On the 45-man Team USA roster for the fourth annual International Bowl, there’s one common element that binds nearly every player on the team – they’re committed to play Division I college football next season.
At worst, they have D-I offers and have eschewed them to play elsewhere. But almost everyone is a nationally recognized high school football player with options abound.
The New York Giants running back David Wilson is an alumnus of the game, which pits some of the premier high school talent from America against like-age players from around the world.
Team USA and Team World play in Austin, Texas, and the game is broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
This year, though, one player on the roster didn’t have a D-I scholarship offer. He’s not on ESPN.com’s list of the top 300 players in the country, and he’s not fielding calls from Alabama coach Nick Saban or LSU’s Les Miles.
But he hopes to be, soon.
Bishop Hendricken senior All-State linebacker Marco DelVecchio played for Team USA earlier this month. He was the only Rhode Island player on the roster, and a fairly unrecognizable face to those who follow college recruiting. Yet, he felt like he belonged, and he played like it too.
“Going down there, I was a little nervous maybe that these kids are better than me,” DelVecchio said. “But my parents always told me to never back down from a challenge. I went down there, competed my hardest and I realized that I can compete with these kids.”’
It might seem unlikely that a player from Rhode Island would find his way onto Team USA, and DelVecchio was just as surprised as anybody.
He attended a regional tryout in Monroe, N.J., over the summer, and did well enough in that to earn an invitation to the national tryout in Austin. He felt like he performed well there, but the talent pool was so deep he wasn’t really expecting to be back.
Then in early fall, he got the call.
“I got a call in late September, early October, that I made the USA team,” DelVecchio said. “I was shocked, because there were a lot of really great athletes down there. Then they put up the roster a couple months later and all these kids have committed to Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Maryland. Just some top schools, SEC, ACC, Big 10. It was crazy playing with them.”
DelVecchio was one of only three players from New England named to the roster. One was middle linebacker Cory Jasudowich from Chesire Academy in Connecticut, who will be attending the University of Connecticut next year. The other was Tevin Montgomery, a defensive tackle from Massachusetts prep school Tabor Academy who will be playing for Boston College next season.
DelVecchio, on the other hand, is headed to prep school at Tabor, where he’ll be one of four postgraduates on the roster there hoping to improve his perception to college coaches everywhere.
He has offers from Wagner and Bryant University, but the dream of playing D-I is strong.
“I don’t want to settle,” DelVecchio said. “I think I can go all the way and hopefully play at a D-I-A school. Hopefully one more year of exposure will help me reach that.”
Playing for Team USA was a big step, as well, and he spent a week from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6 down in Texas. College coaches weren’t able to attend practices, per NCAA rules, but the nationally televised broadcast on Feb. 5 gave them a chance to see DelVecchio first-hand.
Right from the opening kickoff, he made an impact.
“All my friends were going nuts because the first play of the game, we kicked off and it was an onside kick and I got the recovery,” DelVecchio said. “That was real exciting. My friends said I got a lot of TV time.”
DelVecchio initially made the team as a safety, but moved to outside linebacker during the week of practice. He played half the snaps, registering a few tackles while playing for the first time against elite D-I-level competition.
He relished the opportunity.
“I never back down from a challenge,” DelVecchio said. “They may have some size on me – all the linebackers are probably around 6-2, I’m 5-11, maybe six feet. But it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Team USA dominated the game, beating Team World 42-10 at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex. Players like running back Terrell Newby – who is headed to Nebraska – and middle linebacker Ben Gedeon – a Michigan commit – led the way.
Then, DelVecchio returned back to Rhode Island, with the same goal in mind – to play D-I. Heading back home brought an end to a whirlwind circuit of combines and tryouts, not to mention a run to a third straight Super Bowl title with the Hawks. He also played in the National Underclassmen All-American game in Dec. 22 in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and was the only Rhode Island player in that game, too.
And after a season at Tabor, DelVecchio will look at his options again. The hope is that he’ll become the 45th player from the 2013 Team USA roster with a D-I offer.
“I just have to work harder,” he said. “Even if I have to walk on at a D-I-A school, I think that’s just going to make me work harder to earn a spot and eventually a scholarship.”