Recruiting starts earlier with each passing year. Much like basketball, scouts are now looking down to the junior varsity and freshmen ranks in search of tomorrow's superstars.
In two towns – Verona and Saddle Brook – the stars of tomorrow are making headlines today. And if you are looking for the kids who will be on college coaches' speed dials in two years, then look no further than Carlo Calabrese and Steve Beauharnais.
Calabrese jumped onto our radar at least year's National Underclassmen Combine, where the 5-foot-11, 185 pound eighth grader clocked a 4.9 in the 40 yard dash. He lived up to expectations in 2005, earning Essex County Freshman of the Year honors from the Star Ledger. Now Calabrese stands 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and is already drawing looks from college recruiters.
"He was our leading tackler as a freshman on a defense that gave up 7 points per game," said Verona assistant Joe Carollo. "And he was our leading tackler, despite not really playing in the first two games. He led the team in sacks with around 6 or 7 sacks, and he also had about 63 solo tackles."
As the alma mater of Anthony Fasano, Verona is no stranger to big time athletes and college recruiters. When Carollo looks into his crystal ball, he sees big things ahead for his star linebacker.
"We definitely think he is a prospect," said Carollo. "I know we are a Group 1 team, and people will say it is easier for a freshman to contribute at that level, and they would probably be right, but he was more than just a contributor. I would simply plan my defense around ways I could use this kid. The first playoff game, he had 8 solo tackles and 2 sacks."
You would be hard-pressed to find a freshman who meant more to his team than Saddle Brook freshman Steve Beauharnais. The 6-foot-2, 200 pound linebacker/running back was all over the field for a young team that struggled all season. Beauharnais led the state in tackles (144), ran for 550 yards, and caught 24 passes.
"He is the best football player that I have ever seen at this age," said Saddle Brook head coach David Schuman. "I have never seen a football player that aware physically as a player, with that type of ability to make plays all over the field. Athleticism combined with the strength and speed. If he continues to work hard and develop, the sky is the limit."
Both players are currently working out with their respective basketball squads. Calabrese will suit up for the Verona baseball team in the spring, while Beauharnais will run track. But first is a trip to this year's National Underclassmen Combine on April 2.