Madison head football coach Chris Kubik doesn’t make a habit of trying to convince students to play football.
“I’m not a big fan of recruiting kids to play,” Kubik said. “If they want to play, they’ll play.”
However, when Kubik first saw Collin Scarpello grace the halls of Madison High three years ago, he made an exception.
“He had good size and everyone said he was a good kid,” Kubik said. “He was very well liked in the school and got along with other guys on the team. I tried for a couple years to get him on the football field, but he just wouldn’t budge.”
That’s because Scarpello knew that his future was as a lacrosse player. In fact, he’s already signed a national letter to play lacrosse at Rutgers next fall.
“I spent freshman and sophomore years getting ready for lacrosse,” Scarpello said.
But Kubik was relentless and wouldn’t give up in his pursuit of Scarpello.
“Coach Kubik was on me all summer,” Scarpello said. “He told me that playing football would help me in lacrosse. The other guys around me also did a good job of getting me to come.”
As it turned out, Scarpello instantly became a starter on the offensive line on the 2011 team that went 12-0 and captured the NJSIAA North 2 Group II championship, the school’s second straight state crown.
Now, on Saturday morning, as the Dodgers shoot for a three-peat against Mountain Lakes at Kean University, Scarpello will be the lone returning starter on the line from a year ago.
“He’s just a natural athlete,” Kubik said. “With our offensive line, we try to keep it simple, but Collin was able to fit right in last year and earn a starting spot. He’s a big, strong kid who can run. It’s that simple. He was fortunate to have good people next to him. They were veterans who groomed him through. Collin is also extremely coachable and was willing to learn.”
“The team had great leaders like the Finellis (cousins Steve and Michael, who have since graduated) along the line,” Scarpello said. “They made it easier for me.”
But as the 2012 season began, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Scarpello was the lone returning starter.
“I knew that I’d be the only one left and I knew it would be a challenge,” Scarpello said. “Incredibly, I started the season at tight end, but went back inside where I was needed. I’m happy blocking and doing my part.”
Scarpello said that he takes great pride in being the blocker who can spring backs like Justin Goodwin, Shone Register and quarterback Carson Lassiter for big runs. The Dodgers averaged better than 300 yards rushing per game and scored an astounding 50.9 points per contest.
“Our offense is amazing,” Scarpello said. “Not everyone gets to experience an offense like this. It really is exciting. And our backs do it all very humbly. They give all the credit to the line and I like that. We have a lot of pride in our offensive line.”
“He’s amazing to watch,” Kubik said. “Collin is usually the first one in the end zone to congratulate his teammates. When he’s running down there, you can see how natural he is. And when he blocks, he does exactly what I want.”
Scarpello knows that his football career comes to an end in the state title game against the Herd. He will go back to focusing on lacrosse and his college career after the game.
“I’m an attack in lacrosse, so it’s definitely a different concept,” Scarpello said. “But Coach Kubik was right. Football has definitely helped me with lacrosse. What was I thinking before last year? Playing football was the best decision I’ve made in my life.”
Scarpello will head to Rutgers like his talented teammate Goodwin, only to play different sports.
“We talked about being roommates down there,” said Scarpello, who will major in sports management at Rutgers. “I don’t know how that will work out. I know it’s my last year of football, so I want to make sure I enjoy it.”
Kubik can’t sing the praises enough about the only kid he ever convinced to play football.
“He’s such a great kid,” Kubik said. “He’s a tough kid. He broke his thumb against Millburn (on Thanksgiving) and didn’t come out. That’s how tough he is. It’s not shocking, because I think the two sports transcend each other. But for him to move up the ladder so fast is surprising. That’s just a credit to Collin. He wanted it.”