Despite being the only football playing high school in Middlesex County whose boro/township does not have a Pop Warner program, Highland Park has managed to produce some great skill position players over the years that have gone on to play on the next level.
To compensate for the lack of a feeder program, Highland Park football head coach Rich McGlynn acts as a recruiter, so to speak, trying to get kids to come out for the football team, and he starts this process at a young age.
For years he’s hosted Monday night football in the town free of charge for the youth, along with Tuesday and Thursday sessions for a couple months in the late winter for kids in grades 3-6.
“We’ve been doing this for about eight years now,” McGlynn said. “We’re trying to promote the game of football anyway we can in that sense.”
McGlynn, a physical education and health teacher at Highland Park Middle School, gets to really talk and meet these kids by the time they’re in sixth grade.
He gets a list of roughly 80 kids each year that he feels are potential football players and writes each of them a personal letter talking about the program, the Highland Park football history, and how important football is and how it could help you later in life.
His goal is to get 50 percent of those 80 kids to come out for the football team.
“Basically you become a recruiter in the offseason to continue to trying to promote the game,” McGlynn said. “I think that’s what’s really helped me get more kids out this past year, is constantly talking to them. It’s behind the scenes things that I’m sure a lot of coaches do, but I find it a necessity for me because I don’t have a Pop Warner program, I don’t have a feeder program the kids are starting at a young age. They’ve got the taste of football in their mouth, but by the time they get to high school they’ve already invested in some other sport for 4-5 years and they’re going to continue with that sport.”
McGlynn’s starting center Kameron Petkov is a player he swayed to football from soccer, a sport that has really taken off in Highland Park.
Petkov, a 5-10, 210 lb. sophomore, was a soccer goalie for six years before trying out football last year as a freshman.
Petkov’s known McGlynn since he was about five years old and said he was very convincing and a big factor in him choosing football, noting the dedication and outside involvement McGlynn has in the program.
“Coach McGlynn is always the first person to always contact everybody,” Petkov said. “He works day and night just calling people and trying to get people to practice, and if (they’re) not at practice he’ll go to their house and try to pick them up, and if they have problems at home and can’t get to practice he’ll give them rides and offer them support.”