Delaware Announces 2017 Athletics Hall of Fame Class; Six to be Honored at Sept. 29 Ceremony
By Courtesy of Delaware Athletics
NEWARK, Del. – A group of six former University of Delaware Athletics standouts who represent 10 different Blue Hens sports and whose prestigious careers include emergency room physician, veterinarian, engineering professor, athletics administrator, teacher, and coach, make up the newest induction class of the University of Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame.
The 21st induction class will be honored in an invitation-only ceremony and reception for family and friends next Friday, Sept. 29, at the Bob Carpenter Center. The honorees will also be recognized at halftime of the Delaware vs. James Madison University football game at Delaware Stadium the following afternoon, Sept. 30.
The Class of 2017 features representatives from every decade since the 1940s and the sports of football, baseball, field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor track & field, men’s and women’s outdoor track & field, and rowing. Four of the inductees are Delaware natives and five of them still reside in the area.
The six-person class includes the first-ever rower named to the UD Athletics Hall of Fame in Dr. Jenni Buckley; record-setting football wide receiver Courtney Batts; All-American cross country and track distance runner and former U.S. Field Hockey team member Dr. Sandy Gibney; standout baseball player and current Blue Hen associate baseball head coach Dan Hammer; longtime UD swimmer, coach, and director of athletics Edgar N. Johnson; and NCAA qualifying swimmer Dr. Art Mayer.
Below are biographies of the Class of 2017:
(Football, 1994-97; Baseball, 1995; Football Graduate Assistant Coach, 1998-99)
In the proud tradition of University of Delaware football, few players can match the pass receiving exploits of Courtney Batts.
A native of Philadelphia, Batts consistently shredded opposing defenses with his sure hands and blazing speed and finished his career with a host of pass receiving records.
A 1998 physical education Delaware graduate, he played wide receiver for Hall of Fame head coach Tubby Raymond and led the Blue Hens to an impressive four-year mark of 38-11-1 that included three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, most notably a trip to the national semifinals in 1997 when the team went 12-2.
A four-year starter, he never missed a game and along the way set 10 school records, including receptions in a season (60) and career (179), pass receiving yards in a career (3,522), and career touchdown receptions (27).
He was a two-time All-Atlantic 10 Conference selection and was named the UD Outstanding Senior Male Athlete of the Year in 1998. He also played one season of baseball and led the Blue Hens to an America East title and NCAA Tournament appearance in 1995 as a second baseman.
Batts, who served as a graduate assistant coach with the UD football program in 1998-99, is now in his 18th year working in the education field and currently serves as an algebra teacher in the Baltimore City School System. He resides in the Baltimore area with his wife, DanYelle, son, Courtney, and daughter, Morgan.
DR. JENNI BUCKLEY
The first-ever rower to be inducted into the UD Athletics Hall of Fame, Dr. Jenni Buckley joined the squad during its second year of existence and was an immediate standout on the water for the Blue Hens.
A native of Wilmington, Del., she was a member of the novice heavyweight eights boat in 2000 and led a crew that captured first place in every event it competed in during the spring, including the top finish at the prestigious Dad Vail Regatta where she helped lead the overall team to a runner-up finish for head coach Amanda Kukla.
As a senior in 2001, she was named the team’s UD Alumni Association Team Most Valuable Player as a member of the lightweight varsity eights crew that won the Dad Vail title and helped the team capture the overall regatta crown from among 150 schools.
An outstanding student in mechanical engineering, she recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA and earned her degree from UD in 2001. She later earned her master’s (2004) and doctorate (2006) degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
Dr. Buckley has served as an associate professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware since 2011 and was presented the Trabant Award for Women’s Equity at UD in 2016. She teaches a range of courses as part of the undergraduate curriculum and conducts research in biomechanics as well as engineering education, focusing particularly on issues of equity and inclusion.
She lives in Newark, Del. with her partner, Dr. Amy Trauth, also a professor at UD, and their two children, Galen and Addy, who are aspiring Blue Hens.
DR. SANDY GIBNEY, M.D.
(Field Hockey, 1979; Cross Country, 1980-82; Indoor Track & Field, 1979-80; Outdoor Track & Field, 1980-82)
Whether it was running an open course, competing on the track, or playing with a stick in hand, Dr. Sandy Gibney excelled in everything she tried during an impressive career at Delaware.
An eight-time letterwinner, Dr. Gibney was a member of the U.S. National Field Hockey team and played one season at UD for head coach Mary Ann Hitchens, leading the squad to a 10-4-2 mark in 1979.
She then made the full-time switch to running and never looked back, becoming one of the all-time great distance runners in school history. She competed twice at the national cross country championships, earning All-American honors with a 16th place finish in 1981.
A native of Wilmington, Del., she also excelled for the outdoor track & field squad for three seasons, competing in the 5,000 meters at the 1980 national championships. Gibney set nine outdoor records during her career, including UD standards in the 800m, 3,000m, 5,000m, two-mile, and three-mile events.
A 1983 (physical education and health sciences) and 1986 graduate (master’s in physiology) of UD, Dr. Gibney earned her medical degree in 1994 from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. She currently serves as Associate Chairman of Emergency Services and Liaison Trauma Director at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington.
She and her husband, Rick Schuder, himself a former UD track & field runner in 1977-79, reside in the Wilmington area.
(Baseball, 1993-96; Baseball Assistant Coach, 1997-2005; Baseball Associate Head Coach , 2006-Present)
As an outstanding player and well-respected coach, Dan Hammer has played an integral part in the success of Delaware baseball for nearly three decades.
A native of North East, Md., Hammer was a standout infielder for the Blue Hens in 1993-96 for Hall of Fame head coach Bob Hannah and led the squad to a record of 158-60, two conference titles, and NCAA Tournament appearances in 1995 and 1996.
He served as co-captain for the two NCAA teams, was named All-Region in 1994, was twice named All-North Atlantic Conference, selected team MVP in 1996, and was a member of the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team in 1996.
A 1996 UD graduate (engineering technology and technical management), Hammer finished his illustrious playing career with 26 home runs, a .360 batting average, and a .536 on-base percentage and ranked among the all-time UD Top 10 in games played (203), at-bats (717), runs (217), hits (258), doubles (62), total bases (412), and walks (144).
He joined the Blue Hens coaching staff in 1997 and was promoted to associate head coach for head coach and UD Athletics Hall of Famer Jim Sherman in 2006. During his coaching tenure, he has led the Blue Hens to 17 winning seasons, five conference titles, and NCAA appearances in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2017.
In all, 37 Blue Hens players have gone on to play at the professional level during his time at UD, with several of those players reaching the Major Leagues.
Hammer and his wife, Jenni, reside in Elkton, Md. with their son, Luke, and daughter, Katy. Jenni is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in educational leadership at Delaware.
(Men’s Swimming & Diving, 1962-66; Men’s Cross Country Head Coach, 1971-79; Women’s Swimming & Diving Head Coach, 1979-84; Men’s Swimming & Diving Head Coach, 1981-84; Director of Athletics & Recreation Services, 1984-2009)
Over a span of five decades, as a standout swimmer, multiple-sport coach, and Director of Athletics, few individuals have devoted as much time and talent to Delaware Athletics than Edgar Johnson.
A native of Wilmington, Del., Johnson was a record-breaking swimmer in 10 events and two-time captain who earned UD degrees in 1967 (physical education & health education) and 1970 (master’s in guidance and counseling).
He joined UD Athletics in 1969 and served in a variety of roles, including assistant swimming & diving coach, assistant athletic trainer, assistant track & field coach, instructor in physical education, associate professor, and head coach for the men’s cross country and men’s and women’s swimming teams. His women’s swimming teams won an incredible 42 straight dual meets and placed ninth at the 1981 AIAW national championships.
As athletics director he enjoyed a distinguished 25-year career in which he led the Blue Hens program to new heights, directing UD from the East Coast Conference to the America East Conference and to its current home in the Colonial Athletic Association. Delaware captured 10 consecutive America East Commissioner’s Cup Awards, won 83 conference titles, and appeared in 32 NCAA Championships during his tenure. He was inducted into the UD Wall of Fame in 2011 and received the prestigious James Lynah Service Award for contributions to college athletics by the Eastern College Athletic Conference in 2014.
The Edgar Johnson Award, which is presented each year to the UD senior male letterwinner who best exemplifies the characteristics of hard work, dedication, fairness, and striving for excellence, is named in his honor.
He and his wife, Karen, a 1972 UD graduate, reside in Newark, Del. They have a son, Chris (Delaware ’95), who played football for the Blue Hens under Tubby Raymond, and a daughter, Sarah (Delaware ’98, ’08). They have three grandchildren.
DR. ART MAYER, V.M.D.
(Men’s Swimming & Diving, 1949-53)
One of the most accomplished swimmers in UD history, Dr. Art Mayer was a record-breaking conference champion for the Blue Hens in 1949-53.
A native of Newark, Del., Dr. Mayer didn’t begin the sport until he arrived at UD but quickly flourished in the pool, setting three freshman records and never stopping. For his career, he set 10 school and 13 pool records at one time or another and captured four Middle Atlantic Conference individual titles.
He won the MAC freshman 300-yard medley title in 1950, the MAC 150-yard individual medley and 200-yard backstroke titles in 1952, and took first place in the 300 medley relay and second place in the 200 backstroke at the 1953 MAC meet.
As a senior co-captain for head coach and UD Athletics Hall of Famer Harry Rawstrom, he became the first UD swimmer to compete at the NCAA Championships, participating in the 200 backstroke and 150 individual medley at Ohio State.
A 1953 agriculture graduate of Delaware and a 1957 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (veterinary medicine), he was a well-respected veterinarian for over 50 years in Newark, Del.,
Dr. Mayer co-founded the UD Master’s Swim Program in 1975, participated in the Delaware Senior Olympics, and was a national and world-record holder during a career that spanned three decades. He was inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame in 2013.
He has four children, two of them UD graduates, 12 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. His uncle, the late Winnie Mayer, was a member of the inaugural UD Athletics Hall of Fame class in 1997.
Long-time Athletic Director, former swim and cross country coach Edgar Johnson among UD hall-of-famers
Kevin Tresolini, The News Journal Published Sept. 22, 2017
Long-time athletic director Edgar Johnson heads a group of six who’ll be enshrined in the University of Delaware Athletics Hall of Fame next weekend, UD announced Thursday.
Johnson, a successful cross country and swim coach before serving as AD from 1984-2009, will be joined by Courtney Batts, Jenni Buckley, Sandy Gibney, Dan Hammer and Art Mayer in Delaware’s 21st Hall of Fame class.
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They’ll be honored during an invitation-only ceremony Friday night, Sept. 29, at the Carpenter Center and at halftime of Delaware’s 3:30 football game the following day against James Madison.
Former Delaware athletic director and 2017 Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Edgar Johnson. (Photo: News Journal file)
The 2017 inductees:
Jenni Buckley: First rower to be enshrined. Dickinson High grad rowed on novice heavyweight eights boat in 2000 that won every race, including Dad Vail Regatta, where Delaware placed second in team standings. Was voted team MVP as a senior in 2001 when lightweight varsity eights won Dad Vail title and sparked Blue Hens to overall regatta team championship. Now an associate professor in mechanical engineering at Delaware.
Courtney Batts: Philadelphia native was a four-year starter at wide receiver from 1994-97 who never missed a football game and set 10 school records, including receptions in a season (60) and career (179), career receiving yards (3,522) and career touchdown catches (27). Senior team reached NCAA semifinals. Was two-time All-Atlantic 10 selection and UD Outstanding Senior Male Athlete. Also played one season of baseball for 1995 team that won America East title and reached NCAA Tournament. Now an algebra teacher in Baltimore City School System.
Sandy Gibney: Concord High grad starred in both field hockey, in which she was a U.S. team player, and as a runner at Delaware from 1979-82. Played just one field hockey season, 1979, before concentrating on distance running on UD’s cross country and track teams. Placed 16th in 1981 national cross country championships. On the track, she qualified for the 1980 nationals at 5,000 meters and set UD records at that distance as well as in the 800, 3,000, two-mile and three-mile. Her 16:53.0 in the 5,000 remains No. 2 all-time in UD history. Now a physician who serves as associate chairman of emergency services at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington.
Dr. Sandy Gibney at St. Francis Hospital. (Photo: News Journal file)
Dan Hammer: North East, Maryland, native starred on 1993-96 UD baseball teams as an infielder, including serving as captain for 1995 and 1996 squads that reached NCAA Tournament. Finished UD career with 26 home runs, .360 batting average and .536 on-base percentage and was among all-time UD Top 10 in games played (203), at-bats (717), runs (217), hits (258), doubles (62), total bases (412) and walks (144). Named All-Region in 1994, two-time All-North Atlantic Conference choice, team MVP in 1996 and NCAA Regional All-Tournament pick in 1996. Has been on UD baseball coaching staff since 1997, including associate head coach since 2006.
Edgar Johnson: Salesianum School alum was athletic director from 1984-2009, overseeing Blue Hens’ climbs from the East Coast Conference to the North Atlantic Conference/America East to the Colonial Athletic Association. Delaware earned 10 consecutive America East Commissioner’s Cup Awards for overall excellence, won 83 conference titles and appeared in 32 NCAA championships. Before that, was men’s cross country coach from 1971-79, women’s swimming coach from 1979-84 and men’s swimming coach from 1981-84. Women’s swim team won 42 straight meets and placed ninth at 1981 AIAW national championships. Set 10 records himself as a UD swimmer before graduating in 1967. Taught in UD sport management program after retiring as AD. Edgar Johnson Award is annually given in his honor to a senior male athlete “demonstrating the characteristics of hard work, dedication, fairness and striving for excellence.”
Art Mayer: Didn’t know how to swim when he arrived at UD but was a quick learner. Newark native set 10 school and 13 pool records and won four Middle Atlantic Conference titles from 1949-53. In 1953 became first Blue Hen to compete in NCAA Swimming Championships, qualifying in 200 backstroke and 150 individual medley. Later operated a veterinary center in Newark and was a national- and world-record holder as a masters swimmer.
Cornell Football At Delaware
9/16/17 - http://www.cornellbigred.com/
NEWARK, Del. — Delaware turned five Big Red first half turnovers into 27 points and never looked back, topping Cornell 41-14 on Saturday afternoon at Delaware Stadium. The Blue Hens improved to 2-1 on the season, while the visitors dropped their 2017 opener to fall to 0-1.
Junior quarterback Dalton Banks completed 23-of-35 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown, but was also intercepted three times. He found 12 different receivers, with 13 different Big Red players making at least on catch. Freshman Eric Gallman III hauled in a 27-yard touchdown to get the Big Red on the board, while senior Josh Sweet punched in a second score from 2-yards out in the waning seconds. Senior James Hubbard caught three passes for 58 yards, including an acrobatic 47-yard grab (see it here). In all, the offense put up 315 yards against a stout Delaware defense.
Cornell's defense was game despite finding itself in short fields. Of Delaware's first five scores, only one drive needed more than 21 yards. Sophomore Jordan Landsman, making his first collegiate start, had a pair of sacks and six total tackles, while senior Daniel Crochet had five stops, his first career interception (click here to see the interception) and a tackle for loss. Crochet's classmate, captain Kurt Frimel, had three tackles for loss and a pass breakup among his team-best nine tackles.Returning All-American Nick Gesualdi added nine stops and both junior Reis Seggebruch (click here to see Segeebruch's sack) and sophomore William Baker had sacks.
The Big Red fumbled on its very first play from scrimmage and the Blue Hens pounced on the football just 18 seconds into the game. Two plays later, needing just four yards to the end zone, Kani Kane scored the first of three touchdowns on the day, this one coming from 3 yards out. He would go on to add first half scoring runs of 1 and 3 yards as the home team built a 27-0 lead at the break.
Once settled at halftime and used to game speed after spotting Delaware two games, the Big Red played the Blue Hens even after the break. Delaware took the air out of the ball after the break, allowing the road team just four possessions - two of which Cornell scored touchdowns on and a third where it reached the end zone before turning it over on downs.
Kareem Williams ran 15 times for 121 yards to lead the Delaware offense, while Joe Walker completed 20-of-30 passes for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His favorite target was Jamie Jarmon, who caught eight balls for 84 yards and a 12-yard touchdown. Frank Raggo connected on a pair of field goals and had a third try blocked. Defensively, Charles Bell notched a game-high 12 tackles and Troy Reeder notched nine tackles with 1.5 for a loss and a forced fumble.
Special teams was an advantage for the Big Red, as sophomore Nickolas Null averaged 48.0 yards on three punts in his first game replacing All-American Chris Fraser. Sophomore David Jones returned four kickoffs for 95 yards and also made five tackles in his first varsity action.
"We gave up the ball five times in the first half and they scored 27 points off them. They won by 27 points. Obviously we didn't play well in the first half, especially offensively. I think defensively, given the field position I think they did some nice things. Those guys don't play in the Ivy League. I obviously want to win every game we play, but that's not a league game.There's going to be a lot of positive things to show and some stuff we need to clean up and improve on."
David Archer '05, the Roger J. Weiss Head Coach of Cornell Football
"These guys, they are probably one of the better teams we'll play all year, and we played with them in many facets of the game for long stretches. That's a huge positive to take into next week's game at Yale."
Kurt Frimel, senior linebacker and team captain
"We are so much better than that, and that's not what our identity is or a reflection on what we expect to become. It was a disaster of a game.We just literally gave them the ball, handed them the ball. We're going to come out and get a lot better this week. I know how good we are and how talented we are. Not everyone is able to see all those practices and the work we put into the offseason. To see our defense go out there and play well and knowing what our offense can do and will do, I have full confidence that we're going to clean this up."
