When Ayir Asante was a youngster, he played two sports, namely football and soccer.
However, when Asante got older, he was forced to realize one key fact. The two sports are played during the same season in the fall.
Asante also played baseball as a grade school student.
“I played all three until eighth grade,” Asante said. “But then I had to decide on just one.”
So with that in mind, Asante elected to play football as he decided to attend St. Peter’s Prep.
“I enjoyed playing football more,” Asante said. “I was pretty good in soccer. I played the midfield and a little defense, too. It was probably one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make. I loved playing both sports. My parents told me that whatever sport I put my mind to, I had to stick with. At the end of the day, I knew I made the right decision. I knew I had to embrace it.”
Asante wanted to attend St. Peter’s Prep because his cousin, standout All-State lineman Khalil Wilkes, who went on to play at Stanford and had a brief stay with the San Diego Chargers of the NFL, played there.
“It felt like my family all believed in Prep,” Asante said. “I remember watching [former Prep great] Will Hill and I was amazed at what he could do.”
Asante played a little bit of everything on the Marauders’ freshman team.
“I played running back, wide receiver, safety, a little bit of quarterback,” Asante said. “I felt like I was going to give them all a try. I think that’s all I could ask for.”
After his freshman year, Asante realized where his future would lie.
“I settled into being a wide receiver and safety,” Asante said. “I felt comfortable there. By the time I was a junior, I was pretty much just a receiver. We had so many safeties on the team. I felt it was better for me to settle on just one position. I felt like I could be a pretty good receiver.”
Prep head football coach and athletic director Rich Hansen agreed.
“I knew he had a chance to be a good receiver,” Hansen said. “He was athletically gifted. He just had to learn the intricacies of being a receiver. He worked really hard at becoming an impact player. He showed some flashes of being a great player and by the time he was a junior, he made some great strides.”
Toward the end of his junior year, Asante had firmly entrenched himself as being one of the top receivers in Hudson County. He earned Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week on Nov. 3, 2017 for his six-reception, two-touchdown performance against Don Bosco Prep.
“He started to put it all together,” Hansen said. “He was harnessing all that athleticism. It takes time and tremendous amounts of hard work. Ayir also matured so much as a person.”
Asante said that he spent a lot of his junior season watching and learning from another standout Prep receiver, namely Shayne Simon, who would go on to receive the 2017-2018 Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year before heading off to play at Notre Dame.
“I took my seat behind Shayne and learned a lot,” Asante said. “I was still finding my way. But when senior year began, I had to take ownership of the position. It was my time to carry the team.”
Last year, Asante was also introduced to track and field.
“I talked to [Prep head track] Coach [Chris] Caulfield and he told me to come out for the team,” Asante said. “I wasn’t worried about fitting in, but I definitely didn’t understand what I was doing. I just went out and tried to do the best I could to help the team. My goal was to make the team a little better any way I could. I definitely had no form of reference or anything.”
“He came out and with no training was doing 20 feet in the long jump and 6.8 [seconds] in the 55 [meter dash],” Caulfield said. “I knew then we had a tremendous athlete on our hands. He had that competitive drive and when he was really pushed, he really responded. It was great to see. I can honestly say he made us better right away. He was a great addition.”
St. Peter’s Prep assistant track coach Russell Jenkins agreed.
“He was awesome,” Jenkins said. “He was not only a good athlete, but he was a very good leader. His leadership was huge to the sport. He was just raw and doing things right away that we never saw before. It was hard to realize that it was Ayir’s first year with track, that it was his first time doing the triple jump. It was amazing to watch.”
Caulfield said that he’s been fortunate to have several football players come out for his track team.
“I think there’s a natural correlation between football and track,” Caulfield said. “It’s a great combination. The football players help our track program and I think running track helps the football team. We benefitted from Ayir having the quickness and the speed.”
Asante put everything together to have a sensational senior year in football and track. In football, Asante caught 50 passes for 808 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He also added 78 yards on six carries.
At the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships in May, Asante finished second in the triple jump, third in the 100-meter dash and fourth in the 200-meter dash. He then was third in the triple jump and fourth in the 100 at the Non-Public A North state sectionals and was fourth in the 100 and sixth in the triple jump at the overall Non-Public A state championships.
For his efforts, Asante has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year for the 2018-2019 scholastic sports year. It marks the third straight year that a Marauder athlete has captured the award, joining Jorge Portorreal in 2017-2018 and Simon last year and the fourth Marauder in the last five years. Corey Caddle received the award in 2014-2015.
Asante becomes the sixth Marauder to ever receive the honor, the most in the 29-year history of the year-end award. Mike Brown (2004-2005) and Kevin Innis (2009-2010) were also prior recipients.
“I never thought this was possible,” Asante said. “I never would have expected this. I’m aware of what Prep alumni have done with this award. It’s a great accomplishment and a great honor. I’m just glad I kept it [the award] in the family.”
“I think it speaks volumes to the kind of kids we’ve been able to produce,” Hansen said. “Ayir matured tremendously and that’s what I’m most proud of. He matured so much as a person and became a leader.”
Asante will now go on to The College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he will continue his football career, joining former Athlete of the Year recipients Caddle (Fordham), Portorreal (Lehigh) and Simon (Notre Dame) as top college football players.
HUDSON REPORTER MALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
1991-1992-Jason Casessa, Hoboken
1992-1993-Alex Rodriguez, Secaucus
1993-1994-Eduardo Gomez, Hoboken
1995-1996-Rashard Casey, Hoboken
1996-1997-Czar Wiley, North Bergen
1997-1998-Koz Perez, North Bergen
1998-1999-Mike Forcum, Hoboken
1999-2000-Jonathan Robinson, Memorial
2001-2002-Bryan Durango, Memorial
2002-2003-Jason Blanks, Hoboken
2003-2004-Danny Lopez, Weehawken
2004-2005-Mike Brown, St. Peter’s Prep
2005-2006-Garrett Askew, Hudson Catholic
2006-2007-Evan Rodriguez, North Bergen
2007-2008-Chris Jones, Lincoln
2008-2009-Michael Kuzirian, Memorial
2009-2010-Kevin Innis, St. Peter’s Prep
2010-2011-Jose Veras, Dickinson
2011-2012-Jason Pineda, Weehawken
2012-2013-Damian Corredor, Weehawken
2013-2014-Tyrik Darby, Lincoln
2014-2015-Corey Caddle, St. Peter’s Prep
2015-2016-Royaal Jones, Hudson Catholic
2016-2017-Jorge Portorreal, St. Peter’s Prep
2017-2018-Shayne Simon, St. Peter’s Prep
2018-2019-Ayir Asante, St. Peter’s Prep