“He just really wants to play Division I football,” says the mother of a high school junior checking out at SuperFresh. “That is his dream, and if you’re rolling your eyes because you think it’s more my dream, perhaps you're right.”
Let's face the cold, hard facts. Most high school football players are not getting a Division I scholarship from one of the teams that play at that level. Beneath Division I is the animal formerly known as IAA (where the University of Delaware calls home) and those schools give out money but rarely a total financial package and Division II (West Chester) which can also give money without tapping into some grant from a deceased English professor.
The majority of hard rock high school players who want to keep playing focus on Division III level football and hope the financial aid office can package them from some grant money and need-based low interest loans. The bottom line is, most small private colleges cost twice as much as the University of Delaware and by the time free money is figured out, the family is left with a bill where Delaware starts.
Many players are about playing, not about the money, leaving the packaging to parents and coaches but a harsh reality settles in quickly. If you want to play Division III football at a school like Wesley, Salisbury, Widener or McDaniel, you better have some of your own money because if you come up short after packaging, you're not matriculating on campus.
The four programs mentioned above can see more than 150 athletes try out for the football team. It is mind-boggling, and a percentage of those players can play anywhere in the country at any level. Football is a collision sport; it’s about bringing it, about power, speed and explosion. You will never hear a successful Division III coach say, “He is really too good to play here. We don’t have enough football on our schedule to challenge his talents.”
The hard facts are that any athlete who can earn a starting position at schools like Wesley, Salisbury, Widener and McDaniel and keep it is one heck of a football player.
Photos sprinkled throughout this article are of deep downstate athletes who are showing up on local Division III rosters. The Cape Gazette will track their seasons to see who gets onto the field; a few may even score a touchdown or two.
Salisbury plays at Wesley at 1 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14. The very best of Division III football will be on display.