Dalton Banks, junior quarterback
Beyond The Box
• A number of Big Red players made their first varsity starts: Sophomores William Baker (DL), Michael Gillooley (DL), Jordan Landsman (DL) and Davy Lizana (WR); juniors David D'Amelio (OL), J. Edward Keating (OL) and Mason Manning III (OL);.and senior Theo Goosen (OL).
• Making their first varsity appearances: Freshmen Eric Gallman III (WR) and Phazione McClurge (CB); sophomores William Baker (DL), John Fitzgerald (TE), Michael Gillooley (DL), George Holm (OL), David Jones (CB), Jordan Landsman (DL), Davy Lizana (WR) and Owen Peters (WR); and juniors Oscar Boochever (TE), David D'Amelio (OL), Gustavo Dorsett (WR) and Cyrus Nolan (DL);
• Sophomore Nickolas Null, in his first game replacing All-American and four-time first-team All-Ivy League punter Chris Fraser, averaged 48.0 yards on three punts with one downed inside the 20.
• Freshman Eric Gallman scored on a 27-yard touchdown reception.
• Senior Daniel Crochet registered his first career interception.
• Senior running back Josh Sweet had his first touchdown since scoring in a contest at Sacred Heart during the 2015 season.
• Junior quarterback Dalton Banks moved into 11th place on the school's career passing yardage list with his 247-yard day, giving him 2,761 for his career (23 yards shy of the top 10).
• With nine tackles, senior captain Kurt Frimel surpassed the century mark (102 career tackles).
• After tallying 44 all-purpose yards, junior Chris Walker surpassed 1,000 for his career (1,003).
Blue Hens rip Cornell 41-14
Sep 16th, 2017 · by Andy Walter · Delaware State News
Delaware receiver Jamie Jarmon, an Indian River High grad, runs for 24 yards during the Blue Hens’ 41-14 win over Cornell on Saturday. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)
NEWARK — Jamie Jarmon and the end zone are hardly strangers.
The former Indian River High star quarterback ran for 29 touchdowns as a senior after all.
But that was six years ago.
So Jarmon, now a junior receiver at Delaware, was pretty excited to finally catch his first collegiate TD pass as the Blue Hens rolled to a 41-14 victory over Cornell on a hot Saturday afternoon at Delaware Stadium.
Another former Henlopen Conference standout, Sussex Tech High grad Kani Kane, also scored his first Delaware TD and then added two more short-yardage scores as the Hens (2-1) led 27-0 by halftime in their first football meeting with the Big Red.
Jarmon finished with a career-high eight catches for 84 yards while adding a 24-yard run. But his favorite catch was a 12-yarder from Joe Walker that he snared in the back of the end zone in the third quarter for his first collegiate touchdown.
Jarmon was mobbed by his teammates after the TD stretched the Hens’ lead to 34-0.
“It’s a relief — probably because it’s been three years,” the former minor-league baseball player said with a smile. “I’ve struggled in those areas. I’ve had opportunities before and I’ve not been able to come through.
“It’s just kind of a load off of my back to be able to make those plays now. It felt good.”
Delaware’s defense actually played a big role in a lot of the Hens’ early scoring. Delaware forced five first-half turnovers, including four interceptions.
When Cornell (0-1) fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage, big defensive tackle Bilal Nichols finally scooped up the loose ball and returned it 11 yards to the Big Red four.
Sussex Tech High grad Kani Kane scored on three short TD runs for the Blue Hens. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)
Two plays later, Kane (five carries-11 yards) scored on a three-yard run and the Hens were up 7-0 just 53 seconds into the contest.
Delaware’s first three scoring drives covered 21 yards or less as its defense kept giving it good field position.
All told, Kane’s three touchdowns came on a pair of three-yard runs plus one one-yarder. At 6-foot, 240-pounds, he’s becoming the Hens’ short yardage specialist.
“He’s just a big, big back,” said coach Danny Rocco. “And he’s got really good feet for a big back. … He just fits us right now.”
Delaware’s defenders were happy to lend a hand to the offense.
Nichols added an interception when the 6-foot-4, 290-pounder pulled in a pass gunned right at him at the line of scrimmage.
Thomas Jefferson, who finished with 48 yards on 11 carries, looks for running room on Saturday. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)
“We really preached this week that we needed more takeaways,” he said. “We really need to go after the ball a lot more.
“It was good to see that we came out fast — and we really got a chance to do that today. That was our emphasis all week.”
With junior Kareem Williams running for 121 yards on 15 carries, the Hens finished with a nice offensive balance — 225 yards rushing and 202 yards passing. It’s the first time they’ve finished with over 200 yards on both the ground and through the air since 2013.
Walker threw for a career-high 202 yards while completing 20-of-30 passes for two touchdowns and an interception.
What Rocco liked to see was the Hens finish off a pair of long second-half drives with TDs.
Jarmon’s scoring catch finished off an eight-play, 81-yard drive while Walker hit tight end Charles Scarff with a six-yard TD pass to cap off a 12-play, 81-yard march.
While there was a lot to like about Delaware’s performance on Saturday, Rocco also said that — considering all the turnovers — maybe the Hens should have done more.
“After the game, in the locker room, I did share with my team that my expectations are higher than that,” said Rocco. “It was one of those games where, if we really would have played a clean game and a complete game, we really could have dominated that scoreboard. So there’s a lot to learn from out there today.”
Freshman running back Khory Spruill had seven carries for 39 yards in the fourth quarter. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)
The next time the Hens take the field, though, they’ll be playing for real. After an open date, they host defending FCS national champion and current No. 1-ranked James Madison in their Colonial Athletic Association opener on Sept. 30.
Rocco has always talked about the season-opening, three-game portion of Delaware’s schedule as something of an evaluation period.
What changes the first-year Blue Hen coach makes, if any, remain to be seen.
“Defensively, I think we’ll just continue to build and tweak on the things that we’ve done here the first three weeks,” said Rocco.
Offensively, though, Rocco clearly wants to see the Hens play at a faster tempo.
“We have got to get in and out of the huddle and on the ball,” he said. “We have to shorten our verbage — streamline everything we’re doing. We had a few series in the third quarter where we were playing with that kind of tempo.
“I’m not talking about no-huddle or (playing at) break-neck speed. I’m just talking about the ability to get out, up on the ball, have the confidence to get over the center, have the confidence to execute our base offense. … There’s some things that I just feel we need to do a better job of.
“I’m just trying to create more of a sense of urgency in everything we do,” Rocco added.
Receiver Vinny Papale, who was briefly hospitalized last Saturday after suffering a bruised lung at Virginia Tech, had a 14-yard catch against Cornell. … Senior linebacker Charles Bell had a game-high 12 tackles. … Delaware’s other interceptions came from Nassir Adderley, Colby Reeder and Malcolm Brown. Adderley had a 55-yard return while Reeder returned his 20 yards. … Williams’ 49-yard run was Delaware’s longest of the season. … The Hens punted only twice. … Delaware’s Frank Raggo hit a pair of short field goals. Jake Roth also missed a 49-yard attempt and Raggo had a 43-yarder blocked. … While seven different Hens had a reception, senior receiver Diante Cherry went without a catch for one of the few times in his career.
Dominant Defensive Effort Pushes Delaware Past Cornell, 41-14
Courtesey of Delaware Athletics
Sep 16, 2017
NEWARK, Del. – Five first-half turnovers set the tone for a dominant day for the University of Delaware football team Saturday afternoon as the Blue Hens jumped out to a big halftime lead and pulled away for a 41-14 victory over Cornell at sun-drenched Delaware Stadium.
Delaware (1-1), which won its second straight home game, turned those five turnovers into 27 points and never looked back as the Blue Hens spoiled the season-opener for their Ivy League foe and first-time opponent Cornell (0-1).
The Blue Hens recovered a fumble on Cornell’s first play from scrimmage in the opening minute and intercepted four Big Red passes in the first half on the way to a 27-0 halftime lead.
Delaware junior quarterback Joe Walker hit on 20 of 30 passes for a career-high 202 yards and two touchdowns, junior wide receiver Jamie Jarmon set career-highs with eight catches for 84 yards and scored his first career touchdown, junior running back Kareem Williams rushed for a game-high 121 yards, and junior running back Kani Kane scored three short touchdown runs to pace the offense.
The Blue Hens piled up 427 yards of total offense and gained 200 or more yards on both the ground and through the air for the first time since the 2013 season.
Delaware’s defense held Cornell to just 315 total yards. Senior defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (above) recovered a fumble on the first play from scrimmage to set up Delaware’s first touchdown and later intercepted a pass inside Cornell territory to set up another score. Linebacker Colby Reeder, safety Nasir Adderley, and cornerback Malcolm Brown also intercepted passes to lead Delaware.
Delaware head coach Danny Rocco
“We are very happy with the score and the outcome. We needed to come in here today and win a football game, extend the lead, and control the tempo against a team that I felt would compete relay hard. Winning 41-14 is a good score but my expectations are higher than that. There is a lot to learn from what happened out there today. I felt defensively once again we got off to a great start, took the ball away, and got off the field. I think offensively we had some really good drives for touchdowns. Early on we were able to get the ball in the end zone down in the red zone, which is what we have struggled with earlier this season.”
Defensive Tackle Bilal Nichols
“It felt great out there today. We really preached this week that we needed to get more takeways and that we needed to go after the ball more. It was great that we came out fast because that was our emphasis this week.”
Hens have won their first two games at home for the sixth time in the last eight years but for the first time since 2014
Williams, whose 49-yard run in the third quarter was the longest by a Blue Hen runner this year, recorded his third career 100-yard rushing effort
Delaware gained over 200 yards in both passing and rushing in the same game for the first time since a 33-30 win over Albany on Oct. 12, 2013
Delaware senior linebacker Charles Bell recorded a game-high 12 tackles
In addition to the four interceptions, Delaware’s defense also broke up six passes and had three sacks
Wide receiver Vinny Papale, who suffered a bruised lung in the first quarter of last week’s game vs. Virginia Tech, returned to action and caught a pass for 14 yards
Kane scored his three touchdowns on just five carries and finished with 11 yards
Senior WR Diante Cherry was held without a catch for only the fourth time his 35-game career, still needs just one reception to reach 100 for his career at Delaware
Freshman running back Khory Spruill (at right) rushed for 39 yards for the Blue Hens
‘Inconsistent’ offense sinks Hens in 27-0 loss to Hokies
Sep 9th, 2017 · by Delaware State News
Delaware running back Kani Kane, a Sussex Tech grad, looks for yardage against the Hokies. (UD Athletics/Jesse Caris)
BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Delaware defense put in a big effort in Saturday’s game against No. 18 Virginia Tech but one special-teams lapse swung the momentum on Saturday afternoon.
An inconsistent offense also could not put points on the board in the Blue Hens’ 27-0 setback to the Hokies before a boisterous crowd of 62,526 at Lane Stadium.
Delaware (1-1) held the Hokies offense to just 303 total yards and only two offensive touchdowns, but the offense could not hold up its part of the bargain.
Virginia Tech (2-0) held the Blue Hen offense in check all day as Delaware managed just 223 total yards, turned the ball over twice, and was forced to punt 10 times. Delaware was also called for 11 penalties for 84 yards, the most by a UD team since 2014.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged,” said Delaware coach Danny Rocco. “I saw too many phases within the game today that were positive and saw signs of a pretty good football team. I expected a little more today and I thought we would be able to keep the score within reach.
“Our defense had a pretty good day’s work but offensively we were too inconsistent from possession to possession. Virginia Tech has a really stout defense and they’ve been doing this for a long time. There is certainly no shame. I’ve seen that defense take control of a lot of games over the years. We just need to stay focused and stay committed.”
UD Athletics/Jesse Caris
Delaware cornerback Nijuel Hill knocks away a pass in Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech. (UD Athletics/Jesse Caris)
Delaware quarterback Joe Walker completed 8 of 17 passes for 116 yards and also rushed for 26 yards while Thomas Jefferson ran for 27 yards and Diante Cherry caught three passes for 41 yards. Defensively for the Hens, Nasir Adderley had a team-high six tackles and blocked a field goal attempt while Bilal Nichols had five tackles and a sack.
Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson threw for 222 yards with touchdown passes of four yards to Travon McMillian and 28 yards to Cam Phillips. Phillips finished with six catches for 90 yards. Kicker Joey Slye added field goals from 50 and 24 yards.
“We walk away from this game with some positives, although its hard to think that way right now after a loss,” said linebacker Troy Reeder. “We met some goals today. Our defensive line was very good and it was nice to see our guys in the back end step up.
“I was proud of the way they played. We can leave this game saying we gave it our best shot.”
The big blow just happened to be the first score of the game when Greg Stroman returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown with 2:45 left in the first half to give the Hokies the lead for good. Slye kicked his 51-yard field goal midway through the second quarter and McMillian scored his short touchdown just before halftime to give Virginia Tech the 17-0 halftime lead.
Phillips 28-yard catch from Jackson early in the fourth quarter and Slye’s 24-yard field goal capped the scoring.
Delaware, which suffered its first shutout since 2014, knocked on the door several times but could not put points on the board. Frank Raggo’s 28-yard field goal attempt with 3:40 left in the first half was off the mark. The Hens drove to the Tech 13-yard line late in the third quarter but was Walker was intercepted by Terrell Edmunds, who returned the ball 55 yards to set up the Phillips touchdown.
“Virginia Tech has a great defense and fantastic linebackers,” said center Brody Kern. “We knew they would be tough to move, but we made too many mental errors and had too many missed assignments. We should have put the ball in the end zone when we got down there. We need to do a better job at finishing drives and we will.”
The crowd of 62,526 marked the highest attended game the Blue Hens have participated in school history, surpassing the previous mark of 40,119 at Maryland in 2008. … Diante Cherry went over 1,000 career yards with his first reception of the day in the first quarter. His three receptions leaves him with 99 career catches. … Delaware, which led NCAA FCS in fewest penalties with just 40 in 11 games in 2017, was whistled for 11 penalties for 84 yards. During one stretch in the second quarter, the Hens committed motion penalties on three straight plays. … Delaware was held scoreless for the first time since a 19-0 loss at Towson on Oct. 31, 2015 … Delaware punter Nick Pritchard had a busy afternoon as he punted 10 times for a 39.9-yard average and booted a season-long kick of 52 yard.
Strong defense carries Hokies past Delaware in home opener
September 9, 2017 - http://www.hokiesports.com/
Lane/Worsham Field - 62,526
BLACKSBURG – Greg Stroman returned a punt for a touchdown, Josh Jackson threw two touchdown passes and the Hokies’ defense recorded a shutout, lifting No. 18 Virginia Tech to a 27-0 victory over Delaware in a non-conference game at Lane Stadium on Saturday.
With the win, the Hokies moved to 2-0 on the season and 52-4 against non-conference opponents at Lane Stadium since 1996. Delaware fell to 1-1 on the year.
Tech’s defense held the Blue Hens to just 223 yards in helping coordinator Bud Foster recorded his 32nd shutout since taking over as the sole coordinator in 1996.
“It’s hard to do nowadays,” Foster said. “I think Delaware has an outstanding football program. I felt going into this game … I’ve known Danny [Rocco] for a long time, and I know he doesn’t take that job unless he has a chance to do some special things there. You’re talking about a tradition-rich program. They are an experienced program – they got 19 starters returning and a lot of upperclassmen. So yes, I’m proud of our kids and how they played … It’s a credit to our kids.”
Stroman broke a scoreless game late in the first quarter when he made a nice cut at the Virginia Tech 45 to dodge a would-be tackler and then went untouched 61 yards for the score.
“First thing I had to do was catch it,” Stroman said. “When I first looked upfield, a lot of guys just hadn’t been pinned, so I just hit and tried to go forward.”
Tech quarterback Josh Jackson threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Travon McMillian and a 28-yard touchdown strike to Cam Phillips. Jackson completed 16 of 28 for 222 yards and the two scores on the day.
Jackson’s production came on a day in which the Hokies’ offense sputtered at times. Tech finished with just 303 yards.
“Obviously, we have a lot of things we need to work on, but I’m proud of them and the way that they played,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “We got to get ready to go for the next one. Delaware, defensively, has a fine scheme. They know it well, they execute it very well and it gave us some problems offensively.”
• Stroman became the first player in Virginia Tech history to return a punt for a touchdown in three consecutive seasons. His three career punt returns for touchdowns rank tied for fourth in school history.
• Stroman’s punt return marked Tech’s 58th touchdown on special teams since 1987, including the 22nd via punt return.
• The Hokies are now 5-1 in their past six home openers, including the past two under Fuente.
• Cam Phillips’ 90 receiving yards now give him 2,291 for his career. He moved past Ricky Scales (2,272) into fourth place on Tech’s all-time list.
• Joey Slye’s 50-yard field goal marked a career high. With two field goals against Delaware, he now needs just four to pass Shayne Graham (1996-99) and become Tech’s all-time leader.
• Slye finished with nine points against Delaware, giving him 330 for his career. He needs just seven points to pass Lee Suggs (1999-2002) into second place on Tech’s all-time list.
Blue Hens Fall at No. 18 Virginia Tech, 27-0
By Delaware Athletics
Sep 9, 2017
BLACKSBURG, Va. - The University of Delaware defense put in a big effort in Saturday's college football matchup vs. No. 18 Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium, but one special teams lapse swung the momentum and an inconsistent offense could not put points on the board in a 27-0 setback to the Hokies before a boisterous crowd of 62,526.
