BRISTOL - With the Bristol Central auditorium filled with students, teachers, administrators and others, Rams football defensive back Dathan Hickey made his commitment to Yale University, a Division I Football Championship Subdivision team, official on Thursday afternoon.
“It means a lot,” Hickey said. “It shows me that everybody’s watching me, whether I know it or not. I didn’t realize how many people and some that I don’t really know them on a regular basis [would show up]. For them to come out and support me on a day they don’t need to [means a lot].”
The day is a result of hard work and a young man that set forth a goal and made sure he reached it.
In the spring following his freshman season on the field, Hickey sent Bristol Central varsity football head coach Jeff Papazian a text message expressing his interest in playing Division I football and seeking out Papazian’s help in getting there.
Papazian shared the story of the text message as he addressed those in attendance.
“He’s meant the world to me as a coach and for our program,” Papazian said.
“This isn’t every day that we’re going to send a kid to Yale from Bristol Central. He’s been a pleasure to coach and I’ve been super fortunate with this senior class.”
His parents, Pam and Rod, as well as his brother Galen Hickey were by his side as he signed.
“It’s a great feeling,” Dathan’s father said. “We knew when he was younger that he had that type of mentality that whatever he puts his mind to he’s going to do everything he possibly can to achieve it. Playing Division I football was on the top of his list.”
Most in attendance played some kind of role in Hickey’s success to get this far.
“His family has done a tremendous job raising him,” Papazian said. “All of his teachers have had a hand in this. All the coaches he’s had have had a hand in this. It’s been a collaborative effort to help Dathan get to this point.”
Teammates Isaiah Miller and Gabe Updegraff will also play college football, Miller at Wesleyan and Updegraff at Western New England University.
Both were there to support their teammate that they’ve shared so many moments with throughout the years.
“It’s just crazy,” Miller said. “Dathan is like family to me and it’s crazy to see from freshmen year when we used to be in the weight room after school and summer workouts. It’s great to see it all pay off and I’m so proud of him.”
Coming in as a freshman at Yale, Hickey will need to put in the work to see the field. His work ethic is something that has helped him get to this point.
“He knows he’s got to work hard coming in as a freshman,” Dathan’s mother Pam Hickey said. “He’s gonna try and get on the field [as a freshman]. That’s his goal this upcoming year. He’ll do whatever they want him to do.”
After some memorable moments in the Bristol Central-Eastern rivalry, Hickey will now take on the Harvard-Yale rivalry, one of the biggest in college football.
“I play the hardest I can play every game,” Hickey said. “But I play on another level in rivalry games, knowing that I’m playing for my school, myself, my family and everything. So I have a lot to play for.”