SUMMIT, N.J. - The Summit High School Football team had many accomplishments to be thankful for during the 2012 season. Aside from finishing the season a perfect 12-0, with a NJSIAA state championship, the Hilltoppers announced on Wednesday that four of their student-athletes will be competing at NCAA Division I football programs.
Place-kicker Mike Badgley, linebacker Nick Liberato, running back/linebacker AJ Iarussi, and defensive back Seth Ryan each signed national letters of intent to play in college football's highest level - the Bowl Championship Series Sub-Division.
"Its outstanding," Summit Athletic Director Mike Sandor said. "Four outstanding young men, so I couldn't be happier for all four of them. They've earned it. They've worked hard for it. I think they're all going to schools where they can be successful, both academically and athletically."
Badgley signed with the University of Miami in Florida, where he will immediately compete for a starting position for head coach Al Golden's ACC team. The Hurricanes finished the 2012 season with a 7-5 record, however they did not participate in a bowl game due to a self-imposed ban.
"Its obviously a great opportunity, a bunch of guys from the football team getting to play Division I football," Badgley said. "The opportunity is there [to play at Miami right away], but I have to work for it and really show that I want the spot. I have to earn my place there."
Badgley is a three-sport athlete. Aside from football, he plays varsity hockey and lacrosse, winning three state championships with still two more opportunities to gain a fourth. No Summit athlete has ever won four state titles.
"Michael is an outstanding athlete, whether its on the ice or on the field," Sandor said. "Whatever he sets his mind to do, he's accomplished a great deal. He's a joy to watch. He's grown quite a bit in the four years he's been here."
Nick Liberato is the younger son of former Summit head football coach John Liberato. He will compete for an outside linebacker spot at Sacred Heart in the Northeast Conference.
"i'm so excited," Nick Liberato said. "This is what everybody has been working for, everyone on the team who has signing day today. Its just such a good accomplishment that everyone can achieve this and move on to the next level."
Nick joins his older brother Sal in the NEC Football Conference. Sal is currently a wide receiver at Monmouth University.
"I'm very proud of both of them," John Liberato said. "They are tireless workers, not only on the field, but in the classroom as well. I'm very excited. They are scheduled to play each other next year. I want to see if they match-up against each other [in college], Sal is a slot receiver and Nick an outside linebacker."
The two brothers are scheduled to play each other next year, however that could change if Monmouth moves out of the NEC after this academic year.
A.J. Iarussi will play for the University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy League. Aside from football, Iarussi has been accepted to UPenn's nationally-recognized Wharton School of Business.
"Football has always been my passion," Iarussi said. "Playing at the collegiate level is something else entirely in itself. Its always been a dream of mine to keep football going in my life for as long as i can. I feel very fortunate. I'm very proud of myself that I will be a Quaker next year."
Liberato said the sky is the limit for Iarussi's success in college and beyond.
"He's a 4.2 GPA, accepted into the Wharton School of Business to play football at UPenn," John Liberato said. "He's a real blue-chip, Division I athlete. You will see him play in the NFL one day."
Seth Ryan is the son of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. After transferring from a high school in Maryland, Seth Ryan played three seasons as a Hilltopper defender. He will attend Clemson University as a signed walk-on with the Tigers.
"Its actually a huge accomplishment," Seth Ryan said. "I'm very honored that they know who I am and allowed me to have this opportunity."
Coach Liberato is not surprised Seth Ryan got a college offer despite missing his senior season due to NJSIAA transfer regulations.
"Unfortunately, he couldn't participate on the field," John Liberato said. "But he was still part of the team, wearing his jersey and jeans for all of our games. He will have a nice future at Clemson. They gained a very savvy player."