SOUTHINGTON - One of the biggest days on the college football calendar - National Signing Day - is in the books, and plenty of programs have a good idea of what next season’s rosters will look like.
Those rosters will include local talent as Southington defensive back Sam Thomson, wide receiver Tim O’Shea and offensive lineman Jimmy Starr all made their commitments to play football at their respective colleges, Friday afternoon.
“This is one of our proud days within the program, to recognize these three guys amongst many others who are going to be playing at the next level of this year’s class,” Southington head coach Mike Drury said as he addressed those in attendance. “It takes a special type of person to have success at that level. You have to be mentally tough, you have to be able to overcome adversity and you have to be able to have patience. I always say it’s not for everybody, but I know for a fact, these three young men right here will be successful.”
Thomson, will be joining his older brother Matt, at Marist College, a Division I FCS team in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
“It’ll be the first time my brother and I will be on a team together so I’m really excited,” Thomson said.
“It’ll be fun [for those two],” Drury added. “They’ll be competing against each other. I’m sure it’ll be pretty colorful at times, but I know that they’ll remember that for the rest of their lives. They didn’t have that opportunity [at Southington] because of the age difference, but now they’ll be playing together for a couple years.”
Just last week, Thomson had his overnight trip to Marist and instantly fell in love with what he saw. The campus overlooks the Hudson River, and the stadium was just the icing on the cake. He’ll also have the opportunity to travel all over the United States, including Florida, Kentucky and Iowa.
“I’ve been working so hard [to get to this point],” Thomson said. “My dad has been coach, my brother’s been on the team and I’ve been working out with the high school team since I was in sixth and seventh grade. I’ve been working hard every single day and I’m excited I finally get the chance to play at the Division I level.”
Drury has known Thomson since he was in diapers.
His father, Rob, has been the defensive coordinator at Southington for the last six seasons and was also Drury’s head coach at Bristol Central High School.
“He is a football coach’s son,” Drury said. “You know how much it means to them and how hard they have to work. They have to work that much harder because his dad is going to be on him when he gets home, there’s no leaving him.”
O’Shea will be attending Wagner College, a Division I FCS school in the Northeast Conference, in Staten Island, N.Y.
“It’s a great program and I see a lot of potential in it,” O’Shea said. “They gave me an opportunity to play D-I football and you just can’t pass that up. It’s finally a dream come true for me.”
Before committing to Wagner, O’Shea did his fair share of research, traveling all over to make sure he found the right college.
He traveled to Pennsylvania and Ohio, visiting a number of schools and communicated with a lot of coaches.
“I think just the allure of playing Division I football is what drew him in,” Drury said of O’Shea’s college choice. “He wanted that opportunity to compete at a high level. So we went up to Wagner, met with the coaches and they offered him the opportunity to go play with their program and he took it.”
Over the last season, the Blue Knights had several injuries, giving O’Shea a leadership role he thought he would never have and he delievered both on and off the field. The receiver finished his senior season leading the team in catches (49), yards (609) and receiving touchdowns (8).
“It allowed me and a couple of other guys to really step up and carry the load,” O’Shea said. “It gave me a leadership quality that only God can give you. I’m just really excited for the next chapter. This whole program that I’ve been a part of for the last four years will definitely resonate with me and for the rest of my life and will continue on to the next level.”
O’Shea started his dream to play Division I in seventh grade and when he made it to the high school he was more prepared than ever.
“Coach Drury is basically a college coach, he runs a college program here at Southington,” O’Shea said. “The reason why he has so many kids go off to college is because he is just an excellent motivator. His mentality for his players is next to none in the state honestly. He has definitely prepared us for the next level.”
Starr will be attending Southern Connecticut State University, a Division II school, affiliated with the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, down in New Haven.
“Starr is a kid who just lives and breathes football,” Drury said. “He just loves the sport, loves the competitiveness of it and loves the offseason preparation of it.”
Starr was one of the Blue Knights’ most versatile linemen, lining up at center, guard and tackle. That ability, as well as the consistency of his play, earned his first all-conference honor this past season.
Also a great academic student, Starr, who had a number of opportunities in terms of schools to choose from, is going to Southern to not only play football, but to attend its nursing program.
“I’m hyped, I can’t wait to get there,” Starr said. “It’s an amazing program and I love the coaches. We already started talking to other recruits. Everyone is just friendly down there and it’s going to be an amazing experience.”
From among the top dogs at the high school level to now the underdogs at college, Thomson, O’Shea and Starr will need to adjust to their new life of being a collegiate athlete.
“It is one of the best things you can be a part of,” Drury said. “It’s exciting. You have 100 brothers right off the bat when you get into college and I love when we get guys to play. I wish I could have everyone play [in college].”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org