Three of the Big Apple’s best high-school football stars will be donning orange in the fall.
Jeramiah Kobena of Cardinal Hayes, Xaverian’s Mario Tull and Canarsie’s Steven Rene all signed National Letters of Intent with Syracuse last week. The Orange have been omnipresent in New York City since coach Doug Marrone, a Bronx native, took over last year.
“We come from the same place, so we can relate to each other in terms of the city life and what we had to go through,” Kobena said of Marrone.
Former Holy Cross offensive lineman Michael Hay, who was playing at Nassau Community College, also signed with the ’Cuse last week.
“They’re really coming hard after these kids and that’s a good thing,” Canarsie coach Mike Camardese said. “It’s about time.”
Camardese chastised the previous regime for almost ignoring New York City, despite the fact that recruiting down state is what made Syracuse successful decades ago in the Orange’s hey day.
“We wanted to get back down to New York City,” said Syracuse secondary coach John Anselmo, who had been the Nassau CC head coach for 17 years. “That was always Syracuse territory. We’re getting that back.”
Kobena, a Post All-City first team selection at running back, had 1,798 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns this past season. A track star, Kobena has shown the potential to run a sub-4.5 40-yard dash. Anselmo said he was one of the fastest football players in the state.
“Usually you have to do down south to find that kind of speed,” said Anselmo, who recruited all the New York City players.
Rene, a running back, is also known for his speed. But it was his quick feet that excited Syracuse despite him being listed at just 5-foot-8. He had 778 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns this season despite an ankle injury and subpar blocking up front. Rene also has excellent strength, bench-pressing 225 pounds 12 times for coaches.
“He has some of the quickest feet I’ve seen and I’ve been coaching 35 years,” Anselmo said. “He can cut on a dime.”
Tull’s versatility was his biggest draw. The Post All-City first team selection stood out as a wide receiver and linebacker at Xaverian and the Orange plan to use him on defense as a strong safety or linebacker. Hay, who played for Anselmo at Nassau, is another guy expected to come in and make an impact right away.
“Michael is a mean, nasty, 6-6, 290-pound tackle,” Anselmo said. “And he can run, too.”
Syracuse went just 4-8, including 1-6 in the Big East, this season. But that didn’t matter much to the guys who just signed with them. They see the upstate school as being a premium destination for New York City talent for a number of reasons.
“Once the young kids, the juniors that are in high school now, see a lot of inner city kids are committing to that school, it will probably give them more motivation to come there also,” Tull said.
The south is the chic place for high-school football talent, but New York City is no slouch. Camardese said for years the Big Apple’s players and coaches felt somewhat disrespected. No longer. At least not by Syracuse.
“[Marrone] is trying to bring the city back on the map,” Rene said. “Some people don’t believe in the city, but he does.”