Delaware (1-1), coming off a season-opening 22-3 win over Delaware State Aug. 31, held the Hokies offense to just 303 total yards and only two offensive touchdowns, but the offense could not hold up its part of the bargain.
Virginia Tech (2-0), ranked No. 18 nationally by the Associated Press, held the Blue Hen offense in check all day as Delaware managed just 223 total yards, turned the ball over twice, and was forced to punt 10 times. Delaware was also called for 11 penalties for 84 yards, the most by a UD team since 2014.
Delaware quarterback Joe Walker completed 8 of 17 passes for 116 yards and also rushed for 26 yards while Thomas Jefferson (below right) ran for 27 yards and Diante Cherry (at left) caught three passes for 41 yards. Defensively for the Hens, Nasir Adderley had a team-high six tackles and blocked a field goal attempt and Bilal Nichols had five tackles and a sack.
Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson threw for 222 yards with touchdown passes of four yards to Travon McMillian and 28 yards to Cam Phillips. Phillips finished with six catches for 90 yards. Kicker Joey Slye added field goals from 50 and 24 yards.
The big blow just happened to be the first score of the game when Greg Stroman returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown with 2:45 left in the first half to give the Hokies the lead for good. Slye kicked his 51-yard field goal midway through the second quarter and McMillian scored his short touchdown just before halftime to give Virginia Tech the 17-0 halftime lead.
Phillips 28-yard catch from Jackson early in the fourth quarter and Slye’s 24-yard field goal capped the scoring.
Delaware, which suffered its first shutout since 2014, knocked on the door several times but could not put points on the board. Frank Raggo’s 28-yard field goal attempt with 3:40 left in the first half was off the mark. The Hens drove to the Tech 13-yard line late in the third quarter but was Walker was intercepted by Terrell Edmunds, who returned the ball 55 yards to set up the Phillips touchdown.
Delaware head coach Danny Rocco
“I’m disappointed but I’m not discouraged. I saw too many phases within the game today that were positive and saw signs of a pretty good football team. I expected a little more today and I thought we would be able to keep the score within reach. Our defense had a pretty good day’s work but offensively we were too inconsistent from possession to possession. Virginia Tech has a really stout defense and they’ve been doing this for a long time. There is certainly no shame. I’ve seen that defense take control of a lot of games over the years. We just need to stay focused and stay committed.
Delaware center Brody Kern
“Virginia Tech has a great defense and fantastic linebackers. We knew they would be tough to move, but we made too many mental errors and had too many missed assignments. We should have put the ball in the end zone when we got down there. We need to do a better job at finishing drives and we will.”
Delaware linebacker Troy Reeder
“We walk away from this game with some positives, although its hard to think that way right now after a loss. We met some goals today. Our defensive line was very good and it was nice to see our guys in the back end step up. I was proud of the way they played. We can leave this game saying we gave it our best shot.”
• The crowd of 62,526 marked the highest attended game the Blue Hens have participated in school history, surpassing the previous mark of 40,119 at Maryland in 2008
• Diante Cherry went over 1,000 career yards with his first reception of the day in the first quarter. His three receptions leaves him with 99 career catches heading into next week’s game vs. Cornell
• Delaware, which led NCAA FCS in fewest penalties with just 40 in 11 games in 2017, was whistled for 11 penalties for 84 yards. During one stretch in the second quarter, the Hens committed motion penalties on three straight plays
• The game marked the first-ever meeting between the two schools in football
• Delaware was held scoreless for the first time since a 19-0 loss at Towson on Oct. 31, 2015
• Delaware punter Nick Pritchard had a busy afternoon as he punted 10 times for a 39.9-yard average and booted a season-long kick of 52 yards
• Saturday, September 16 • Cornell at Delaware • Delaware Stadium, • 3:30 p.m. • High School Band Day
Hens top Hornets in Rocco’s debut: UD gets battle from DSU but pulls away 22-3
Sep 1st, 2017 · by Andy Walter · Delaware State News
NEWARK — With Delaware out gaining Delaware State most of the night, Danny Rocco said he was never too worried about losing his first game as the Blue Hens’ coach.
But the Delaware Stadium scoreboard didn’t always agree with him.
Delaware led the Hornets by just five at halftime on Thursday night as both teams struggled to find the end zone.
Finally, though, the Hens found a way to put enough distance between themselves and DelState to put away a 22-3 victory over the Hornets in their football season opener on Thursday night.
Delaware is now 8-0 in the series between the state’s only two Division I FCS programs while also giving Rocco a victory in his debut as the Hens’ head coach.
“I never really felt stressed or pressured,” said Rocco. “I never really felt in jeopardy in coming out of here with a win tonight. I think that calmness allowed our football team to maybe respond there in the second half and finish with some confidence.
Blue Hen coach Danny Rocco was victorious in his debut Thursday night. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)
“We certainly didn’t play as well as I thought we would play. … That’s something that we’re really going to have to address.
“We’ve got a lot of work out in front of us but I remain very optimistic,” Rocco said later.
Of course, DelState had something to do with Delaware’s lack of scoring.
The Hens finished with a 432-224 edge in total yards and a 27-11 advantage in first downs. But the game was far closer than last year’s 56-14 Delaware rout.
Anthony Jackson, #11 UD, and Thyrick Pitts, #1 UD, celebrate as the University of Delaware hosts Delaware State University in the opening game of the season at Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium in Newark.
The Hens’ 22-point total was their lowest in the eight-game series.
“We’re a different team,” said DSU coach Kenny Carter, whose squad went 0-11 last fall. “We’re a totally different team. It’s not even close. We’re bigger, we’re stronger and we have all the things that are necessary.
“The progress is there but we have to finish. I’m proud of our kids, I hate losing and they hate losing. We had an opportunity and we had to finish.”
The contest featured just two touchdowns, both of which were scored in the second half by Delaware receiver Diante Cherry. The senior was named the Nate Beasley MVP for the two TDs while also catching four passes for 83 yards.
On the first TD, quarterback Joe Walker (13-of-26, 192 yards) scrambled and rolled to his right before firing a 31-yard scoring pass to Cherry that stretched the Hens’ lead to 15-3 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
Then, with 6:02 left in the contest, Cherry scored on a 19-yard reverse. The receiver dove for the pylon at the end of the play.
Xavier Wilcher, #31 DSU, misses an ankle tackle on Joe Walker, #3 UD, as the University of Delaware hosts Delaware State University in the opening game of the season at Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium in Newark.
He was initially ruled out of bounds at the one but was awarded the TD after officials checked the replay.
Ironically, Cherry started the game by dropping what looked like a sure 54-yard scoring pass from Walker. Cherry was a few steps behind a defender and Walker hit him in stride on Delaware’s second possession of the night.
“I was just trying not to get down on myself,” said Cherry. “You’re going to make some mistakes in the game. I just tried to bounce back from that.”
“If Cherry catches the first post, it’s just a different game,” said Rocco. “I don’t know why it’s like that but it’s true. If he scores a touchdown and the bench erupts … and momentum just flies on our side.
UD fans celebrate as the University of Delaware hosts Delaware State University in the opening game of the season at Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium in Newark.
“Now he came and responded. He certainly had a very good game. It was just the timing of everything. Joe threw the ball well early, he did not throw the ball well late. Why? I don’t know.”
Junior running back Thomas Jefferson finished with a game-high 102 yards on 19 carries for Delaware.
The Hens’ victory was marred by a serious leg injury suffered by senior cornerback Justin Watson early in the fourth quarter. Watson started to get up after breaking up a long pass but then fell to the ground.
He was taken from the field on a stretcher with his leg in an air cast.
“It was sad,” said Rocco. “It’s always sad. It’s the most disappointing thing about the game when these guys get hurt. It’s not good. … He’s a great young man.”
Delaware led only 8-3 at halftime despite outgaining the Hornets 251 yards to 86 and holding DelState without a first down until late in the second quarter.
The Hens’ first points of the season when defensive lineman Cam Kitchen tackled DSU ballcarrier Mike Waters for a safety late in the first quarter. The play was set up by a nice punt from Maryland transfer Nick Pritchard that pinned the Hornets at their own two.
Connor Lutz, #67 UD, and Collin Wallish, #71 UD, provide some blocking as the University of Delaware hosts Delaware State University in the opening game of the season at Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium in Newark.
Other than that, though, Delaware had to settle for a pair of short field goals from Frank Raggo after failing to cash in on some good scoring chances.
DelState threatened to really make the Hens pay for squandering those opportunities when freshman QB Jack McDaniels (12-of-28, 165 yards) led the Hornets on a quick nine-play, 68-yard drive just before halftime. But on a third-and-goal from the one, Delaware safety Ray Jones broke through and ran ball carrier Brycene Alleyne out of bounds for a six-yard loss.
This time it was DelState that settled for a short field goal, a 24-yarder from Wisdom Nzidee — which was partially blocked — to close within 8-3.
With nationally-ranked Division I FCS foe Virginia Tech looming next Saturday, Rocco knows the Hens have to play much better.
“I just think we’ve got to learn from tonight,” said Rocco, holding the game ball he was awarded for his first UD win. “We’ve got to improve from this performance tonight. We’ve got to remain committed to our goals. I told them in the locker room, we’re coming to work tomorrow.’”
Quarterback J.P. Caruso got in the game for the Hens with about five minutes remaining. The Appalachian State transfer completed 2-of-3 passes for 14 yards. … Freshman linebacker Colby Reeder had his first game cut short when he was ejected for targeting early in the third quarter. Reeder hit DSU QB Daniels just as he started to slide, knocking his helmet off. Reeder will have to sit out the first half of next Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech. … Sussex Tech High grad Kani Kane saw his first action for Delaware, running for 11 yards on four carries late in the game. …. Delaware’s Jake Roth tried a pair of 49-yard field goals in the first half. Both kicks were long enough but went wide.
Cherry Scores Twice, Leads Delaware to Season Opening Victory Over Delaware State
By Delaware Athletics
Aug 31, 2017
NEWARK, Del. – The University of Delaware football team opened the Danny Rocco Era with a 22-3 victory over in-state foe Delaware State Thursday night at Delaware Stadium.
Senior wide receiver Diante Cherry led the Blue Hens (1-0), making four catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. The Lancaster, Pa., native also had a 19-yard acrobatic run off a reverse for another score. The 102 all-purpose yards earned Cherry the Nate Beasley MVP Award as the game's outstanding player.
The Blue Hens offense finished the opening night performance by racking up 432 yards of total offense, but it was the defense that truly shined.
That unit, which returned all but one starter from last year's team, held Delaware State (0-1) to just 224 yards of total offense, and to 3-13 success on third downs.
Delaware allowed just a 24-yard field goal late in the first half after stoping the Hornets on the one-yard line.
The Blue Hens defense forced three turnovers, recovering a pair of fumbles before sealing the win with an interception by redshirt freshman Nijuel Hill late in the fourth quarter.
Blue Hens redshirt junior quarterback Joe Walker (above) went 13 of 26 for a career-high 192 yards and the touchdown to Cherry while redshirt junior running back Thomas Jefferson ran for 102 yards on 19 carries.
Head Coach Danny Rocco
"I certainly recognize tonight the significance of team here at Delaware. I recognize the significance of the production of the game and all the involvement from so many people. I want everyone to know how much I appreciate all the support. We had a good crowd and there was great energy out there tonight."
"I think that calmness allowed our football team to finish with some confidence. We certainly didn't play as well as I expected us to play. We did the things we had to do to win the football game. We finished in a way that allowed us to be the better football team out there tonight. We did some good things but we were just way too inconsistent."
"I thought our defense held up their end of the bargain. I thought the two second half takeaways were probably the two most critical plays in the game. They really took away any hopes they had to actually win the game and gave us just enough momentum to go down and finish the drive and extend the lead. I've been doing this a long time and I know how hard it is to win a college football game so we are very happy to get the win."
"I was trying not get down on myself (after dropping a sure touchdown on a crossing pattern pass from Walker in the first half). You are going to make some mistakes in a game and I just needed to bounce back. I felt like we were executing things, but when it came down to crunch time, converting third downs, getting into the end zone, we just didn't do that very well. We just have to watch the films and see what we can do better as a team."
• Rocco won his first game as head coach at Delaware and improved to 91-42 all-time as a head coach. He served as head coach at Liberty University in 2006-11 and at the University of Richmond in 2012-16.
• Rocco became the fifth straight Delaware coach to win his debut, joining College Football Hall of Fame members Dave Nelson (1951 vs. Lehigh) and Tubby Raymond (1966 vs. Hofstra), and K.C. Keeler (2002 vs. Georgia Southern), and Dave Brock (2013 vs. Jacksonville, Fla.).
• Delaware has now defeated downstate opponent Delaware State in all eight meetings since the first game in 2007 with an average winning margin of 27 points per game.
• Delaware has now won 9 of its last 13 season openers, 25 of its last 28 home openers, and 25 of its last 27 games vs. non-league opponents at Delaware Stadium.
• Jefferson surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the sixth time in his career.
• Junior defensive end Cam Kitchen opened the Delaware scoring when he notched a safety after tackling Mike Waters in the end zone late in the first quarter. Kitchen later recovered a fumble that led to the touchdown pass from Walker to Cherry.
• Redshirt junior kicker Frank Raggo converted field goals of 21 and 25 yards, the second giving Delaware an 8-0 lead late in the second quarter. He has now converted 10 of his last 13 attempts.
• Members of the team presented Rocco with the game ball in the locker room in celebration of his first Delaware victory.
Add Nichols, Walker, Yocum to Captains Group
Aug 27, 2017 - bluehens.com
NEWARK, Del. -- The top student-athlete leadership unit for the 2017 University of Delaware football squad has just doubled.New Blue Hens head coachDanny Rocco announced this week that a trio of standout players - senior defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, senior tight end/fullback Kyle Yocum, and junior quarterback Joe Walker - have been named
The trio joins the three captains - senior center Brody Kern, senior linebacker Charles Bell, and junior linebacker Troy Reeder - who were announced at the Blue-White Spring Game in May.The six captains is the highest total ever in Delaware history, surpassing the previous high of five during the 2011 season and four each during the 1996, 2008, 2014, and 2016 campaigns."At the end of camp, we went back and revisited our captains," said Rocco. "This is something I have been doing for a while. We had a few in the summer, and as we head into the end of camp, its gives guys the opportunity to take over some leadership roles.
It is one of the greatest honors you can receive as a student-athlete and one of those things that stays with you for a long time. It gives more people the opportunity to work towards having a leadership role on the team and being recognized for that."Nichols, a 6-4, 290 lb. sociology major from Newark, Del. (Hodgson Vo-Tech HS), is a fourth-year standout who will start in the middle of the defensive front at nose tackles. A second-year starter and a two-time All-Colonial Athletic Association selection, Nichols has collected 48 tackles during his career, including 11 tackles for loss.Yocum, a 6-1, 240 lb. MBA candidate at Delaware and a native of Reading, Pa. (Exeter Township HS), has been a versatile standout during his five-year career, playing quarterback, fullback, tight end, and contributing on special teams.
He has played in 29 career games with eight starts.Walker, a 6-3, 205 lb. history major from Philadelphia, Pa. (Martin Luther King HS), is expected to start for the third straight season this fall under center. In 22 career games, he has thrown for 1,559 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 811 yards and five scores.Delaware will open the 2017 season this Thursday, Aug. 31, when the Hens host downstate foe Delaware State at 7 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.Great season, group, and mini-plan packages for 2017 Delaware Football are on sale now as are individual game tickets. Contact the Delaware Ticket Office by phone at 302-831-2257, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online by clicking on “Tickets” at www.bluehens.com. There are also a limited number of premium box seats still available for the 2017 football season.
Delaware State University
Hornets hoping for turnaround season; starting with in-state Rival University of Delaware Blue Hens
Aug 26th, 2017 · by Tim Mastro · Delaware State News
DOVER — The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference coaches are expecting more of the same from Delaware State this season.
But the Hornets hope to change that.
Coming off a winless 2016 season, the Hornets were picked to finish last in the MEAC again in 2017. Things are supposed to be different this year, though, according to Delaware State.
“It’s night and day from last year,” said coach Kenny Carter. “We’ve had two good years of recruiting and got some players in here who can play in our league and do things on a consistent basis. Everything we wanted to do as we’ve built this thing, now we’ve gotten to that point. Now we have to go play and execute every day.”
The Hornets begin their season with a trip to instate rival Delaware on Thursday at 7 p.m. The rest of the nonconference schedule is highlighted by trips to FBS powers West Virginia (Sept. 16) and Florida State (Nov. 18).
The MEAC portion of the schedule kicks off in Week Two at Hampton on a Friday night at 7 p.m. (Sept. 8). The home opener is Saturday, Sept 23 against Norfolk State at 2 p.m.
Hornet quarterback Keenan Black. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)
Carter is entering his third season at the helm and is looking to stabilize a reeling program which has not had a winning season since 2012. The Hornets have only won one game the past two years.
Like last year, the team will be made up of primarily underclassmen as Carter has tried to rebuild through recruiting. The Hornets have just eight seniors on the roster.
With so much inexperience, it’s been quite the process. But there’s optimism this could be the year it comes together.
“I’m pleased with where we are,” Carter said. “Are we there yet? No, there’s plenty of work to be done. But we’re on track, I feel like we’re sticking with the plan.”
Delaware State University football head coach Kenny Carter .
