By BRIAN JENNINGS
Click. Click. Flash. Flash. Cameras snapped pictures, capturing the smiles that filled the room. Audio recorders surrounded the blue helmet with the big “S” that sat on the table next to a football. The pens were out and they were ready to sign.
Wednesday, Feb. 4 was the NCAA’s initial signing date for football National Letters of Intent across the country. Southington High School had three student athletes committing to play collegiate football.
After the long process of filling out online questionnaires, sending game film to coaches, making phone calls, and traveling to offseason camps and one-day clinics, Matt Maxwell (WR/DB), Alex Jamele (WR), and Matt Steeves (C/G) were ready to sign the papers and begin their journeys.
Maxwell was deciding between Assumption College, Southern Connecticut State University, or Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). And for Jamele, it came down to a couple of walk-on offers, but mainly Southern Connecticut State University and Central Connecticut State University.
After careful consideration, both will be seeing more blue, committing to CCSU together to play football for the NCAA Division I Blue Devils.
“Their program is awesome, said Maxwell. “They’re on the rise already, building new facilities. The team is starting to get some good seasons going. Alex and I going there is huge.”
“The biggest part about Central was that they were really outgoing,” said Jamele. “They wanted me as a player. Just their facilities and coaches…their team was really outgoing towards me. I just want to be a part of the rebuilding and everything they have going on right now.”
Maxwell will be attending CCSU as an undecided freshman, but said he is thinking about studying business as his major.
Jamele will also be attending CCSU as an undecided freshman, but said he is thinking about studying business or computer science as his major.
Even though they will be wearing different blue jerseys this coming fall, Maxwell and Jamele said that they have countless memories of Southington football and won’t forget playing for Blue Knight football coach Mike Drury.
“Some of the best feelings that I’ve had were here,” said Maxwell. “And the best games I’ve ever played in, especially the state championships were here. It was an indescribable feeling being there, and I’ll never forget that. All the hard work that I’ve put in is going to help me the rest of my life.”
“I’ll never forget my high school career here…those two state championships and scoring some touchdowns,” said Jamele, who currently holds the state record for touchdown receptions for a single season (29 in 2013) and career (50). “He started coaching when we were freshmen and was our coach for four years. He’s really been an inspiration throughout the whole four years. He’s really a role model to everyone in this program. He’s a great guy. He’s helped me throughout this whole process and I’m really going to miss him next year.”
Steeves will not be teammates with Jamele or Maxwell next season, but he said that playing for Drury helped prepare him for the next level.
“Coach Drury always pushed everyone, especially me personally,” he said. “When I came in as a sophomore to the varsity program, I was pretty overweight and slower. He always got on me about getting my weight down and working my hardest. He engrained that work-hard-mentality into me. I could never repay him for that. He’s been a fantastic coach throughout my high school football career.”
At the end of the day, it came down to two schools for Steeves: NCAA Division II Bentley University and NCAA Division I Bryant University. He went with the Bryant Bulldogs.
“I knew that they had a fantastic academic program, especially for what I want to do,” said Steeves. “And when I combine that with the football piece, you have a program that is incredible and on the rise. I can’t say enough about them. The campus was great. The guys were great.”
Steeves plans to study actuarial mathematics and finance.
Southington football coach Mike Drury admired the consistency and effort that Maxwell, Jamele, and Steeves have put into everything they’ve done in high school.
“All three of these guys didn’t just do it on Friday nights or Saturdays,” said Drury. “They did it everyday in practice too. They have great talent and tremendous grit. There are a lot of kids at the next level that have talent, but what these kids will bring to the table is the work ethic…the want to do better and the want to be better. And when you put that together with talent, you’re going to have a special player. That’s the message I try to get across to these coaches. These are the type of young men that you’re going to be getting.”
Maxwell, Jamele, and Steeves are leaving a program that has compiled a 34-2 record, since their arrival to playing varsity football for the Blue Knights.
“I have a great relationship with these guys,” said Drury. “We’ve put a ton of hours in together, not just during the season, but during the offseason as well. It starts in December or January after the season and it goes throughout the entire year. You get to see them develop as young men. It’s not always easy. It’s not always smiles and all that good stuff. But I’ll remember doing something great, while enjoying our time and accomplishing it together.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.