Summer not much of a vacation for many rising football seniors

For top high school football players heading into their senior year, summer hasn’t been much of a vacation. They didn’t focus on fun. They used the extra time free from classwork to solidify their positions with potential college coaches and to prepare to make a difference for their teams this fall.

Some managed to slip in a little time to relax, but even then, a vacation trip usually came with some level of workouts.

The summer before the senior year often solidifies which level of college football a player will move on to a year from now. Franklin coach Anthony Burgos, last fall’s All-Metro Coach of the Year, said this summer is often when players realize which of three recruiting categories they fall into — the no-brainers, the in-betweens or the dreamers.

“For some, it’s the final stamp of approval,” Burgos said, “and for some of them, it’s coming to the realization that some schools are not going to be in their options.”

The top recruits, the no-brainers, already have lots of scholarship offers.

“The second-tier kids, the kind of kids in between — are they going to be 1A (Football Bowl Subdivision) kids or 1AA (Football Championship Subdivision) kids — those are the kids that Maryland might want to come to camp with the idea that he could get the 1A scholarship or if he doesn’t get the scholarship, he’ll be a 1AA kid,” Burgos said. “Then you’ve got the dreamers who go out there and attend the big camps and the great thing for them is a lot of Division II and Division III schools are present at the camps. They actually work the camps for those schools, so those kids go to Maryland, work out and the idea is they get a shot to go to a Shepherd or a Division III school sees them.”

As most public school teams begin practice Wednesday and private school teams start Thursday, the members of the Class of 2018 are ready to see the hard work pay off and put a lasting final impression on their high school football days.

Here’s a look at what some of the area’s rising football seniors did on their summer vacations.

Randy Fields, St. Frances

The All-Metro wide receiver spent a week at home in Delaware early in the summer before returning to board at St. Frances and focus on working out. Aiming to be one of the defending Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference champions’ workhorses this fall, he said he worked on everything.

“Summer vacation for a football player is vacation, but in my opinion, it’s up to you — do you want to put in the work and get an edge on everybody else or do you take vacation and come back and start over again?” Fields said. “If you want to be good, you have to take it into your own hands to get better.”

Fields had already laid the groundwork with about a dozen college offers, so he took only a couple of college visits. On Sunday, he committed to play for West Virginia.

Ryan Sedgwick, Arundel

Named the top quarterback in Anne Arundel County last season by the coaches, Sedgwick threw for 2,657 yards. Those connections with his receivers don’t just happen.

In addition to working out with the team three days a week, Sedgwick fit in as much extra time with the receivers as he could.

“We just like to meet up once or twice a week and get routes in and they can catch some balls. That’ll help because every receiver’s different. You just have to get used to how they play,” said Sedgwick, who also worked out at the Quarterback Factory once a week and visited colleges around the area.

He managed a couple of days in Ocean City, but said, “I don’t need too much. Football is my getaway. … It’s fun for me.”

Jack King, Century

As a big man, the offensive and defensive lineman spent some of his summer at power-lifting camps, working on form and learning about nutrition. He also spent a lot of time working out with the Knights, including at a team camp at Shepherd, and took trips to visit Salisbury and Coastal Carolina.

Interested in marine science and microbiology, he also fit in an internship at the National Aquarium in Baltimore as an exhibit guide, talking to visitors about the various displays he manned around the aquarium. He worked on finding the right fit for his academic interests and his level of football.

“I’m looking at DII, DIII schools that have what I want academically, said King, who’s 6 feet 1 and 245 pounds, “and I’m trying to improve my speed and overall skill in more positions to make myself more of a utility player, so I can play up to five different positions. ... DII and DIII schools don’t have the manpower that the DI schools have, so they end up taking a lot of talent that maybe can’t make it at a DI school because they’re not good enough at one position but they can be molded into a utility player.”

Ugo Obasi, Milford Mill

Obasi did manage to fit in a trip to Myrtle Beach between workouts, camps and college visits, but he still ran on the beach every day.