There’s still plenty of unknowns this year. The starting quarterback won’t be announced until the days prior to the season opener. The competition, which originally had four players battling for the starting spot, is now down to sophomore Keenan Black and true freshman Jack McDaniels.
The Hornets also only return just one starting wide receiver and have no one older than a sophomore starting on the offensive line.
One place where DSU will be strong though is at running back. Junior Brycen Alleyne and sophomore Mike Waters were both top-five rushers in the conference last season.
They also added freshman Nyfease West to an already deep backfield. West was one of the Hornets primary recruits for the 2016 season but suffered a knee injury in preseason camp that made him miss the entire year.
With so many weapons in the backfield and the youth at quarterback, expect the Hornets to be a run-oriented team to begin the year.
“It’s going to be a lot of ground and pound, stuff it up the gut,” said sophomore lineman Joshua Fala.
Carter thinks the defense will be improved from a year ago when he bemoaned too many missed tackles.
The defensive line got stronger with the addition of Towson transfer Caleb Hebron and when former offensive lineman Jacob Jones joined the unit. The Hornets also return their top two tacklers from last season at linebacker in Malik Harris and Brian Cavicante.
“The defense front continues to get so much better,” Carter said. “Then our linebackers are really starting add on to the things we’ve done in the past. Our physicality at the point of attack is markedly better than what it was last year.”
Delaware State football
QUARTERBACK: The Hornets’ starting quarterback will be named in the days before the opener on Thursday at Delaware. The competition is down to two, sophomore Keenan Black and true freshman Jack McDaniels. Black was recruited as a quarterback but did not throw a pass last season and mostly played wide receiver. McDaniels threw for 2,956 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior in high school a year ago.
RUNNING BACK: This is DelState’s deepest position. The Hornets return two of the MEAC top rushers in junior Brycen Alleyne and sophomore Mike Waters. Both were in the top-five in the MEAC in yards per game last year and Waters set a DelState freshman record for rushing yards. They also will get a boost with the addition of Nyfease West who sat out the 2016 season after suffering a knee injury during preseason workouts.
WIDE RECEIVER: There a lot of question marks at wide receiver this year. Sophomore Fatu Sua-Godinet will start the season as DelState’s top returning wideout. After him there’s a ton of inexperienced players with junior Taronn Selby and sophomore Jordan Hannah who each only caught one pass all last year. Newcomers Angelo Gonzalez, Michael Credle and Michael Ojeh are all expected to be able to contibute right away.
TIGHT END: The Hornets figure to be more active with using tight ends in the passing game this season. Isiah Williams is the lone returner at tight end, he caught one touchdown last season. He is joined by Tyreek Booker and Tim Smith as true freshman who should see time.
OFFENSIVE LINE: The Hornets have a lot of size up front. Expected to lead the way up front are sophomores Joshua Fala (6-7, 355) and Cade Pedro (6-5, 305). Pedro is moving to center while Fala will play tackle. Trey Wallace (6-3, 300) will be at guard joined freshman Matthew Derks (6-4, 325). Freshman Kaiden Crawford (6-4, 290) is a likely starter at the final tackle spot after missing the 2016 season due to injury.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A transfer from Towson, Caleb Hebron, will lead the defensive line flanked by sophomores Ulises De Los Santos and Damon Atwater-Stephens while junior Jacob Jones switched over from offensive line to join the defense. The Hornets could also rotate sophomore Adbul Ajelero, sophomore Eljon Williams, junior Robert Jernigan and junior Christian Johnson.
LINEBACKER: There’s little question marks about the linebacking spot. DSU is led by senior Malik Harris who recorded 82 tackles last season, tops on the squad. Sophomore Brian Cavicante had a breakout year as a true freshmen and was second on the Hornets with 70 tackles. Kameron Rogers and Garfield Heslop will also feature on the top unit to start the year.
SECONDARY: Brock Nichols and Xavier Wilcher will start at the two safety positions. Nichols lead the team in interceptions with two a year ago. Keyjuan Selby is one of the returning cornerbacks, last season he was among the MEAC leaders in passes defended. The other cornerback is likely Jahad Niebauer who was a roational player as a freshman last year.
KICKER: Wisdom Nzidee is in his third season as the Hornets’ placekicker. He went 4-for-7 on field goal attempts and 16-of-18 on extra point attempts in 2016.
PUNTER: Fidel Romo Martinez is back for another year as the punter, he was fifth in the MEAC in 2016 in average punting yards.
RETURNER: Alleyne is the top returning kickoff man while Sua-Godinet and the two Selby twins could return kicks.
Delaware State football
31-At Delaware 7 p.m.
Blue Hens have high hopes as Rocco era begins
Aug 26th, 2017 · by Andy Walter Delaware State News
NEWARK — Brody Kern didn’t mince any words.
When the senior center stood up to talk to his Delaware football teammates a few weeks ago, he basically told them they have nothing to show for their careers.
All the Blue Hens have done lately is post back-to-back 4-7 seasons and extend the program’s streak to six straight years without making the playoffs.
“Whenever you talk to fans, all they talk about is 2010, (2007) or 2003 — the last time Delaware was in the national championship,” Kern told his teammates. “And I said, ‘We are nothing. We’re nothing.’
“If we go 4-7 again this year, all these seniors that are graduating are never going to be talked about again. We don’t matter. We’re irrelevant. I said, it’s time that Delaware football is relevant again — and we make ourselves relevant.”
Of course, players on the last six Blue Hen squads have said similar things without getting the results they wanted.
Danny Rocco’s claim to fame is that he’s never had a losing season as a college head coach, going a combined 90-42 in 11 seasons at Liberty and Richmond. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)
But Delaware, which opens the season by hosting Delaware State on Thursday night, has one big reason to believe things really will be different this fall — Danny Rocco.
Athletic director Chrissi Rawak hired the highly-regarded Rocco away from CAA rival Richmond in December. Rocco’s claim to fame is that he’s never had a losing season as a college head coach, going a combined 90-42 in 11 seasons at Liberty and Richmond.
Junior quarterback Joe Walker is back for his third year as a starter.
He took the Spiders to three straight NCAA Division I FCS playoff appearances, reaching the national semifinals two years ago.
And for Delaware fans looking for reasons to be optimistic, Rocco says he likes what he sees in his new squad. Rocco went 6-5 in his first season at Liberty in 2006 and 8-3 in his debut campaign at Richmond in 2012.
“I told them (the players) this really is one of the more talented teams I’ve had,” Rocco said after scrimmaging on Tuesday night. “They just have to understand what it takes to win. And the margin of error in this league is so small.
“It’s a much deeper roster,” said Rocco, comparing this team to his first teams at Liberty and Richmond. “I mean I’ve got a good-looking football team. … It just comes down to doing the little things that make the difference between winning and losing.”
The one thing about former coach Dave Brock, who was fired in the middle of last season with a four-year record of 19-22, he always had an eye on the future. He never wanted to have a roster that would get wiped out with the graduation of one big senior class.
“It’s time that Delaware football is relevant again — and we make ourselves relevant,” senior center Brody Kern said.
So Rocco inherits a squad with 51 returning letterwinners, including 19 players who have started six or more games.
“In previous years, where we had young players playing for the first time, those guys are going to be two or three-year starters now,” said Kern. “I think we’re a lot older team, a lot more experienced team than we have been. And I think, with the adjustments that this coaching staff has made. … the way we practice is just completely different.
“There’s a lot less bad practices. I mean, we’ve practiced for almost a month now and I think you can count the bad practices we’ve had on about a hand.”
There’s a belief that, if the Hens are going to get anywhere, they have to improve their passing game, which has been among the least productive in FCS for two years in a row. Junior quarterback Joe Walker is back for his third year as a starter but Delaware believes its receiving corps should be improved.
The Hens also believe their defense should keep them in most of their games. That group, which switches to a 3-4 alignment, is led by senior nose tackle Bilal Nichols, junior linebacker Troy Reeder and junior safety Nasir Adderley.
“This defense is amazing,” said senior lineman Blaine Woodson. “We’ve got players on every level of the defense. I feel like we can be one of the best defenses in the country.”
If nothing else, this group seems to believe in itself and its new coaching staff. Now they’ll have to see if that confidence can translate into a better record.
“It’s a different atmosphere in that locker room and you can feel it,” said Kern. “Just the talking about winning. That’s not something we did before. There was always doubt. And there’s no doubts (now). We have full confidence in the coaches that we have to make great decisions, make adjustments, make changes if need be. I think it’s just a different mindset.”
The 2017 Blue Hens
A position-by-position look at the Delaware football team for this season:
QUARTERBACK: Certainly some people expected that Delaware’s change of coaching staff would also mean a change of quarterback. But Joe Walker (Jr., 6-3, 205) will begin the season as UD’s starter for the third-straight year.
Clearly, though, the Hens will need better production out of Walker than the four TD passes and 12 interceptions he’s thrown in his first team seasons.
Appalachian State transfer J.P. Caruso (Jr., 5-11, 200) has shown that he throws a nice ball but doesn’t have Walker’s size or experience. Caruso, though, will get the chance to prove himself in Delaware’s season-opening stretch of three nonconference contests.
Pat Kehoe (So., 6-3, 230) will be the third-stringer at quarterback.
RUNNING BACK: What looked like one of the Hens’ deepest positions suddenly turned into a question mark in camp when Wes Hills was declared ineligible while Thomas Jefferson (Jr., 6-1, 210) and Kareem Williams (Jr., 5-10, 210) were both dealing with injury issues.
That being said, if they stay healthy, both Jefferson (1,590 yards, 13 TDs) and Williams (934 yards) have proven to be quality backs. The Hens are also intriguied by the potential of newcomer Khory Spruill (Fr., 6-0, 215) while Sussex Tech grad Kani Kane (Jr., 6-0, 240) will also get his chance to carry the ball in his first season after transferring from Lackawana.
Delaware’s new offense will also feature a fullback with veteran utility player Kyle Yocum (Sr., 6-1, 240) getting the starting job.
ndian River product Jamie Jarmon eems poised to have a better year after getting contact lenses to improve his vision.
RECEIVER: The Hens’ wideouts also bear some of the blame for the offense’s lack of passing production over the last couple years. But Delaware also expects to be improved at the position this fall.
With 92 catches for 908 yards, Diante Cherry (Sr., 5-10, 190) has been the Hens’ top receiver through most of his career. Former Indian River High standout Jamie Jarmon (Jr., 6-1, 200) seems poised to have a much-better year after getting contact lenses to improve his vision.
Vinny Papale (Jr., 6-1, 210) is slated to start after recovering from a knee injury with youngsters Ty McElhenie (Fr., 6-2, 190) and Thyrick Pitts (Fr., 6-2, 200) getting the chance to contribute. Counting walk-ons, Delaware has 20 receivers listed on the roster.
At tight end, Charles Scarff (Sr., 6-5, 270) has shown the ability to be a big, dangerous target at times while Brandon Whaley (Sr., 6-5, 250) has been solid throughout his career. M.J. Kehoe (So., 6-7, 255) has also been a frequent target in preseason scrimmages after switching from tackle.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Delaware knows what it has in center Brody Kern (Sr., 6-2, 285), who has started all 33 games of his career. Left tackle Jake Trump (Sr., 6-6, 290) is also a proven lineman having played in 34 games with 23 starts.
Right tackle Jethro Pepe (Jr., 6-7, 280) and left guard Connor Lutz (So., 6-5, 300) both got playing time a year ago. At right guard, Mario Farinella (Jr., 6-0, 300) and Penn State transfer Noah Beh (Jr., 6-6, 300) are no strangers to game action.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The Hens are expecting big things out of Bilal Nichols (Sr., 6-4, 290), who slides over to nose tackle as Delaware switches to a 3-4 defense.
Former CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year Blaine Woodson (Sr., 6-2, 280) will man the tackle spot with either Cam Kitchen (Jr., 6-1, 260) or Sal Mauro (Fr., 6-2, 265) starting at the one remaining defensive end slot. Considering that backups Grant Roberts (Sr., 5-11, 285) and John Nassib (Sr., 6-6, 265) have played in 68 games between them, Delaware likes its depth up front.
With 217 career tackles, linebacker Charles Bell is an all-CAA veteran.
LINEBACKER: Delaware uses four linebackers in its new alignment but looks to have enough talent to go around at the position.
With 217 career tackles, Charles Bell (Sr., 6-0, 230) is an all-CAA veteran, Troy Reeder (Jr., 6-2, 245) is an impact player in his second year after transferring from Penn State and Anthony Jackson (Sr., 6-1, 225) has 22 starts and 122 tackles in his career.
At the other outside spot, the Hens expect former Salesianum star Colby Reeder (Fr., 6-3, 235) to make an immediate impact with veteran Armen Ware (Jr., 6-0, 225) also in the picture. Delaware’s biggest concern at linebacker might be depth after Jasawn Thompson and Larry Spears were declared ineligible before camp.
SECONDARY: The Hens expect Nasir Adderley (Jr., 6-0, 190) to have a bigger impact after switching from cornerback to the rover safety spot.
Everywhere else in the defensive backfield Delaware has experienced players, including Ray Jones (Jr., 6-0, 210) at strong safety and Malcolm Brown (Jr., 6-0, 200) and Justin Watson (Sr., 5-9, 180) at cornerback. Even reserves K.C. Hinton (Jr., 5-11, 200) and Tenny Adewusi (Jr., 6-1, 200) have seen their share of playing time. That group has eight interceptions between them.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Frank Raggo (Jr., 5-9, 190) returns for his third season as the Hens’ placekicker. For his career, he’s 46-of-47 on PATs and 18-of-27 on field goals.
Nick Pritchard (So., 5-10, 210), the starter at Maryland two years ago, steps into the starting punter job. He averaged 38.2 yards a kick for the Terps. Jake Roth (So., 6-0, 200) will handle kickoffs again this fall.
31-DELAWARE STATE 7 p.m.
9-At Virginia Tech 3:30 p.m.
16-CORNELL 3:30 p.m.
30-JAMES MADISON* 3:30 p.m.
7-At Stony Brook* 6 p.m.
14-WILLIAM & MARY*# 3:30 p.m.
21-RICHMOND* (HC) 3:30 p.m.
28-At Towson* 4 p.m.
4-At Maine*@ 2 p.m.
11-ALBANY* 3:30 p.m.
18-At Villanova* 1 p.m.
* CAA game.
# Parents & Family Weekend
@ Game played at Portland, Maine
2-6 CAA, 4-7 overall
W-Delaware State 56-14
L-Wake Forest 21-38
L-James Madison 20-43
L-William & Mary 17-24
L-Stony Brook 3-28
Former Hen Wes Hills joins Newark High School Football coaching staff, along with former Hen Brian Ginn
Newark Post By Jon Buzby Aug 26, 2017
Former UD running back Wes Hills has joined the Yellowjackets’ staff as a volunteer coach. Hills, who played at UD for Newark offensive coordinator Brian
Ginn, was supposed to spend this fall playing his senior season for the Blue Hens but was ruled academically ineligible.
He has already made an impact on the Yellowjackets’ running game, Zehnder said.
“Wes has really created a relationship with the players and has worked very hard to improve our running backs’ footwork and skills,” Zehnder explained. “I am really looking forward to what he will bring to our staff and especially the football and life lessons he can help relay to our players. Our program gets better any time we can add a guy who has gotten to the collegiate level and can help show our young men what it takes to get to that level."
The addition of Hills brings the total number of Newark coaches with college playing experience to eight.
“In my opinion, that serves as a great resource for parents and players,” Zehnder said.
Walk-on realizes childhood dream of playing football for Blue Hens
Kevin Tresolini, The News Journal Published Aug. 24, 2017
Defensive back Pat Crowley grew up wanting to be a Blue Hen. The walk-on has found a place on the roster and is living his Delaware dream. William
Delaware head coach Danny Rocco assessed his top quarterbacks after the end of spring practices. Rocco affirmed that returning starter Joe Walker remains on the first team, but said inexperienced Pat Kehoe has a lot of potential. William
The University of Delaware football team was in a Williamsburg, Virginia, hotel last Oct. 14, the Friday night before its game against William & Mary.
Then-coach Dave Brock had informed players the day before he would call several up to speak in front of the team. He wouldn’t say who. He just wanted all to have a meaningful, motivational message ready.
During that gathering, three regulars widely respected by teammates were summoned – starting cornerback Justin Watson, running back Thomas Jefferson, who’d been 2015 CAA co-Offensive Rookie of the Year, and tight end/h-back Kyle Yocum.
“I was inspired. They all had great messages,” said Patrick Crowley, then a red-shirt sophomore who’d made the team as a walk-on out of Concord High.
When it came time for the fourth and final speaker, Brock said it was someone players may not expect. Then he called Crowley.
“I asked Frank Raggo, ‘Did he say my name?,’ ” said Crowley, who was sitting alongside the Delaware kicker. “He said ‘Yeah, go up!’ I was like ‘Oh wow.’ I was nervous.’ ”
To the front of the room stepped Delaware’s smallest player, a 5-foot-6, 180-pound special teamer and third-level cornerback who had appeared in just one career game up to then.
He promptly explained to his teammates how much it meant to him to play football for Delaware. It was a lifelong dream, come true.
Delaware defensive back Pat Crowley drops into coverage during scrimmaging in the Blue Hens' summer workouts. (Photo: William Bretzger, The News Journal)
“His message was awesome,” teammate Troy Reeder would say later.
HIGH SCHOOLS:No easing up on end-zone celebrations
BLUE HENS:Could Spruill be CAA's next freshman back to excel?
