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New Jersey natives succeeding at the next level in college football

The words High School Football typically give people the image of two teams battling on a Friday night in the warm weather of Texas, Florida or California. But since 2000 New Jersey has been making a name for itself on the national high school football scene.

The rise of Don Bosco Prep as a national powerhouse turned the eyes of the nation to New Jersey’s football talent and ushered in an era of New Jersey’s best playing at the high Division I level and eventually in the NFL. In the past 15 years, Jersey has produced first round draft picks like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Brian Cushing, Jabrill Peppers, and Rashan Gary, and hidden gems like the Patriots’ Chris Hogan.

Currently, four quarterbacks who played high school football in New Jersey are starting at the Power Five level and two others are “competing” starting jobs. Ex-Shore Conference stars Kenny Pickett and Anthony Brown are the signal callers at Pittsburgh and Boston College, respectively. Former Bergen Catholic quarterback Jarrett Guarantano is the starter at Tennessee, and former Don Bosco QB Tommy DeVito starts at Syracuse. Two more former New Jersey quarterbacks, Artur Sitkowski and Brandon Wimbush are splitting time as the starter at Rutgers and UCF, respectively.

Photo via BC Eagles

Pitt’s Pickett, a 2017 Ocean Township High School alumnus, set a career high in passing yards with 372 in last Saturday’s loss to Penn State and has thrown the ball all over the field through three games this year, tallying 878 total passing yards. While Pickett’s numbers are excellent, his team is 1-2, losing to nationally ranked Virginia and Penn State.

2016 Saint John Vianney grad Anthony Brown and Boston College performed the best through the first two weeks among his Jersey peers. The Eagles have a 2-1 record, including a bad loss to Kansas and an impressive win over Virginia Tech, thus far. Through three games, Brown has 633 passing yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for a touchdown and has a receiving score on a trick play.

Guarantano is the rare “yankee” to start at an SEC school and has put up decent numbers, 629 passing yards, seven touchdowns, while his team has suffered embarrassing losses to Georgia State and BYU at home. DeVito, the last quarterback coached by the legendary Greg Toal at Bosco, stepped into Eric Dungey’s massive shoes this year as the new starter at Syracuse. Syracuse is 1-2 so far with blowout losses to Maryland and No. 1 Clemson and Devito has struggled, throwing for 678 yards and three touchdowns but also throwing four costly interceptions.

Wimbush started the first game of the season for Central Florida as a grad transfer from Notre Dame but has not seen the field in the team’s last two games. UCF’s coaches insist, though, that Wimbush has not lost his starting job and will start again this season. Former Old Bridge High School quarterback Sitkowski saw time in the second half of Rutgers’ loss to Iowa as starter McLane Carter left the field with an injury.

Despite the peaks and valleys faced by New Jersey’s starting QBs in college, it is still a remarkable feat that a state with a relatively small population such as this has so many players in the mix at the next level.

Matthew Collins can be reached at or on Twitter @Matt98533108.

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