaware State.
“It made me feel comfortable that there were guys from my home there,” Allen said. “If you told me this two years ago, that I could be playing college football, I wouldn’t have believed it. It just shows you what hard work can do. You can make things happen.”
Allen was not the only local product to sign a national letter of intent on National Signing Day Wednesday. The snowstorm might have cut down on the festivities at the local schools, but the snow certainly didn’t dampen the excitement.
St. Peter’s Prep’s Nick Angeli was one of three Marauders to sign with a Division I program. Two-time Hudson Reporter Player of the Year Jonathan Hilliman signed with Boston College, but he was away at a high school all-star game Wednesday and unavailable for comment. Shamir Bearfield put his signature to a letter of intent with Temple University.
Angeli was extremely excited when he got the chance to sign the letter with Fordham, which is coming off the best season (11-2) in recent memory.
“I always dreamed of playing Division I football,” said Angeli, a lineman. “It’s a true blessing to sign with Fordham.”
Angeli is an excellent student, who had chances to lock on with some Ivy League schools like Cornell and Patriot League schools like the United States Military Academy in West Point, but neither school offers scholarships.
“I think what finally made me decide is that my great uncle, Paul Berezny, played at Fordham in 1936 and 1937 and was one of the ‘Seven Blocks of Granite,’” Angeli said. “Another big factor was that it was close in proximity and my family and friends can come to my games. Academics played a huge part in it.”
Bearfield made his decision to attend Temple last April, so signing the letter comes almost a full year after making the commitment.
“It still feels great,” said Bearfield, who will be used at either cornerback or safety at Temple. “I think I’m ultimately happy that my parents don’t have to pay for college. It’s a great university with a rising program.”
Even though Bearfield made it clear he was sold on Temple, he still had schools contacting him.
“I didn’t feel I needed to be any place other than Temple,” Bearfield said. “I didn’t even listen to any other offers.”
Bearfield said that he was looking forward to National Signing Day.
“I’ve been dreaming about this day since I was a little boy,” Bearfield said. “My grandfather and I used to talk about colleges when I was growing up. I guess I’ve been dreaming about this day since I was 5 or 6.”
Both Angeli and Bearfield agreed that they were proud to be part of what has become a Prep tradition of signing multiple players on National Signing Day.
“It’s great to be able to keep that tradition going,” Bearfield said. “I hope other kids consider St. Peter’s Prep in the future.”
“I’m glad I can be one of the guys who can continue with that tradition,” Angeli said. “It was always a dream to play college football and Prep gave me that chance. It’s a huge honor and an unbelievable feeling.”
Other Prep football players will make a commitment to play college football at either the Division II or Division III level in the future.
Needless to say, Wednesday was a great day for Hudson County football, despite the snow.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.