Crowley is the grandson of Archie Rapposelli, an honored Delaware high school football coach who’d played for the Blue Hens. Crowley had been attending games and practices since his childhood, often wearing a full uniform, while making friends with players, such as quarterback Joe Flacco.
At one of those games, against James Madison when Crowley was 11 in 2006, he had walked down from his seat in the West stands at Delaware Stadium, plopped himself in a box-seat chair just above the field and introduced himself to the person next to him.
“Remember my name. I’m going to be on this team one day,” Crowley informed that individual, who happened to be then-UD president David Roselle. Crowley’s aunt, Maryann Rapposelli, a UD employee, watched in stunned amazement.
Delaware cornerback Pat Crowley runs through drills during practice. (Photo: Suchat Pederson, The News Journal)
Jerry Oravitz, Delaware’s former football operations director and now an associate athletic director in development, remembers Crowley standing outside Delaware Stadium following games wearing a full uniform, even sporting eye black, as he greeted his heroes.
“Someday, somehow, Pat Crowley was going to be a Blue Hen,” Oravitz, who got to know the ubiquitous child, remembered thinking.
Among Crowley’s prized possessions are two photos of him and Flacco from 2006 and a framed hand-written letter Flacco sent him during his rookie season with the Baltimore Ravens, where he is now entering his 10th season as the starting quarterback.
Pat Crowley, then age 10, and Joe Flacco after a Delaware spring practice in 2006. (Photo: Submitted photo)
As he spoke to his teammates last October, Crowley was addressing mostly players from out of state who’d been recruited by numerous schools and were on scholarship. He mentioned the young boys who await the players, asking for a chinstrap or wristband or just a high-five, as they head toward the locker room after games.
“I told them I was that kid,” Crowley said. “You have to think about the people that you’re playing for. You might just think, ‘Oh, it’s Delaware football, it’s no big deal,’ but to some people, it’s a huge deal.”
Crowley's love for the Blue Hens was honed as a childhood spectator, rooting for his idols, and has grown stronger now that he’s a player himself.
“The way I feel about it is, I’m more tied to this team than anybody who signed the contract [for a scholarship] freshman year,” he said, reflecting on his comments to teammates. “I have to be here. There are ties between me and this Delaware football program that I have to be a part of it. It means more to me than a scholarship. I could play on this team forever. My worst nightmare is waking up and realizing I’m not going to be a Blue Hen one day, I’m not going to be on this team anymore because I absolutely love being on this team.
“Up to this point in my life, it’s my proudest accomplishment.”
Crowley’s father, Jim, said Patrick’s bedroom in their suburban Wilmington home is “a shrine to Delaware football and Joe Flacco.” That framed letter hangs above his bed, though Sonny Riccio, Flacco’s predecessor at quarterback in 2004-05, was his first favorite.
“If there’s ever a Rudy II, this is it,” Jim Crowley said, referring to Daniel “Rudy” Ruettinger, the Notre Dame walk-on who played in his last game in 1975 and is the subject of the popular 1993 film “Rudy.”
Devotion rooted in family
The Blue Hens begin the 2017 season Thursday night against Delaware State at Delaware Stadium in Newark.
The opener is being greeted with a new sense of excitement. Brock was fired the day after Delaware lost that game at William & Mary. In December, Delaware lured coach Danny Rocco away from CAA rival Richmond. He has a 90-42 record in 11 seasons as a head coach – the first six at Liberty – and has never had a losing year.
Delaware is coming off its first back-to-back losing seasons – both 4-7 – since the late 1930s and hasn’t reached the NCAA playoffs in six years, double its second-longest absence (1983-85).
The Blue Hen Nation aches for a winner and Crowley, now in his red-shirt junior season, feels the pain.
But season-ticket sales have nearly doubled from last year, due in part to an unpopular UD Athletic Fund required donation being removed, and enthusiasm is strong.
“I think he’s more hurt than anybody by the past couple years because he’s been around it for so long,” Brody Kern, Delaware’s fifth-year senior center and co-captain, said of Crowley. “He’s been coming to games since he was a little kid and all he ever wanted to do was play Delaware football.
“He’s an amazing person, a great guy to talk to. He can talk to anybody, too. Because the history of Delaware is the way it is, having Pat is a reassurance of what we could be and what we should be.”
Crowley’s love for Delaware football was instilled by his grandfather, Rapposelli, who donned his leather helmet to play guard on coach Bill Murray’s 1948-50 Blue Hen teams after a year on the freshman squad.
Ironically, rosters listed him as 5-foot-6, 181 pounds, one pound from the identical size as the grandson who would play for the Blue Hens almost 70 years later. Rapposelli played on the line, a position now is manned by behemoths typically weighing around 300 pounds and standing more than six feet tall.
Crowley's grandfather Archie Rapposelli, who played at Delaware from 1947-50, was state high school football coach of the year in 1968 at Claymont, which he coached for nine years. (Photo: Submitted photo)
Rapposelli died June 3, 2005, at age 76. Patrick was 10 and has fond memories.
“I had a lot of Delaware football conversations with him, before I even started going to games,” Crowley said. “I always heard about Delaware football. They played in Wilmington [at 30th Street and Gov. Printz Boulevard]. He always told me about that stadium.”
Rapposelli was state high school football coach of the year in 1968 when he guided Claymont to a 9-0 record and the Blue Hen Conference Flight B title. There were no state tournaments then. A Claymont grad, Rapposelli had become the Indians coach in 1966 after nine years as an assistant at Salesianum. He coached Claymont through 1972.
“My dad loved all of his grandchildren and he would always tell them to be the best you can be and give them words of encouragement,” said Patrick’s mother Margaret. “I think he’d be busting at the seams really to see Patrick out there on the field being 5-foot-not-much, sticking with it, working hard, because he made it all on his own.”
Margaret Crowley spent some time on the field at Delaware Stadium herself. In 1984, as a UD sophomore, she wore the Blue Hen mascot suit – pre-YoUDee – during football games. Patrick’s two older sisters Michelle and Brenda also attended UD. His identical twin brother, Michael, is a senior who has played the lead role in several UD theatre productions.
At Concord, Pat Crowley was a two-year starter at cornerback, saw spot duty at quarterback and also kicked, sometimes scoring when he ran on direct snaps. He was captain his senior season in 2013, which was long-time Raiders coach George Kosanovich’s last before retiring.
“Pat worked so hard all the time and earned his way to get to where he was,” Kosanovich said of Crowley, whom he called the type of dedicated player who “really makes a program go.”
Kosanovich was coaching at Wilmington High when Crowley’s grandfather was at Claymont, knew him well and coached with him in several Blue-Gold all-star games, a fact Crowley appreciated.
“I loved Archie,” Kosanovich said. “You didn’t have to think twice about what Archie was thinking or what he was going to say. Everything he did was right on his collar and you knew what was coming.”
While in high school, Crowley took part in the Damion Daniels Elite Training program, where he got to know players who actually were elite, such as Newark’s Taylor Reynolds, who starred as a James Madison cornerback and had an Atlanta Falcons free-agent opportunity; St. Elizabeth’s Andre Patton, the Rutgers wide receiver now in the Los Angeles Chargers’ camp; and Middletown’s Chris Godwin, the wide receiver drafted in the third round by the Tampa Buccaneers in April out of Penn State.
“There’s a lot of guys who got me better training with them,” Crowley said. “It was all to get to Delaware. That was my end goal. My size wouldn’t get me here, my speed, nothing like that. So I thought my work ethic would have to set me apart to be seen by the coaches.”
When former Delaware assistant coach Brian Ginn came to recruit Concord teammate Grant Roberts, Crowley took the opportunity to make some contacts himself. It led to a 2013 recruiting visit during Delaware’s win over James Madison and a 2014 summer tryout that earned him a walk-on spot.
Crowley’s uncle Joe Rapposelli played for the Blue Hens in the early 1990s. Last year, after Crowley saw his first game action against Delaware State, Joe had a present for him.
It was Archie Rapposelli’s 1950 Delaware letter sweater, made of thick blue wool with a yellow ‘D’ sewn on. Archie Rapposelli had proudly stitched a purple and gold Claymont ‘C” on the other side.
“That’s when I realized how proud my grandfather would be that I was playing for Delaware,” Crowley said.
Lifelong dream fulfilled
The Blue Hens were well on their way to a 56-14 opening-night win over Delaware State last season at Delaware Stadium when Crowley was sent onto the field for the first time in a game to play cornerback.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” father Jim said.
That was an epidemic inside Delaware Stadium, where a woman sitting near Mike Buono asked the Brandywine Warriors youth coach why his eyes had turned misty. He told her it was from seeing one of his all-time favorite players step on the field to play for the Blue Hens.
“I get chills talking about that,” Crowley said of his first game action as a Blue Hen. “I saw my family in the stands. That was the first thing I did. I was looking up at the pressbox and I was like ‘Wow. This is like the most special moment of my life.’
“Then I started locking in. The coaches were yelling at me. I think the call was something like ‘Buzz!” and I was like ‘I have to play football’ and when the play is over I can think about it again. That was amazing.”
Delaware defensive back Pat Crowley stretches during practice. (Photo: Suchat Pederson, The News Journal)
Crowley made Delaware’s travel roster, which consists of roughly 70 players, and midway through the season he became a starter in the punt block unit, which Delaware calls “pride and joy.”
It certainly fit that description for Crowley, who appeared in five games last season.
“That’s when I really felt like I belonged and was contributing to the team,” said Crowley, who has also been a holder for kicks this year. “That was really eye opening.”
Those contributions continue and they are not taken lightly, said Rocco.
“There are a lot of ways to add value to your program and it’s not always the guys who are the star players who are adding value,” said Rocco, who spent his childhood glued to the high school teams his father, Frank, was coaching throughout Pennsylvania.
“Pat certainly adds a lot of value in a lot of different ways. He comes in every day to practice with a great attitude. He comes to work. His enthusiasm rubs off on the teammates. It’ll bring me great joy to be able to get him out there in a game and give him an opportunity to do some things to help us get some wins.”
Chris Cosh, Delaware’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach, credits Crowley, a sport management major who aspires to coach college football, for a willingness to help other players be better.
“He’s making calls from the sidelines, predicting routes,” Cosh said. “He’ll come tell me, ‘Coach, so-and-so did this.’ He’s into it and when he gets out there he has the same expectations as everyone else. He takes a lot of pride in his work. He brightens up my day by being out there.”
Turns out Crowley has a history of helping Delaware defensive backs, going back to when he was 12.
In 2007, the week before it played Navy, Delaware had an open date. Some UD players happened to be at 69th Street Field in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, that Saturday watching youth games. Crowley, playing there for the Brandywine Warriors, spotted cornerback Anthony Walters.
“He said, ‘Be ready next week when you play Navy because of that receiver, number such and such, you’re gonna be covering. Watch him,’ ” Jim Crowley recalled. “Anthony was like, ‘We haven’t even looked at any film yet.’ ”
The following week, Jim brought Patrick to a UD practice.
“Anthony walked over,” Jim Crowley said, “and said, ‘You’re not gonna believe this. We’ve been watching game film. He was spot on. He knew exactly what they were running and that’s the guy I’m covering. He knew that. I don’t know how in the world . . . ’ ”
Despite young Crowley’s scouting report, the UD defense had a tough time in Annapolis with Navy’s triple-option attack. But Flacco threw for a career-high 434 yards and four touchdowns and Omar Cuff rushed for 141 yards and four TDs of his own in a 59-52 win.
A year later, as a Ravens rookie, Flacco answered a letter from Crowley, then 13, with an advice-filled, full-page response in which he urged the then-quarterback hopeful to “always be working to be the best self you can be!!”
He closed the letter by writing, “It would be great to see you at QB for the Hens someday, but don’t be afraid to picture yourself playing QB at USC or Notre Dame either.”
Sitting there listening to Crowley that night in Williamsburg, and understanding his lecture as well as anyone, was Troy Reeder.
Reeder was a standout at Salesianum and then started for Penn State as a red-shirt freshman linebacker on 2015. He transferred back to Delaware, where father Danny starred, so he could play with younger brother Colby.
At Penn State, Reeder had been around kids who’d been lifelong Nittany Lions fans and “are dying to just be on the team, no matter what their role is,” he said. “It might their fifth year, their last game of the season, they get to run down on a kickoff.”
Delaware football, Reeder knows, has similar allure.
“Pat’s a real good example of what can happen when you do have a positive attitude for everything,” Reeder said. “All of a sudden you go from a guy who walks onto the team and people from the outside think you don’t have much of a shot and he’s on punt return holding guys up or holding kicks or whatever.
“That’s a tribute to him and I think he inspires a lot of guys on our team.”
Freshman RB Spruill shines during Hens’ final scrimmage. Joe Walker to Start again QB this season.
Aug 22nd, 2017 · by Andy Walter - Delaware State News
NEWARK — Khory Spruill’s college career had barely begun.
But the Delaware freshman running back already felt like he was falling behind.
The newcomer had to sit out the start of the Blue Hens’ preseason football practice while he took part in an academic program through Aug. 11.
“I was getting anxious,” Spruill admitted. “All the other guys were getting work every day. I just wanted to get my respect.
“I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, he’s a freshman. How is he just not practicing but he’s getting reps?’ But, most importantly, I just felt as though I was falling behind.”
After getting on the field last week, however, the 6-foot, 215-pound newcomer is trying to make up for lost time.
And, with the Hens depleted at running back right now, coach Danny Rocco would like to see Spruill get up to speed as quickly as possible.
Spruill got his share of carries on Tuesday night as Delaware held essentially a dress rehearsal scrimmage for its season opener on Aug. 31 against Delaware State.
“I like what Spruill is doing,” Rocco said on Saturday. “He’s a ball carrier. He’s big, he’s working himself back into shape. We’re going to play him. We’ll see how this thing shakes out.”
The Hens were left shorthanded when starter Wes Hills was declared inelegible just when camp started. Junior Kareem Williams, who did suit up on Tuesday, has been kept out of practice with a broken finger.
Lackawanna transfer Kani Kane (Sussex Tech) is also pushing for playing time.
Then there’s Spruill, who played for Washington, D.C. power DeMatha Catholic. He ran for 967 yards with 11 touchdowns as a senior.
“They told me, just be ready for August 31,” said Spruill. “That’s what I’ve been doing so far — just getting ready to play. The biggest part I was behind on was conditioning. But I knew all the plays. I was there with everybody in the film sessions.
“I’m excited. I’ve always been the underdog and had to earn everything I got.”
Spruill said he feels a responsibility not only to Delaware’s football team but to his family as well.
“I’m really the first person in my family to be able to do this — to play Division I football and go to college for free,” he said. “A lot of family members are depending on me and a lot of younger guys (back home) are looking up to me. I just want to pave the way.”
Walker to start
As expected, Rocco said Tuesday that Joe Walker will be the starting quarterback against DSU.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior has started 20 of the 21 games he’s played in for Delaware.
“I think his leadership was really strong this summer,” said Rocco. “And I think he has learned the offense well. He understands it, he communicates it well and his efficiency was better here this summer.
“Just like any position, there’s going to always be competition. We’re hopeful to be able to give some players an opportunity on Thursday night to compete and show us when they can do. Obviously, J.P. (Caruso) would be one of those guys.”
On Tuesday night, Walker hit receiver Diante Cherry with a 15-yard scoring pass for the only touchdown of the scrimmage.
Caruso, the transfer from Appalachian State, played mostly with the second-team offense.
Henderson making his mark
Freshman Nolan Henderson almost certainly won’t play this season.
But that doesn’t mean that the freshman QB from Smyrna High hasn’t made an impression on his coaches.
“He’s going to be good,” said Rocco. “Sometimes what you need is time. If you look at our roster, he could be 18 months into this thing before he really has to be ready to step in there.”
As proof of the coaches’ confidence in him, Henderson is expected to run the Hens’ scout team this fall.
Besides Spruill, the other true freshmen that Rocco expects to play right away are receivers Ty McElhenie and Thyrick Pitts along with defensive tackle Dominick Covatto.
Ticket sales up
Delaware announced that it has sold 900 season tickets so far — double the total from last season.
Previous season ticket holders have also renewed their season tickets at a rate of 88 percent.
Both numbers are the highest for the Hens since 2010.
Delaware’s players were excited by the news.
Senior center Brody Kern said Rocco has shown the players video of games when the Delaware Stadium stands were full.
“Everybody was like, ‘Wow,’” said Kern. “And I was like, ‘We can have that. But we’ve got to win.’”
"Kat" outside linebacker position good fit for Hens’ Colby Reeder
Aug 21st, 2017 · by Andy Walter Delaware State News
NEWARK — Colby Reeder doesn’t mind admitting it.
He was getting his butt kicked for a while.
After getting thrown into the ‘kat’ outside linebacker spot just before Delaware opened preseason football practice a few weeks ago, the redshirt freshman suddenly found himself regularly playing in the trenches.
“I have never been in a three-point stance in my life,” Reeder said after the Blue Hens scrimmaged on Saturday morning. “And like half the time now, I’m down with the big boys.
“It took me a while just to adjust to the physicality. I was sore for a while. I’m still recovering from all those huge guys knocking me around. But I’m getting used to it.”
Indeed, by the time it’s all said and done, Delaware’s coaches think Reeder could end up being a really, really good player at his new position.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder may even start there when the Hens open the season by hosting Delaware State on Aug. 31.
As a two-way standout at Salesianum, Reeder was skilled enough to line up at safety and running back. But now he’s as big as some defensive ends.
