Maurice Ffrench, a rising senior running back and cornerback from New Brunswick High School, announced his nonbinding commitment to the University of Pittsburgh via Twitter on Thursday night.
“Truly blessed and happy to announce that I will be continuing my journey at the University of Pittsburgh,” French tweeted from his personal account.
Four days earlier, the 6-foot, 180-pound Ffrench, in a bit of creative foreshadowing, tweeted “think I found home” beneath a picture of himself silhouetted in front of a Jan. 10, 1977 Sports Illustrated cover featuring the headline “PITT IS IT” with Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett and teammates celebrating a Sugar Bowl victory that cemented the Panthers a national title.
think i found home 👀 pic.twitter.com/5jar5ddwke
— ⚡F L V S H⚡ (@Jiggy_MF6) June 22, 2015
“I just like their coaching staff,” Ffrench told Panther-Lair.com. “I have a good relationship with all of them. Even without an offer I felt like I was already going there.”
MyCentralJersey.com football analyst Marcus Borden, a member of the NJSIAA and New Jersey Football Coaches Association halls of fame, who got a solid look at Ffrench last fall in preseason and covered New Brunswick’s thrilling 27-21 overtime win against Freehold Township in which Ffrench caught a 26-yard touchdown pass on a fade pattern for the game-winner, said “Maurice is a playmaker.”
“I knew there would be a part of the game where they were going to go to him to make a big play, and they did,” Borden said. “It came on the final play where he caught a pass one-on-one to win the game. He is an athlete that can play multiple positions, but he’s a guy I could see playing wide receiver or defensive back (in college). He could make an impact in many areas.”
According to New Brunswick head football coach Don Sofilkanich, Ffrench received scholarship offers from Villanova, Buffalo and Central Connecticut. Ffrench reportedly also held an offer from Army.
Sofilkanich said Ffrench had attended prospect camps at Rutgers and Temple and was scheduled to visit Boston College next. He said Ffrench was recruited as a cornerback and wideout.
“I think he’s got some interest as an athlete with the ability to play on both sides of the ball,” Sofilkanich said earlier this week of Ffrench, whose HUDL profile lists his 40-yard dash time at 4.48 seconds.
“He’s got some very good offers on the table from some quality schools. He’s in a great situation.”
Ffrench, who scored 13 touchdowns and amassed nearly 1,200 yards from scrimmage last season while being named All-Greater Middlesex Conference, is the first player from the resurgent New Brunswick football program to earn a Division I scholarship since Dontae Weaver signed a National Letter of Intent with Temple five years ago.
Weaver was one of 16 Division I scholarship players former New Brunswick head coach John Quinn groomed during his eight years at the high school, including current New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas and former Carolina Panthers receiver Dwayne Jarrett. Quinn’s teams compiled a 68-17 record and won three sectional championships.
“I think it’s been a while here since there’s been a Division I guy,” said Sofilkanich, who helped two-way lineman Samuel Pierce, a recently graduated New Brunswick senior, land at Monmouth University, which created a financial package that will allow Pierce to attend the Big South Conference school.
“I think it’s good for the other kids to see how the (recruiting) process works and really to get our program more exposure and to get back in the right direction.”
Sofilkanich, a longtime assistant under Quinn, who left New Brunswick for Elizabeth at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign, took over the Zebras last fall. He inherited a program that compiled a 2-36-3 record in the four previous years combined including a 28-game losing streak that extended from the 2009 season finale until October 2012.
With Ffrench leading the way, New Brunswick went 3-7 last season against a schedule that included seven NJSIAA playoff qualifiers.
Upon the advice of his football coaches, Ffrench ran track at New Brunswick this past spring, and placed second last month in the Group III 100-meter dash, clocking in at 11:22.
“I’m shocked that I made it this far,” Ffrench said of his performance. “This is my first year ever running track. All of this is new to me so I wasn’t expecting anything. I just wanted to place.”
Ffrench told ScarletReport.com analyst Sam Hellman last spring that “the thing (colleges) should know about me is that I work hard and I have speed. I want to play receiver, but wherever coaches want to put me, I’ll play.”
Sofilkanich said earlier this week that he has been meeting with Ffrench and the star player’s mother to discuss college choices.
“The biggest thing I told Maurice is stay level-headed throughout the process,” Sofilkanich said. “Enjoy it, but understand, keep your feet on the ground. Sit down and talk about it as a student-athlete with the idea if you weren’t playing football, would you still make the same decision (to attend a specific school).”
Ffrench is the seventh commitment Pittsburgh has received for its 2016 class.
“He’s a very hard worker and has shown leadership ability,” Sofilkanich said of Ffrench, who was a team captain last season. “He brings energy to what he does. Maurice is a very versatile athlete.
“He’s a good player, a hard worker and those are the things that are important.”
— ⚡F L V S H⚡ (@Jiggy_MF6) June 26, 2015
Staff writer Greg Tufaro: firstname.lastname@example.org