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Around half of Penn sprint football's players come from New Jersey or Pennsylvania. One of those is sophomore linebacker Sam Smallzman, who played against a number of his current teammates back in high school. 

Credit: Arabella Uhry , Arabella Uhry

Much like the size of the players, the sphere of recruitment is much smaller for Penn sprint football than with many other sports.

Since the team largely eschews the nationwide recruiting effort of many other Penn teams, most players hail from the metropolitan Philadelphia and South Jersey area. Consequently, many of teammates first met as high school rivals.

“I knew [junior] Zack [DiGregorio] before we got here,” said senior Pat Boyle, who played with the fellow Trenton-area native in a high school all-star game. “I played against [sophomore linebacker] Sam Smallzman ... and [senior defensive back] Chris Colavita and I scrimmaged against each other.”

Asking around the locker room, you’ll hear similar stories from the majority of the team.

“[2016 graduate] Jeff Barsamian and Zack DiGregorio were both captains for my high school,” added sophomore linebacker Sam Smallzman, a Princeton High School graduate. “I looked up to them as an underclassman in high school and actually found out about sprint football program through them.”

This represents a common theme. Since sprint football is a niche sport — there are only seven teams in the entire country — and has no formal recruiting process, most players hear about the sport through word of mouth.

“One of the coaches here, coach [Rich Kuzy] is the uncle of one of my friends from back home,” sophomore linebacker Tom Console said. “I had already gotten into Penn, and he said, ‘my uncle coaches here, you should give the program a look.’ I didn’t even know the program existed, but I looked it up and it looked like a great opportunity.”

“A lot of the guys were getting looks from some small D-III schools, but decide to come here for the academics,” Smallzman added. “It’s perfect. You get the best of both worlds – a great school experience and the football.”

Per the Penn Athletics website, 23 of the team’s 43 members hail from the states of Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Each of them seems to have a story to tell about a current teammate — not all of which are rosy.

“Tom Console and Kevin Lajeunesse were crosstown rivals [at Philly area schools St. Joseph’s Prep and La Salle High School, respectively],” Smallzman said, laughing. “At first they wouldn’t even really talk to each other. They had major beef.”

Console, however, was quick to downplay the rift.

“It’s been a few years, and now we’re teammates. We’re just trying to win a championship.”

“Now they’re best buds,” Smallzman clarified.

So, having heard about the program through their local football nexus, members of the team are eager to pay it forward to the next generation of sprint football prospects.

“I’ve recommended it to a few [teammates from back home]. I know a few of them have the academics for Penn,” Smallzman said. “I know I heard about it from upperclassmen like Jeff and Zack, so I definitely try to reach out to the younger players.”

In any case, members of the team seem to share a camaraderie rarely seen among even typically tight-knit college sports teams.

Perhaps that’s because, for many, their Penn sprint football teammates are not just college teammates — often, their history goes back a bit farther than that.

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