First-year coach Danny Rocco said Reeder’s mix of size and speed make him a perfect fit for the kat spot in Delaware’s 3-4 defense.
Rocco is already saying that Reeder “has an extraordinarily bright future.”
As a two-way standout at Salesianum, Colby Reeder — shown above as a Blue running back during the 2016 Blue-Gold Game — was skilled enough to line up at safety and running back. But now the 6-3, 235-pounder is as big as some defensive ends. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)
“To be a great player, you have to have tools,” said Rocco. “And he has a lot of tools. He’s got length, he’s got explosion, power, speed. Now what’s making him unique to me is he’s instinctive. He’s got a nose for the ball.”
The highly-recruited Reeder had been playing on the other side, at the ‘bandit’ linebacker spot since the spring. But the Hens moved him at the last minute out of necessity.
That made for a great deal of on-the-job training for Reeder.
“I’m getting used to it,” said the 2015 state Defensive Player of the Year. “It’s a lot of stuff. I’m covering half the time, I’m playing up with the big guys half the time. It’s a lot of variety — a lot to know. But it’s a fun position.
“Almost every different play is different for me. I can do completely different things every play. Sometimes I’m out on receivers, sometimes I’m on a tackle.”
One of the Hens’ veteran defensive players who’s helping get Reeder ready to play, of course, is his older brother, Troy. A junior, Troy is slated to start at middle linebacker.
One of the main reasons that Troy transferred from Penn State before last season was to play with Colby. Their dad, Dan, was a standout fullback for the Hens in the 1980s.
Colby says having Troy around last year was a big help when he was sitting out the season. Troy had redshirted, too, in his true freshman season with the Nittany Lions.
First-year coach Danny Rocco said that Colby Reeder — shown above as a Blue running back during the 2016 Blue-Gold Game — has a mix of size and speed that make him a perfect fit for the kat spot in Delaware’s 3-4 defense. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)
“He said his freshman year, he made some of the biggest strides of his life,” said Colby. “You’re not playing so you’re just (weight) lifting all fall, and focusing and getting used to the pace of things. He just told me to keep grinding all year.
“It’s like a year of just getting ready.”
“He’s come a long way,” said Troy. “Now he’s able to come in and compete like a veteran. He’s done really well for us so far.
“The last time he played a game, he was playing safety at Baynard Stadium. Now, sometimes, he’s in a three-point stance wrestling with offensive tackles. It’s been a big change but he’s also done a really good job of preparing his body for that role.”
A year ago, Colby was named the Blue Hen Touchdown Club practice Player of the Week five times. Now, though, he’s ready to start playing again for real.
For a guy who didn’t leave the field much in his last couple high school seasons, only being able to watch on game days last fall wasn’t easy.
The Hens are hoping Reeder will hit the ground running.
“I’m really excited,” said Reeder. “I’ve been really antsy.
“It’s tough just watching. I’ve never watched in my whole life until last year on the sidelines. So it’s nice to be out there.”
UD’s Jarmon has good outlook on season
Aug 19th, 2017 · by Andy Walter · Comments: 0
NEWARK — Jamie Jarmon didn’t have any trouble finding the football this time.
The Delaware wide receiver rose up smoothly over a defender to snare the 20-yard pass from J.P. Caruso for a touchdown on Saturday morning.
“Oh yeah man, that was a great feed,” Jarmon said after the scrimmage. “That was a great feed.”
It’s hard to say whether or not the former Indian River High standout would have made that catch a year ago.
But, after getting contact lenses just before the start of the Blue Hens’ preseason camp, there’s no question that Jarmon saw the ball better.
The correction in his eyesight suddenly opens up a whole new world for Jarmon. It also probably explains why the third-year wideout had a couple notable dropped passes earlier in his career.
Both times, Jarmon had been open behind the defense but couldn’t pull in the throws. Apparently his vision bothered him the most when he was trying to judge long passes.
Now all that has changed.
“It’s kind of like the difference in watching regular cable and HD,” Jarmon explained. “It’s a big difference.
“I realized I was losing the ball. But I’d always feel like it was because of a focus thing or something. … It’s like night and day (now).”
While only senior Diante Cherry has put up solid receiving numbers for Delaware over the past two seasons, Jarmon has just 26 catches for 280 yards in his first 21 games.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder — who never played the position before his freshman year — still hasn’t caught a touchdown pass, either.
First-year Blue Hen coach Danny Rocco, though, thinks Jarmon might be ready to have a breakout season.
“He’s just a lot more confident out here,” said Rocco. “There’s probably a lot of factors that go into it. I think just the more that he is back into the rhythm and routine of being a football player. … I do think his contacts have helped him with his confidence more than anything. He’s making plays out here on a daily basis.
“I think he’s in the position right now where he has a chance to be one of the better receivers in this league this year.”
Jarmon, of course, played pro baseball in the Texas Rangers’ minor-league system before enrolling at Delaware two years ago. He’s 23 years old now.
Apparently, though, he’s ready to see things in a whole new way.
“I don’t have to second-guess myself at all,” said Jarmon. “If the ball’s coming, I know I can snatch it.
“It’s been tough but you’ve got to also look, I’ve played receiver for two years out of my life. I’m still learning a lot and getting a lot better. These eyes are definitely a great addition.”
Jarmon has scored one TD at Delaware on a running play. But, with his new outlook, he says it’s just a matter of time before he pulls in his first touchdown pass.
“It’s going to happen,” said Jarmon. “I’m not pressing it to happen, but I know it will.”
Spruill in the mix now
The Hens’ depleted running back corps has gotten some much-needed reinforcement with freshman Khory Spruill now in the mix.
The youngster had been kept out of earlier scrimmages as he recovered from an injury.
But the 6-foot, 215-pounder had a couple nice runs on Saturday. Rocco said it’s just a question of getting the DeMatha High grad up to speed.
“I like what Spruill is doing,” said Rocco. “He’s a ball carrier. He’s big, he’s working himself back into shape. We’re going to play him. We’ll see how this thing shakes out.”
With Kareem Williams still sidelined with a hand injury, Kani Kane (Sussex Tech) and Spruill got many of the carries on Saturday. Rocco tried to limit starter Thomas Jefferson’s action as the junior deals with a knee injury.
Running back is a position where a first-year player can have an immediate impact.
“I’ve been watching it forever in this league,” said Rocco. “At Richmond we had a couple freshmen come in and play well early.
“He might not take on the entire offense but he can be productive in your core offense.”
The Hens are slated to hold their last scrimmage on Tuesday at 7 p.m. as they prepare for the Aug. 31 season opener against Delaware State. … With the season getting closer, Rocco was notably more vocal during Saturday’s scrimmage. “Push through adversity,” he yelled during a break. … Rocco summed up the scrimmage by saying, “I think we took turns looking good on both offense and defense.”
Former Blue Hen All-American QB, and current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy and his unique rise from an Arena League star and a career in real estate to the NFL coaching ranks.
AUGUST 14, 2017
All Matt Nagy ever wanted was an opportunity to show what he could do at the highest level of football he could reach in that moment. "I wasn't given the opportunity to play Division I football out of high school, and in my opinion, I felt I could," Matt explained. "I wasn't given an opportunity to play in the NFL out of college, and I felt I should have."
It wasn't easy for the current Kansas City Chiefs' offensive coordinator. The path to the NFL was never clear.
Undaunted, the journey to this point in his career wouldn't have happened for a lot of people in the same situation. Nagy had the audacity to gamble-to take calculated and sometimes seemingly illogical risks inspired through advice he received from a diverse group of people: a college teammate, a gym owner, a residential builder, and a high school football father.
Alex Smith and Matt Nagy. Nagy talks with Alex Smith at practice Nagy listened to the advice. It's why he's here in Kansas City, where he has spent the past four years helping veteran Alex Smith become the third-winningest quarterback in the NFL over that time, and why he will be an instrumental figure in shaping rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes' future.
Matt Nagy and Patrick Mahomes Nagy talks with Patrick Mahomes at practice Once he got his chance, it took only seven NFL seasons for Matt-the 39-year old married father of four-to work his way up to an NFL coordinator position. His journey from the football-crazed area of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to a chance tryout that landed him in the Arena Football League, and then to the highest level of football in the world hasn't necessarily been the fast track it seems. Matt's story is one of a family man who risked everything by betting on himself in one of the biggest moments of his life, and how an unbridled passion for the game has been the root of his family coming together since he could first wrap his hands around a football. To his family, football has always been more than a game.
Here are the six conversations that changed Matt Nagy's life, and defined the risks he took.
It was late-February in 2010 when Matt and Stacey Nagy, who had been married for eight years and together since he was a "big-time" sophomore and she was a senior at Manheim Central High School in Pennsylvania, had a discussion that ultimately changed the trajectory of everything they had planned for their young and growing family. Football had been Matt's life from the time he was a kid-growing up less than 15 miles from the house he and Stacey had settled in with their family, and he was faced with a decision of whether or not to continue chasing that dream. Matt had a job in real estate, which was provided to him by a man Stacey still calls an "angel" to their family. Matt was paid well and could comfortably provide for them. They also had four kids under the age of six years old.
The Nagy family
"Matt always had this idea of a big family," Stacey explained. "So, I thought after two boys, I can do one more, we'll have the girl and live happily ever after." "We tried for a girl and got twin boys," Matt laughed. "Twins do not run in either side of our family so it never crossed my mind in a million years," Stacey added. "So, when I found out, I thought, 'He always gets his way.'"It had only been two years since Matt's Arena Football League career, which lasted six years, had ended, and the former college All-American was coaching high school football-cultivating his passion each fall. Matt Nagy while working for the Philadelphia Eagles
Nagy while working for the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the previous two summers, Matt had also been a coaching intern with the Philadelphia Eagles-an opportunity presented to him by an old college friend and teammate, Brett Veach, who would be a part of a couple of the key conversations in Matt's life. The internship with the Eagles was a way to keep his name and face out there in case an opportunity presented itself. And then, it did. There was an opportunity to join the Eagles' staff as coach Reid's assistant-a job Veach had and was departing from for a role on their personnel staff. It was an opportunity many wouldn't have thought twice about accepting. You're talking about somebody's dream. I saw how he was – he wasn't miserable by any means – but it wasn't a passion that he had to sell houses like he does with football.
- Nagy's wife Stacey Nagy. For Matt, the job meant cutting his salary by two-thirds-a decision with implications that stretched far beyond himself. "This was pulling at him," Stacey explained of this decision. "It was a huge risk, and I come from a family that doesn't take risks, so, I knew we were going out on our own with this. My family couldn't really back us, they were like, 'You have four kids and you're going to be an assistant and get paid what?' "They didn't understand that's where most people start." For Matt, the decision meant chasing a dream. For Stacey, the decision meant a lot more would be on her plate, as well as the "revolving door" of family members who were always around to help.
"You're talking about somebody's dream," Stacey added. "I saw how he was – he wasn't miserable by any means – but it wasn't a passion that he had to sell houses like he does with football. "Now, he'll come home from working a 12-15-hour day, and if there's a game on or if there's film to watch, he's watching it. He just never really shuts it off, he loves football." To this day, they still talk about the conversation which led to Matt accepting that first job with the Eagles.
"I had a pretty good salary at the time and it was a risk, but we said, 'You know what, let's go all in and let's do it,'" Matt recalled. "So, I told my boss-somebody who has a special place in my heart because of the way he took care of me and my family during that time, and we did it." Stacey, who ran track and cross country in college just outside of Philadelphia at West Chester University, understood the competitive nature of Matt to continue chasing his dream, which became their family's dream as well. "It's more than a game, it's always been a way of life for our family," Stacey explained. "There was just this sense of emptiness, and we knew the risks we were taking.
"It just felt right." And years before that, the chance to play in the Arena Football League almost didn't happen. "I wanted nothing to do with it," Matt explained. "I was angry. I was done playing. I said I wasn't going to be that guy who hangs on. It's the NFL or nothing. I'll just move on with my life." That was the tenor of the late 2001 conversation between Matt and his father, Bill Nagy. For much of Matt's life, Bill lived at a distance, but it's the way in which Bill worked through it that helped shaped Matt's perception of family, and what they do for each other. The conversation that day was surrounding a tryout for the Arena Football League's New York Dragons, which was setup by Matt's agent at the time. Just a year earlier, Matt had finished up his collegiate career at Delaware by becoming an All-American as a senior-setting more than a dozen school records.
At that point, Matt's dream was to play in the NFL, and he was close a few times. He had a couple of tryouts, including one with the Green Bay Packers that took place on September 11, 2001. It was a memorable trip, but not because it led to an opportunity to play in the NFL. To this day, Matt remembers watching the television coverage of the terrorist attacks that claimed 2,996 lives in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia that fateful day. He was in the locker room of the Packers' facility with Brett Favre, Doug Pederson and others, glued to the television, along with everyone else around the country.
Matt was forced to remain in Wisconsin for seven days after the tryout as flights were grounded, and all rental cars were gone. It's a time he remembers like it was yesterday, but not for the reasons he was there in the first place. His next opportunity was in a place he didn't want to be.
Matt's father, Bill, was a prominent high school football coach in New Jersey, who coached the likes of current New York Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, among many others during his time at Elizabeth High School in New Jersey. Bowles was on their state championship team before moving on to play collegiately at Temple, and then making his way to the NFL. Before he got into coaching, Bill was a pretty good player himself-earning All-American honors as a defensive tackle for Bloomsburg University. He also spent some time in the World Football League. Now, he was trying to help his son understand the opportunity the AFL (Arena Football League) could provide.
The Nassau Coliseum in New York was the home of the Dragons, and that's where Matt would try out that day. It was just a short drive for Bill, who at the time was living in New Jersey. Even as he was lacing up his shoes on the sideline before the tryout, Matt didn't want to participate. "I was almost to the point where I was browbeating him because he didn't want to go out there," Bill recalled. "[Matt] went out there very reluctantly, but once he got out there, he just started lighting it up. "I can remember the other [Dragons] players were actually yelling to (Dragons coach) John Gregory, 'Sign him! Sign him up!'
"I'll never forget that." He said he was going to offer me a contract with the team. And then he told me, 'You really remind me a lot of Kurt Warner.'"
- Nagy on his tryout with the New York Dragons. After the workout, Gregory, who had a successful past of developing quarterbacks in the AFL, pulled Matt off to the side. "He said he was going to offer me a contract with the team," Matt recalled. "And then he told me, 'You really remind me a lot of Kurt Warner.' "That was the one phrase that stuck with me," Matt noted. "That's all I needed to hear." Warner had played for Gregory for three years with the Iowa Barnstormers before embarking on a 12-year NFL career that's led him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Matt ultimately signed to play that next season with Gregory and the Dragons (2002), and would go on to spend time with the Carolina Cobras (2004), Georgia Force (2005-06), and Columbus Destroyers (2007-08) as well. He finished his six-year AFL career with 374 touchdowns and just 55 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 115.1.
Nagy while playing for the Destroyers. On two different occasions (2005, 2007), Matt helped lead his team to the Arena Bowl-the league's championship game. He was a natural leader-a natural athlete.
Growing up, he played every sport imaginable. Matt's first memory of sports was a swim meet, and he still has pictures of him racing BMX bikes as a kid. He also played tennis and was a bowler, along with playing basketball and baseball. After his parents divorced, Matt, who was an only child, went with his mother and moved back to her hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is two hours west of where his father was living in New Jersey. "It was hard for her to have a job, and for me to come walking home on my own from school every day until she got back from work," Matt explained. "I didn't have brothers or sisters or a father figure to come home to. That was difficult, and I know that has probably always bothered her, but she did a great job of making that seem 'normal' for me. We had a great relationship growing up. She was always there for me. "She got remarried, and she lives in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, now." Despite the divorce, Matt's mother and father, who both remarried, had a great relationship, and still do to this day. "A lot of my friends in high school thought they were still together because they were so friendly around each other," Matt explained. "They get along. If that had gone a different direction and my dad would've handled it differently, I could have turned out different. "But he was always there for me. He's never wavered." I said to myself that there was a bit of a distance issue here, but no matter what happens, I'm not going to allow the distance to interfere with me being in Matt's life."
Despite having two kids-Luke and Jenna-with his new wife, Bill was always a central figure in Matt's life. "I said to myself that there was a bit of a distance issue here, but no matter what happens, I'm not going to allow the distance to interfere with me being in Matt's life," Bill explained. It wasn't always easy though. Bill would drive the two hours to Lancaster almost every weekend-sometimes bringing Luke and Jenna with him, and it was often sports that brought them together. It's a theme Matt had learned at a very young age-sports were often the root of it all. "By the grace of God, Matt's mom – and to this day we've always been very good friends – she understood that because I did come all that way, she graciously allowed me to stay at her place and spend the weekend with Matt," Bill explained.
Bill recognized Matt's football talents at a very early age. He recalled a game he was watching with Matt's grandfather, Carl Ibach, when Matt was playing quarterback at just 11 or 12 years old, that always stuck with him. "He took the snap and was rolling right, and the defensive end was knifing in on him," Bill recalled. "The defensive end lunged at him across his face and thought he was going to create a fumble, and Matt put the ball behind his back in counterclockwise motion to his right hand, and pitched it to the option guy. The back got the corner and ran. "I looked at Carl, and Carl looked at me, and we just shook our heads like, 'This is unbelievable, man.' "It was something you couldn't coach, and we knew right then that Matt was going to be something special."
