LONG BRANCH, N.J. – The similarities are too stunning to ignore.
It was seven years ago at Middletown North that Shilique Calhoun, a 6-5, 220-pound defensive end/tight end, signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at Michigan State, largely because he was so impressed with then-Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.
And on Wednesday, Kaymar Mimes, Calhoun’s brother, sat in the library at Long Branch High School, with the 6-5, 220-pound defensive end/tight end officially announcing that he’s bound for Pittsburgh to play for Narduzzi, now the Panthers’ head coach.
Who knows if Mimes will follow Calhoun’s path to the NFL, with the three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection now an outside linebacker with the Oakland Raiders. But there’s no denying the parallels in their respective journeys early on.
“(Calhoun) said he’s really proud of me, especially considering the school I’m going to and the relationship he has with the coach and knowing the hands I will be in,’’ Mimes said. “He actually called me this morning and was like, `Are you ready? Are you hyped?’ So he’s really happy.’’
Mimes was one of four Green Wave athletes in attendance, including Kevin Porch, Mimes’ teammate on their NJSIAA Central Group III championship team last fall, who will play at Stonehill College, Maya Daniels, who will play women’s soccer at Rutgers, and Brianna Hills, who will play women’s soccer and run track at Georgian Court.
Mimes was poised to sign with Rutgers in December. But when Pitt realized what was happening, they turned up the heat and Mimes reopened his recruitment.
“Just a guy that we didn’t think was going to sign until February, so we weren’t really going crazy in December with recruiting him,’’ Narduzzi said. “And then all of a sudden at the last minute we hear that he’s possibly going to sign with somebody in December, and we’re like whoa, whoa, whoa. So we slowed the process down, got back in there at the last second, really put a halt to the marriage. We were at the front doors of the church, and we locked the church doors up and said, no, there’s no wedding here today. Just kind of ended that whole picture, and really got back in it to the point we could get Kay here on campus.
“So we stopped the marriage, and we married him ourselves. The relationship with him and his family go back a long way, and that’s where the trust really started.’’
Long Branch football coach Dan George has watched Mimes develop as a player and a person over the past three years, and made it clear he’s not getting this opportunity simply because of his pedigree.
“Physically he was blessed with special attributes size-wise but he has done a tremendous amount of stuff to make him a much better football player, otherwise he would not have had the attention he did,’’ George said. “He had six or seven BCS offers by major universities and it was a hard decision for him in the end.
“He is a great student and I think he is a great football player and they go hand-in-hand. He works his tail off in the classroom and he works his tail off in the weight room, running and at practice.’’
It was after the 2013 season that Calhoun had a chance to leave Michigan State and enter the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, but opted to return to school to finish his degree. He was eventually selected by the Raiders in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
That’s the route Mimes has his sights set on, as well.
“I do want to get my degree as well, because academics are really important for me,’’ he said. “And once I get that I want to go right off and try to make history.’’
The last time Mimes was on the football field, Long Branch was winning its first state sectional title in 18 years, using a 2-point conversion in overtime to secure a dramatic victory over Freehold in the NJSIAA Central Group IV title game at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Now Mimes has his mind set on helping the Panthers win an ACC championship.
It’s worth noting that Michigan State won the Big Ten title in 2013.
Added Mimes: “My time at Long Branch has been incredible. Now I can’t wait to begin this next phase of my career.’’