“Summer vacation for a football player is just hard work, just burning,” the wide receiver said. “You have to put in the work so it shows during the season. It’s not as fun as the games and the season would be, but during the summer and during the offseason is actually where the work gets put in so you see the outcome during the season.”

The 6-foot-1 Obasi aimed to add 20 pounds to his 175-pound frame from his All-Metro junior season, so he spent a lot of time in the weight room. He gained 11 pounds by the beginning of August. He also spent time working with the Millers’ freshman quarterback and went to camps at Penn State and Bowie, capping his summer with a commitment to play for Virginia.

PJ Mustipher, McDonogh

One of the top defensive tackles in the country, Mustipher began his summer at one of the most prestigious invitation-only recruiting events in the country, The Opening in Oregon, and finished it by committing to Penn State on Monday.

In between, the 6-foot-5, 290-pound All-Metro lineman spent a lot of time in the weight room, working out with his Eagles teammates and making a few college visits.

“For football players, summer vacation is never really summer vacation,” Mustipher said. “You always have to work out and lift and do conditioning, but I did try to relax whenever I could. I went up to see my brother (Sam at Notre Dame) before The Opening and after The Opening, I spent a week with him. I also went to Miami and enjoyed my vacation with my family down there this past week. Even with that, you always want to be prepared for the season.”

Clay Harris, Havre de Grace

Last season’s All-Metro kicker, Harris tied state records with four field goals in a game and 13 for the season. This fall, he aims to break those records.

In addition to working weekly with kicking instructor Desi Cullen, Harris went to five kicking camps around the Mid-Atlantic, including Maryland, Towson and Delaware. He finished as the No. 1 field-goal kicker at the Towson camp and No. 4 at the Maryland camp. He also hit the weight room and worked on his kicking game by himself, but only a day or two a week, he said, so he didn’t wear out his leg.

“I missed a few field goals last year that I should make now, because I’ve been training with [Cullen],” he said. “I’ll pretty much just see what comes and do my job as part of the team, and I guess hopefully break the record if I get enough opportunities.”

Jared Lewis, Dunbar

The Poets quarterback went to camps around the Mid-Atlantic and drew the attention of several Division I college coaches. He looks for a great senior year to bring him some offers.

“They just want to go off the beginning of my senior year to see if I have a productive first few games,” said Lewis, of a few potential offers.“I really don’t think you have a summer vacation when you’re dedicating almost every day of the summer to working.”

Throughout the summer, he took on a weekly workout program overseen by his father. He spent part of almost every day in the weight room, had a couple of days of full workouts and worked on passing three days a week. He also worked out with the Poets and spent time developing that all-important chemistry with the receivers.

Alan Gorny, Howard

The 6-2, 280-pound offensive guard lifted a lot of weight, did a lot of running and attended college camps, including several Ivy League camps. As a team captain, however, he mainly focused on team development to help the Lions get back to the state semifinals. He helped organize a lot of captains’ practices and also had the team over many times to swim in his family’s pool.

“Especially in the offseason, team bonding is so important,” Gorny said. “How close our team is really affects how we play.”

The entire team went to Shepherd’s camp, but Gorny brought back drills from the other camps he attended, including at Harvard and Penn, that he shared with coaches, believing they will help the Lions grow as a team.

He also got away for a while, taking a trip with his father to Azerbaijan to learn about his family’s heritage.

Daesean Winston, Archbishop Spalding

A linebacker and wide receiver for last year’s MIAA A Conference runner-up, Winston took his vacation to Florida during spring break. At that point, he didn’t have a college offer, so he knew he would be too busy for a trip this summer.

He packed his days with weightlifting, 7-on-7 tournaments with his Cavaliers teammates and workouts on his own and with his teammates as well as attending camps at Temple and Pittsburgh. The hard work paid off when he committed to Temple, but he’s looking for the effort to pay off in another way, too.

“I think summer is a time to go to work,” he said. “You’ve got to work hard in the offseason, especially in the summer when you’re off of school and don’t have anything else to do, so you get better, so you can go undefeated in the fall.”

katherine.dunn@baltsun

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