Ibach, who was a key figure in Matt's life, passed away before Matt got to high school and took over as the starting quarterback at Manheim Central High School. The Manheim community and football program are Pennsylvania's version of "Friday Night Lights." It's the kind of community where the high school coaches visit the youth games on Sunday mornings to see what's coming through the pipeline. The youth coaches also teach many of the same schemes the kids will use at the high school level. This is an environment where Matt thrived.
"He was a legendary player for us," Mike Williams, who recently stepped down after 34 years as head coach to be an assistant, said of his former quarterback. "Everybody said Matt was very un-coachable-that he's so intense that you just can't coach him. I realized if you tried to get on him, if he makes a mistake and you try to get on him, he's just going to go the opposite way. "We coach our players hard. With Matt, it was just a little different. He was so intense."
The most memorable moment in Matt's high school career, which had just two losses-both of which came against the same team-Berwick, wasn't a good one.
As a junior in the state semifinals against Berwick, a game that took place at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania in front of more than 20,000 people, Manheim was trailing by a touchdown with just a few seconds left in regulation. They had the ball at the four-yard line. "I threw a slant route and didn't see the linebacker," Matt explained. "They picked it off. The crowd went nuts. The game was over, and I was absolutely devastated." It's a moment that has driven Matt throughout his entire football career, and one he remembers vividly to this day. "It motivated me," Matt mentioned. "It was a bad play, but I think in the end, if I could rewind back to my whole football career, that one play helped push me to the top in a lot of different areas."
The Manheim community, which eats, sleeps and breathes football, didn't chastise their young quarterback after the interception that ended the playoff game, but rather lifted him up. "I got so many letters from parents and people around the community after that game telling me to keep my head up," Matt recalled. "That meant the world to me." One guy who remembers watching that game against Berwick on television was Veach, who was recently named the Chiefs' new general manager after serving as co-director of player personnel since 2015.
Veach was a year younger than Matt and grew up about 60 miles from him in Mount Carmel.
"I was pulling for Matt and Manheim because I wanted to see Berwick lose," Veach recalled of watching those games during Matt's junior and senior seasons. "Those were state championship-caliber teams Matt was on at Manheim, but they could never get past Berwick.
"We never played against each other, Matt and I, but we were close enough that we knew of each other," Veach added. Veach would join Matt at the University of Delaware.
Despite being courted by the University of New Hampshire, and their running backs coach at the time, Chip Kelly, Matt enjoyed the "family" atmosphere of Delaware. At the time he went to Delaware, 11 of the 12 coaches on staff had played there, and Matt said it reminded him of his hometown. Matt was recruited there by Gregg Perry, who was the offensive line coach and promised Matt, a pocket passer, that they'd tweak their offense to suit him. Delaware was known for running the Wing-T-a run-heavy system, particularly for the quarterback.
"Coach Williams did a great job training Matt," Perry, who was at Delaware when former NFL (and Chiefs) quarterback Rich Gannon played there, explained of recruiting Matt out of Manheim Central. "As a high school quarterback, Matt could recognize two-deep, three-deep, and what people were trying to do with their coverages. He did a nice job with their protections and getting to the right calls well before he got to Delaware." Football, and everything with it, came naturally to Matt.
When asked of his favorite memory in college, Matt recalled a particular play against Villanova, which at the time was led by their star running back Brian Westbrook, who would later go on to play for the Eagles for eight years and make two Pro Bowls (2004, 2007).
After falling behind big in the first half by a score of 35-10, Matt recalled the play that got them back into the game. It wasn't necessarily a conversation, but there was an unspoken language on the field that day that stands lucid in Matt's memory. "I looked out to my right and [Veach] was lined up for a slant route," Matt recalled. "I looked out to him, and he looked in to me, and he just tapped his head and I tapped my head, to signal a go-ball, a fade. He ran a quick fade in the end zone and I put it up to him and he caught it for a touchdown, and that kind of catapulted us. It gave the momentum going forward.
"We ended up winning the game 59-42, but that memory of Brett and I, and where we have come from-that was special." It's almost poetic, considering how far they've each come from those days and where they are right now. It was the first of many moments that've connected the two-former central Pennsylvania prep standouts, who learned at an early age that football was a way of life where they're from. "When you grow up in central Pennsylvania like we did, that's the pride and joy of that state," Veach explained. "When you're young, the only thing you want to do is go with your parents to a high school football game. I remember being as young as four or five years old and going to games with my dad, and that's all I ever wanted to do.
"Football is engrained in you from an early age. Whether it's a player, coach or personnel guy, it's basically who you are. It's in your blood, and it's going to be a part of your life. "If you're around Matt for a few hours, you just know that the sport consumes him. It's who he is. It's part of his DNA."
There are only a few people in the world who could put together the connection between the current Director of Performance for the Baltimore Ravens, and a high school classmate of Chiefs' Assistant Head Coach Brad Childress' in Chicago. But when telling Matt's story, the connection between these two men and the conversation they once had is paramount to Matt's journey. In 2008, not long after finishing up his second season with the Columbus Destroyers of the AFL, where Matt threw for over 4,000 yards with 74 touchdowns and just eight interceptions that year, Matt learned the AFL was in financial trouble, and would be cancelling the 2009 season. It was a huge problem.
Matt's salary is what had supported their family. Stacey had given up her teaching job at that time to stay home with the kids. Everything changed. So, Matt's whole focus went from hoping and working towards a shot in the NFL-to trying to figure out how to support his family. Back in 2003, just a year after joining the AFL, Matt suffered a torn ACL and was out for the year. He was recovering and rehabbing at a local gym near his hometown, which was owned by a guy named Steve Saunders. "That was really the beginning of Matt and I's relationship," Saunders, who remains close friends of the Nagy family to this day, explained of that time. "I was his strength trainer, therapist, and psychologist at times. I was trying to get Matt ready to play again."
Saunders knew of the troubles Matt and his family were facing when the AFL folded, and he also knew one of the other guys he trained-Larry Wisdom, was the president of a large construction company in the area, and he might be able to help them.
I wanted to do everything I could to help them. I've got five kids myself, and I was a small business owner (at the time). I know when you have mouths to feed and you have this lean time, it's a stressful situation."
Steve wanted to set Matt and Larry up for a meeting. "I wanted to do everything I could to help them," Saunders, who just last year was named the Director of Performance for the Baltimore Ravens, recalled. "I've got five kids myself, and I was a small business owner (at the time). I know when you have mouths to feed and you have this lean time, it's a stressful situation." "I was in my mid-50s, so I wasn't exactly your NFL athlete, or retired athlete," Wisdom, who grew up in Chicago and was high school classmates at Marmion Academy with Childress, explained. "Steve came to me one day and mentioned Matt's name. He said, 'This is somebody you can mold into a future president of the company.'
"I felt like if I disappointed Steve by saying, 'No,' then the pain that would be caused [in training] afterwards would be terrible," Wisdom laughed. "Typically, the sessions were at 4:35 in the morning, and I was already feeling a good deal of pain." Wisdom was the second-oldest of 10 kids in his family, and didn't have much growing up. He began working in the construction business as a laborer at the age of 19, and worked his way up to the Midwest Regional President of a multi-million-dollar company. He had moved to the Lancaster area in 2007, coming from Chicago, where his company was building 1,400 homes a year.
Much like Matt, Wisdom has had to work for everything he got in life. Back then, it was a tough time to be in the real estate business, but Wisdom took the meeting with Matt anyways. Matt had a real estate license-something he thought would be good to have in case he needed to supplement his income for his growing family. Thanks to the introduction from Saunders, Matt and Larry met for dinner at Fenz restaurant in Lancaster. "In terms of a first impression, I found him to be bright, earnest, genuine, and very authentic," Wisdom recalled of that meeting. "I found him to be at an interesting point in life. He had dreamed for a very long time to become an NFL quarterback, and he had come to a point that the chances of making that work at this point would have come at a great cost to his family." For Matt, the issue was one of money-particularly going into a field that was heavily based on commission, which was a risk for a family with four kids under the age of six years old. In order to do this, Matt needed a substantial base salary, and so, Wisdom asked what it'd take for him to feel comfortable. You have three or four people in your life to which you're indebted. Larry stepped into my life and took care of my family during the recession, during the time when I lost football."
Then, just like that, Wisdom gave it to him. He stepped up for them. "It was a big decision because it's what was necessary to help Matt do this, and I was confident in myself that I would be able to help him," Wisdom explained. "I felt like the return would [be worth it]. I felt that the period of time from his first role in sales where he would be trained and developed - paying those hours – would be, unless I had misjudged the talent, returned in a 24-36-month period. "It was a business decision based on his talent. It wasn't charity."
Within his first 45 days on the job after training, Matt confirmed what Wisdom saw in him by selling six homes. He was a natural, just as Saunders knew he would be when he asked Wisdom to take that initial meeting. Matt, who no longer had to worry about how he was going to support his family, then began coaching high school football in the area. He was content, and it was because of Wisdom that the burden of how he was going to support them was lifted. "You have three or four people in your life to which you're indebted," Matt explained. "Larry stepped into my life and took care of my family during the recession, during the time when I lost football. "I was in a tough spot and he took care of us, I'll always be indebted to him." Even though he was killing it as a realtor, football, and particularly, the NFL, were never too far away. Soon, an opportunity would come calling.
The two high school sweethearts sat on the porch of what they once-thought to be their forever home in Pennsylvania for hours on this cool summer night in 2009. Matt and Stacey were discussing all the pros and cons of what lie ahead. A year earlier, through the recommendation of Veach, Andy Reid had offered Matt a position as a coaching intern for Eagles training camp. It was just after Matt's AFL season had ended, so the timing worked out. He could be there without any issue. "At that time, I went there to see if I could open up some eyes throwing the ball or something," Matt explained of the first summer interning for the Eagles in 2008. "I went there with the mindset of a player."
"At that time, they had cut our numbers on how many players we could have, so having a camp quarterback was virtually impossible," Reid explained. "So, I said to Matt, 'Listen, come be an intern-coach. You can throw all of the drills.' "He was also learning how to be a coach, too," Reid added. "That was important to him, and I'm going, 'This guy has really got a knack.'"Veach was like his agent."
A year later, the same offer came-a coaching internship for training camp.
I'm no longer playing six months of football, with six months off. I'm working full-time at a new home construction company, and to ask your boss for three weeks off isn't going to go so well." But the problem this time around is that it was right after the AFL had cancelled their season, and Wisdom had just brought Matt into his company a few months prior.
"I'm no longer playing six months of football, with six months off," Matt explained. "I'm working full-time at a new home construction company, and to ask your boss for three weeks off isn't going to go so well." They had to think about how to best support their kids. There was plenty on the line. "The big hurdle was disappointing [Wisdom] because we had taken on that job-that was supposed to be our future," Stacey added. "Then here we were talking about going back on our word."
Matt had told Wisdom that he was done with football, and Wisdom had invested time, resources, and money, into Matt's real estate career. There was also no way of knowing how Wisdom would react for even asking the question of potentially taking the time off to go to camp, and more than that, this was just for an internship. There was no guarantee of a job at the end of this thing.
Then, there was a conversation with Veach that Matt recalls like it was yesterday.
"[Veach] told me, 'You never know where this can take you, and if you don't do it, out of sight, out of mind.' "That always stuck with me," Matt recalled.
It was a decision for his football future-whether to continue to put his face out there with his hat in the ring-or pack it up and sell real estate and coach high school football for the rest of his life. After hours of discussion on the porch that night-talking through everything-Matt and Stacey ultimately decided to ask Wisdom for the time off.
And for the second time in just a few months, Wisdom made a decision that would have a profound effect on the Nagy's journey. He granted Matt the time off, and Matt would have his job back after he returned home from training camp.
It turned out to be a pretty memorable camp for Matt, who made national headlines after an injury to Eagles' quarterback Kevin Kolb in a morning practice put the team in a tough spot.
It was just days before their final preseason game against the New England Patriots, and they were a quarterback short. After grabbing lunch on campus just a few hours after Kolb went down, Matt returned to his dorm room and got a call from Veach, who said, "Coach [Reid] needs to see you. Hurry up. Get over here."
So, Matt quickly walked the three buildings over to the dorm where Reid was staying. When he walked in the door, Reid, who had just finished a workout and was in a towel sitting on his sofa, proceeded to ask Matt if he had an agent, whether he was healthy, and how well he knew the playbook. [Reid] goes alright, 'Well, I'm going to sign you, and you're going to play in our preseason game against the Patriots,'"
All of the answers were, 'Yes, and good,' and at that point, Matt sensed something big. "[Reid] goes alright, 'Well, I'm going to sign you, and you're going to play in our preseason game against the Patriots,'" Matt smiled. Within the course of just a few weeks, Matt went from debating the pros and cons of actually going to camp at all, and potentially risking his family's future financial means, to getting signed to an NFL contract-a dream he had for as long as he could remember. "I was like a little kid in the candy store," Matt explained. "I was so excited. So, that whole night, I went and did my physical, I did all the blood work and all my tests."
The next day-Matt saw everything from a different angle. "You sit on the outside of the table areas in the cafeteria for all the dinners. You sit on the outside for all the meetings," Matt said of coaches at training camp. "The next day now, I'm sitting on the inside at the cafeteria with the players. I'm sitting on the inside of the chairs with the players for meetings. "It was just strange. I went out that next morning put cleats on for the first time in seven years. I was always playing on turf in the AFL."
Matt took reps at quarterback during the morning practice, and then as he was headed back out for the afternoon practice-walking out with running back Brian Westbrook, a rival from their college days-then-Eagles general manager Tom Heckert tapped Matt on the shoulder.
"Nags, the NFL nixed your contract," Matt recalled Heckert telling him. "You've got to go back and get the coaches shorts back on." Just like that, it was over.
Now, there's a 'Nagy rule.' But that was it-right there, I knew he wanted to get into coaching, and he seemed wired the right way."
"It lasted not even 24 hours," Matt said. "I was back out that second practice in shorts as a coach, crushed, devastated. I just wanted one fourth quarter against the Patriots." "I went on the biggest roller coaster of my entire life that day." Matt was told part of the reason or nixing the contract had to do with the fact that the AFL wasn't completely folded yet, and the Eagles didn't want to get in a contract dispute considering Matt was still technically under contract with them. "Now, there's a 'Nagy rule,'" Reid, who also explained the NFL didn't want a precedent being set of teams stashing players as coaches, laughed. "But that was it-right there, I knew he wanted to get into coaching, and he seemed wired the right way." After camp had concluded, Matt went back to selling houses in Pennsylvania for Wisdom and waited for another opportunity-hoping the investment he made by taking off that time and the gamble he took would pay off.
After the 2009 season ended, Veach was promoted to the personnel side of the Eagles' organization as the Southeast Regional Scout, which meant Reid would be looking for Veach's replacement. Before he made any decisions on the vacancy, Reid asked Veach for his thoughts.
"[Reid] just said, 'Oh by the way, now that you're moving over (to personnel), if you have any names for your old spot – I already have a list of guys – but if you have somebody that would be good, let me know'" Veach recalled. Veach did have someone in mind, but he needed to make sure his old friend wasn't planning on selling houses for the rest of his life. It had only been a few months since he had been with them at camp.
Before I finished dialing Matt, I already knew the answer. I know what he's about, I know how much football means to him."
"Before I finished dialing Matt, I already knew the answer," Veach said of calling to gauge Matt's interest in the position. "I know what he's about, I know how much football means to him." Veach was right, and the position was Matt's if he wanted it. He wasn't out of sight. He wasn't out of mind.
"Matt was selling a house the day I called him," Reid recalled. When Matt saw the Philadelphia number calling, he knew what that meant. He got up from the kitchen table he was sitting at while going through closing papers for a couple purchasing a house, and he answered the call. Reid offered Matt the position on a Tuesday, and after they spoke a little while, told him to talk it over with Stacey and get back to him.
After what Matt described as a "three-minute" conversation with her, he knew what he had to do next-call the man who picked his family up at a time they needed it most. The man who Stacey still calls "an angel" to their family.
"I immediately realized that this call was a moment," Wisdom recalled of that conversation. "Matt was genuinely talking everything through with me, and when you think about that, that's not necessarily the world we live in today. I remember thinking that I wasn't happy to hear it, but I didn't tell him that. I just told him that he did the thing of integrity by picking up the phone and calling me. There were so many emotions because I wasn't looking to ever become an NFL coach. Be at a high school for thirty years and ride off into the sunset-I was cool with it."
"What I understood about this was that it was the chance of a lifetime for him, but he had no idea where this thing would lead." Despite the huge deduction in salary between the two jobs, Matt and Stacey bet on the dream and he was in Philadelphia by Thursday.
"There were so many emotions because I wasn't looking to ever become an NFL coach," Matt explained of their decision. "Be at a high school for thirty years and ride off into the sunset-I was cool with it. When [Reid] called me that night and explained the position-there was a risk for us financially. I mean, it was a big time set back, but you've got to take one step back to take two steps forward."
Matt also saw this as the opportunity to prove something. "I wasn't given the opportunity to play Division I football, and in my opinion, I felt I could," Matt added. "I wasn't given an opportunity to play in the NFL, and I felt I should have. I felt like a lot of that was lack of speed and lack of size. But with this deal with Coach Reid, when he offered that to me, I knew that the lack of speed and lack of size couldn't hold me back.
"I knew that with my heart, determination, loyalty and trust, that I could earn that from coach over time." Matt did earn that trust from Reid, and it happened in just a short time.
Alex Smith, Matt Nagy and Andy Reid
Fast forward seven years and the former All-American quarterback has already worked his way to an offensive coordinator position-something that doesn't usually happen that quickly, and when talking to those close with him, Matt has earned everything he's getting.
