MANALAPAN – Joe Sellmeyer is a 6-foot-2, 275-pound standout guard who plays for Manalapan High School, a place where the offensive line is a always a point of emphasis within the Braves’ run-heavy, Power-I scheme.
Behind ninth-year head coach Ed Gurrieri and longtime offensive line coach Joe Tetley, Manalapan’s offensive line is always a focal point, no matter who graduates and who is returning. To understand how good the unit is year and year out, just know that the Braves have had a 1,000-yard rusher each season since 2003, most recently with Imamu Mayfield rushing for over 1,800 yards last fall.
Gurrieri believes Sellmeyer, who says he has lost about 50 pounds since the end of last season to become more nimble and agile as a lineman, is a special one. Rarely does Gurrieri mince words, whether he is dealing with the media or his own team, so when he talks a kid up, it’s important to take him at his word.
“He is a dominant football player,” Gurrieri said. “When you think about Manalapan High School, you think about all the really good offensive linemen to come through here, he’s got a chance to be the best. He’s got great feet, he’s explosive off the ball and he plays with leverage.
“He’s a National Honors Society student and a quiet kid, but when the whistle blows and the ball is snapped, he’s a mean junkyard dog. He’s got every intangible you want.”
Sellmeyer comes into this season with fanfare off of last season when Manalapan finished 11-1 and won its first NJSIAA Central Group V title in its fourth straight trip to a sectional final. His maturation from promising sophomore to dominant senior was not drastic, but steady.
As a sophomore, Gurrieri recalls that Sellmeyer was already a good blocker and he could see that the kid had the tools, but it was all about technique, not to mention strength to play the position for a program that has blossomed into one of New Jersey’s public-school powers.
Two years later, everything has come together for Sellmeyer, who says he has a scholarship offer from Bryant in addition to interest from Ivy and Patriot League schools at the moment.
“I was at almost 320 last year, but I just feel so much more better conditioned and able to last longer in a game,” Sellmeyer said. “That’s exactly what Manalapan is. We’re a fourth-quarter team and we like to lean on people at the end of a game.”
“The strength and his work in the weight room came together and now, he’s actually lost some weight,” Gurrieri said. “He’s stronger, he’s faster, more explosive and his technique has gotten a lot better.”
Sellmeyer is aided by the fact that there will be continuity along the offensive line as the entire unit returns. He will be joined by Jake Levine, Mitch Trabb, Anthony Tardogno and Reily Radosevich.
Mayfield is gone to graduation and Manalapan will be breaking in a new quarterback with the graduation of two-year starter Dan Anerella. With that, the offensive line becomes even more important. Gurrieri and his staff are high on senior running back Marcus Salinas to replace Mayfield, while the quarterback competition had four candidates when training camp opened.
Either way, Salinas has limited varsity experience, as will whoever wins the quarterback job. That means Sellmeyer and his fellow lineman will be called upon to ease the burden on both players.
“We work well together,” Sellmeyer said. “We did last year and we feel like we’re the group that’s going to lead this team to another state championship.
“I’ve had the honor of playing with such great players throughout the years and this year, with the line returning, we feel like we have a great opportunity in front of us.”