If one were to take a quick glance at the 2013 Penn sprint football roster, it’s clear to see that for coach Bill Wagner, it’s a “Joisey” thing.
Especially the hamlet of Moorestown.
This season, four players will take the field for the Quakers as representatives of the scenic Moorestown landscape, as senior wide receiver Michael Bass, sophomore offensive lineman Ted Sotland, junior offensive lineman Sean McGreevy and freshman fullback Albert McHugh show off their local pride.
In the minds of football fans, New Jersey doesn’t leap out as a banner state where football culture dominates life like in Texas, Florida and Alabama. However, the production and versatility of Penn’s Garden State products speak volumes about the players from Moorestown.
Penn’s players are well aware of the Red and Blue’s miniature “Jersey pipeline.”
“I think that New Jersey is very much a football state, maybe not on the level of states such as Florida and Texas, but still a good one,” Sotland said. “I know in high school, I played against numerous players who are at [Division I] programs currently. I know a good portion of my sprint teammates are also from New Jersey, so that says something about football in New Jersey by itself.”
Maybe it’s not something in the water that allows New Jersey to consistently churn out football players. Maybe it’s the work ethic and gritty attitude instilled by local high school coaches.
“I don’t know if there is anything unique to football talent coming from our state. Football is football no matter where you play it,” Sotland said. “The most important aspect of that is the coaching I received and it’s where I started playing football.”
After all, football does come down to a game of attitude and history shows that a strong-willed player will win more often than not.
Wagner boasts about Moorestown for a number of reasons, including the town’s outstanding education system, supportive parents and fraternal nature of the community. He looks not only at the town’s athletic prowess but the intangibles that it instills in its players.
“Since Penn is so close, the programs that [we] have, doctors, lawyers and business and their parents can afford to send them here,” Wagner said. “There’s schools in other parts of the country like that [but] they have an outstanding tradition in all sports, more recently football,”
Wagner also noted the number of Pro Football Hall of Famers that have come from the area including Penn State grad and former Green Bay Packer Dave “Lefty” Robinson.
Wagner’s roots in his football career are tied to South Jersey at Camden’s Woodrow Wilson High School, where he coached from 1961-1967. Having established his football coaching career there, it’s easy to understand Wagner’s affinity for the region and his inside knowledge of the area.
But his emphasis in recruiting in that area transcends the fact that he coached there in his early years, it’s about his respect for the players and community in Moorestown.
Moorestown and its football culture demonstrate dedication and a sense of community support that has been there for many years.
Players love to play there and players respect their humble beginnings in South Jersey.
Perhaps Sotland sums it up best.
“When someone asks me where I’m from or where I played football before college, I’m always proud to say I’m from Moorestown.”
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