"He's very much blue collar and he very much knows how to work for everything," Veach explained. "From Manheim Central to the University of Delaware and the AFL, truly nothing was ever given to him. Just like we do in scouting, you look for guys who are passionate, smart, and who love the game, and more so than anything, he's just a positive guy. That's a big deal because how you present yourself to your team, your peers, to your personnel staff, that's a big deal in this league.
"There's going to be more downs than ups in this business and a lot more struggles than successes. So, when you have a guy who is sharp, bright and articulate, but who also exudes positive energy, it's a really good combination, and I think it's what has made him so successful."
Two central Pennsylvania guys whose fathers were both prominent high school coaches, and who both ended up together at Delaware, and then again in the NFL, it's a story that doesn't happen often. "We talk about it all the time," Veach explained. "We'll be at a game or in each other's office and we'll just talk about, 'Can you imagine however many years ago it was we were chucking it around at Delaware?'
"I just think we feel extremely grateful because we understand there are thousands of people who would instantly give up what they're doing to be in our positions," Veach added. "So, the fact that we're able to help each other – and listen, I had an opportunity to help Matt out back then, but he's been very helpful in my career, too. "He's a smart offensive mind and, from a personnel standpoint, when I have a question about offensive schemes or quarterbacks, Matt has been a great resource for me, too."
The game has always come easily to Matt-even if many of the early opportunities didn't.
It's a trait and work ethic he's used to work with Alex Smith over the past four years-helping him set multiple franchise records, and it's also what he'll use to help develop Patrick Mahomes-one of the most intriguing young players in recent Chiefs' memory-for the future.
In the end, it's a life that's been destined for this course since his father first saw him spin that ball around his back to avoid a defender. It was a natural fit. And while Matt has given everything he has to the game that now helps support his family, the truth is all of it has only been possible because of Stacey. "She's been the one who has kept this whole thing together," Matt explained of his high school sweetheart, who held things down as he was always on the road. "She's been there from the start, and not a lot of people can say that." It's a complete family atmosphere. Everybody is so nice and warm and welcoming."
A family that made decisions many wouldn't have made are now reaping the rewards of those gambles. It's a journey that a few years ago brought them to Kansas City, where Bill has since moved to be closer to his grandkids, and where Matt's reunited with an old friend in Veach. It's also where their family's passion for the game is understood by a fan base that shares a similar sentiment. "It's a complete family atmosphere," Stacey explained of the Kansas City community. "Everybody is so nice and warm and welcoming. I was shocked when we first moved here because everyone was still always wearing red-despite all the losses they had in the years before we got here. "It just felt like everybody was joined to the same cause. It really felt like home pretty quickly." "The fans, the people, the community here-it's real," Matt explained. "They're in it just like we are." After all, it's always been more than just a game to their family.
The New Faces Of Blue Hen Football
AUGUST 1st, 2017 - COURTESY OF BLUEHENS.COM
In their first season, UD’s head coach and AD have the players believing. The fans may be a harder sell.
Danny Rocco, who seven months ago was picked to lead the Delaware Blue Hens football team, is entering his 34th year of coaching—the last 11 as a head coach in the college ranks.
Football coaching is the Rocco family business, with dad Frank having been a longtime coach at both the high school and college levels; two brothers who spent their lives as high school coaches; and son David, who coaches wide receivers at Western Illinois.
After six years at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., then five seasons with Richmond, Rocco, 57, was hired by first-year Athletic Director Chrissi Rawak as UD’s new head coach in December.
As a head coach, Rocco has never had a losing season, and he doesn’t plan on seeing that streak broken now as he leads the Hens into the 2017 campaign.
Athletic Director Chrissi Rawak arrived from Michigan last May. She hired Rocco in December. Photo Moonloop Photography
“Success starts with high expectations, and Delaware expects to have a very competitive football team that’s smart, fast, and physical,” he says. “Our focus is on finishing better,” he adds, referring both to individual games and the season overall. “If we can finish better, we’ll be competitive.”
A competitive team is something die-hard fans like husband and wife Brian and Sarah Raughley have been waiting years to see again.
Brian, owner of Dead Presidents in Wilmington, and Sarah are long-time season ticket-holders and have spent many fall Saturday afternoons cheering on their alma mater at Delaware Stadium.
In fact, their midfield box has been in Sarah Raughley’s family for more than 50 years, and three generations of relatives from all over the state regularly gather in Newark for home games.
In recent years, however, both the on-field product and the highly unpopular University of Delaware Athletic Fund season-ticket tariff have dampened their enthusiasm.
“There’s a group of eight of us,” says Brian Raughley, “and one guy was ready to give up his ticket last year.”
That’s partly because Delaware is coming off two dreadful 4-7 years—the first back-to-back losing seasons since 1939—and a six-year postseason drought. One has to go back to 2010, when K.C. Keeler led the Hens to the FCS Championship Game, to relive some of that former Blue-and-Gold glory.
Asked about the slump, Rocco says, “As a coach, I’m always trying to identify problems without attaching blame. A number of things needed attention, including player development.”
Improving this area has been an early focus of his tenure, and seven months in, Rocco sounds upbeat.
“Things are going well. We’re off to a good start,” he says.
His boss agrees.
“He’s done all of the right things so far,” says Rawak. “Rocco’s done a tremendous job and I’m excited about the future.”
As for Brian and Sarah Raughley’s pessimistic box-seat companion?
“He decided to stick it out one more year after Coach Rocco was hired,” says Brian Raughley.
Four Coaches in 62 Years
Delaware football has a storied history that includes national championships, Hall of Fame coaches, NFL standouts and an enthusiastic fan base.
UD accumulated six national titles between 1946 and 2003, and is one of only two schools in the country to have three consecutive coaches enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame: Bill Murray, David M. Nelson (who instituted UD’s famous Wing-T offense and gave Delaware the iconic Michigan-style “winged” helmet), and the now-legendary Harold “Tubby” Raymond, who retired in 2001.
When Keeler took over in 2002—only the fourth head man in 62 years—he brought with him a new offensive philosophy and installed a no-huddle, spread offense in place of the Wing-T.
He took Delaware to its last national championship – its first ever in Division I-AA—in 2003, but his teams lacked consistency over an 11-year tenure. Despite being given a 10-year contract extension in 2008, Keeler and UD parted ways after the 2012 season, when the Hens finished 5-6.
Rocco has made some changes of his own, the most significant being the installation of a 3-4 defense. This alignment dates to his stint as linebacker and special teams coach with the New York Jets in 2000.
He has stuck with the 3-4 because, he says, the extra linebackers add versatility and more depth on special teams. Also, he says, “it’s very hard to recruit defensive linemen at the CAA level.”
Former Concord High standout Grant Roberts, a senior defensive lineman with extensive game experience for the Hens, figures prominently in the new defense. Despite having to adjust to the new coaching staff and a new defense, the Wilmington native expects a big debut for the ‘17 Hens. “We expect to win. We all expect to be successful,” he says.
Roberts, who has 48 tackles (27 solo) to his credit entering his final season, would love to end his college career as a champion, but he isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“Our focus is first getting back to a winning season,” he says.
At Liberty and Richmond, Rocco, 57, never had a losing season. Photo Moonloop Photography
When Dave Brock became head coach in 2013, Roberts says, “Everyone was excited and there was a strong vibe going into the future.” But Brock managed just one winning season, and was fired midway through his fourth year. The Hens were 2-4 at the time, en route to another 4-7 finish.
Delaware’s football family is a tight-knit one, and people are loath to criticize Brock for the team’s downturn.
“Coach Brock was great,” Roberts insists.
But things clearly weren’t working and a change of direction was needed, so Brock’s firing wasn’t a surprise.
Roberts is focused on moving forward. “There were definitely some tough games—some of which we should’ve won – but … we had a talented roster even though things didn’t work out.”
Rocco admits the challenge of rebuilding Delaware’s program was one thing that drew him here.
“The biggest challenge was changing the culture and the expectations of the program,” he says. “Delaware lacked a unifying, confident culture among its student-athletes. They didn’t believe they could win.”
Rawak and Rocco are out to change that, and both understand they are “in this thing together.”
“Rebuilding this program,” says Rocco, “is truly a team effort. No one coach can change a culture alone.”
The Hens lost just three starters to graduation, so he sees a solid foundation on which to build.
“We have the right people at the right time,” he says. “I have confidence we can win.”
Rocco enjoyed immediate success at both Liberty University and at Richmond, where he turned a 3-8 team into one with an 8-3 record and a share of the CAA title in a single season.
That turnaround is partly why expectations are high that UD will return to its winning ways this season. It’s also a major reason why Chrissi Rawak hired Rocco.
Rawak was executive senior associate athletic director for the University of Michigan when she was hired as the new AD by first-year Delaware President Denis Assanis last May. She wasted no time in making her presence felt.
A month after firing Brock, Rawak announced that, starting this year, the university would reverse the unpopular policy of requiring a donation to the UD Athletic Fund with most season ticket purchases. The policy, begun in 2011, helped boost UDAF coffers but alienated fans and contributed to a drastic reduction in both season ticket sales and attendance.
Then, in December, Rawak made what may be her most important move as AD to date: hiring Huntingdon, Pa., native Rocco as the new head coach.
Rocco was identified as a candidate early on and has an impressive résumé: in compiling a 90-42 record that includes six conference titles, he garnered four conference Coach of the Year honors and was a national FCS Coach of the Year finalist five times.
Rocco understands and appreciates Delaware football’s tradition, and he hopes to return the program to national prominence. He has his eyes set first on a conference championship.
“If you’re competing for a conference championship at the CAA level, then you are nationally relevant,” he says. Eight wins would likely get the Hens into the postseason.
The new season begins in Newark on Aug. 31, against Delaware State. While recognizing there are several storylines that will have people talking in the fall—playing defending national FCS champs James Madison (Sept. 30) and Richmond (Oct. 21), both at home—the most important game for Rocco is DSU, “because it’s the next one up on the schedule.”
First Recruiting Class
“Success,” says Rocco, “also comes from identifying, recruiting and developing talent.” He has accomplished that at his other posts, and as a result his teams have won consistently.
At UD, after getting his staff in place, he focused on his first recruitment class, ensuring that the right student-athletes were being brought into the program.
His approach is, first, “to recruit character.” He and his staff look for young people with ambition, who want to succeed both as student-athletes and at life. “We care about our student-athletes as people—about their success on and off the field,” the head coach says.
“They need to be goal-oriented and highly-motivated,” he adds.
He is excited about his inaugural class, announced in late January.
“We recruited extraordinarily well despite a late start and new staff,” he says, noting the process was facilitated by the fact that the coaches themselves were willing to take a big risk on the program. “The families appreciated that,” says Rocco.
Delaware offered scholarships to 15 players; 14 accepted, marking Rocco’s highest success rate to date. Two players who had previously committed to Richmond changed their minds when Rocco left, and followed him to UD.
Rocco’s first group of incoming freshmen includes four wide receivers, a running back, a tight end, a defensive end, a defensive lineman, a defensive back, a linebacker, three offensive linemen and a quarterback.
That group includes offensive lineman Mickey Henry, a Wilmington native out of St. Elizabeth’s, and standout quarterback Nolan Henderson, of two-time Division I state champion Smyrna. The MVP of the annual Blue-Gold Game in June, Henderson holds many state records, including touchdown passes in a career—105.
He adds additional depth at quarterback, following the off-season transfer of J.P. Caruso from Appalachian State. Caruso was expected to compete for the top job with Joe Walker, Delaware’s starting quarterback the past two seasons. Rocco hadn’t decided going into camp in July who his starter would be.
“It’s all about who gives us the best chance to win,” Rocco told The Wilmington News Journal.
Brothers in Arms
Another position where the Hens enjoy some depth is linebacker, thanks in part to brothers Troy and Colby Reeder, former standouts at Salesianum School. Both are former Delaware Defensive Players of the Year—Troy in 2013, Colby in 2015—and were heavily recruited.
Troy Reeder, 22, went to Penn State, where he started at linebacker as a red-shirt freshman, racking up 67 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup.
Colby, 20, followed in the footsteps of their father, former Wing-T fullback Dan Reeder, and enrolled at Delaware. (Dan Reeder is 12th on UD’s career rushing list, with 2,067 yards gained between 1982 and 1984; he later played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.)
The Reeder brothers were reunited last year when Troy transferred to UD to be with his younger brother. Troy doesn’t regret the decision. He says he and Colby have always been very close and bring out the best in each other. Playing college ball together was something the pair had dreamed of from the time they were little.
Rocco, who himself played linebacker for the Nittany Lions (1979-80) before finishing up at Wake Forest, has high praise for the Reeders.
“They’re doing really exciting work, they’re good role models,” Rocco says. “Troy is exactly what you’re looking for in a football player.”
Troy, a captain of this year’s squad, is excited to be home and starting a new season
“There’s no pressure on the players at all,” he says. “Everyone knows what this team is capable of and that we underachieved last year.”
Colby, who was redshirted his freshman year due to injury, is now healthy and ready to compete for a starting job. “I expect to see significant playing time this year,” he says.
Colby admits to some friendly competition between the brothers in the weight room, but that’s where any sibling rivalry ends. On the field, the more experienced Troy “helps me out a lot, and we work together well,” says Colby.
The Old Guard
For long-time fans, the Reeders may evoke memories of two other well-known Blue Hen brothers—Michael and Joseph Purzycki.
Mike Purzycki (Class of ’67), a standout wide receiver who set multiple records at Delaware, including becoming UD’s first-ever 1,000-career yard receiver, was elected Mayor of Wilmington last November.
Younger brother Joe (Class of ’70), recruited by Tubby Raymond, was an All-America defensive back who recorded a then-record nine interceptions in 1969, his senior year. He returned to UD as a defensive backfield coach under Raymond in 1978, a year before the Hens took the Division II title.
Joe Purzycki was on the search committee that hired Rawak. She, in turn, asked Purzycki, as well as former NFL quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Scott Brunner, for their input when seeking Brock’s replacement.
Rocco says he’s received strong support from Gannon, Brunner, both Purzyckis and others. “They’ve all been great,” he says. “They genuinely care and want what’s best for Delaware.”
Joe Purzycki, whose deep love for UD football is palpable, says of the new head coach, “Rocco is a good fit for UD. He’s cut from the same mold as earlier Delaware coaches. A football coach is who he is.”
Purzycki is impressed with Rocco’s winning record and the turnaround he effected at Richmond. A former college head coach himself (DSU, JMU), Purzycki knows the effort that requires.
Just as impressive, says Purzycki, was that during the search, “everyone who had coached either for or against Rocco over the years had nothing but the highest praise for him.”
“He’s worked for some of the best coaches in the business,” he adds, including former Jets Head Coach Al Groh, and Tom Coughlin, who led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl titles.
“You can’t be surrounded by such talent and not have some of it rub off on you,” says Purzycki.
If Rocco is feeling any pressure to produce results immediately, he doesn’t let on.
“It’s hard to put a time line on the rebuilding project, but I expect this year’s team to be competitive,” he reaffirms, sounding cautiously optimistic yet enthusiastic about the year ahead.
“You can’t just jam a program into a model and be successful—things need massaging,” he says.
When announcing the hiring in December, Rawak said Rocco’s impact would be felt immediately, but she also recognizes it takes time to build programs. She insists she hasn’t given Rocco a timetable for markedly improved on-the-field performance. But, she says, “When we step on the field, we play to win.”
While acknowledging that the record at the end of the 2107 season will be important, she says she also deeply values the process needed to get to where UD wants to be.
“There is always lots to learn, and the focus is on always getting better,” she says.
For their part, the players—the most important part of the process—are optimistic.
“Something really special is happening,” says Troy Reeder. “The players are buying into [Rocco’s] philosophy of winning each day, one day at a time.”
Blue Hen fans hope the captain is right.
Delaware Football Begins Official Practice Friday Under Direction of First-Year Head Coach Danny Rocco
By Delaware Athletics
Jul 28, 2017
NEWARK, Del. -- First-year University of Delaware football head coach Danny Rocco opened his first preseason camp with the Blue Hens as UD kicked off its official practice schedule Friday afternoon on the Delaware Practice Fields.
Rocco will lead the Blue Hens through a variety of practice and conditioning drills, as well as several scrimmages, over the next five weeks in preparation for the season opener set for Thursday, Aug. 31 against Delaware State at 7 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.
Delaware, which was picked fifth in the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Poll announced on Tuesday, returns 19 starters as the Blue Hens kick off a season full of promise and postseason aspirations. UD returns nine starters on offense, including center Brody Kern who earned Preseason All-CAA honors. The Blue Hen defense, anchored by all-conference picks Charles Bell and Bilal Nichols, features 10 returning starters from a group that ranked sixth in the league in total defense a year ago.
“It's exciting to get out here,” Rocco said following the season's first practice. “We've waited a long time to get back into camp, and I thought our guys reported to camp in good shape and had a really good summer. There was a lot of energy out here today. There's a lot of things we're going to have to do better, but I felt like they came out here to work hard so I'm excited about where we are moving into camp.
“A lot of guys caught my attention today. It's all about our ability to become a more consistent football team and our ability to finish better. Our offense and defense took turns going after each other today, and I'll look forward to studying the film tonight.”
Delaware returns to the practice fields on Saturday from 8:45 a.m. to 11 a.m., before practicing from 9:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. on Sunday. Monday through Friday of next week will all feature practices from 8:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. Further practice times and scrimmages, which are open to the public, will be announced on