LaSalle College High School standout football players Sam Brown and Abdul Carter have been best friends since they met as freshmen starting out at the private school's Wyndmoor, PA campus.
"Abdul's one of my best friends," said Brown, a running back who attended grade school at Norwood-Fontbonne Academy in Philadelphia. “We didn't know each other but we played against each other in eighth grade. Our friendship started during freshman year of high school."
Abdul's father Chris informs his son attended James Rhodes Elementary School in West Philadelphia.
“They are best friends,” Chris added.
The two helped the Explorers earn a 5-1 record during 2020, a season shortened because of COVID-19 restrictions.
It is obvious when you talk to Brown and Carter that LaSalle head football coach John Steinmetz has done a great job in developing these two both on and off the field.
“We only played about six games, I think,” Brown said in a recent phone interview. “It was a short season of course, and I feel bad for the seniors because they didn't get as much film as usual. Usually we play about a ten-game season plus a few playoff games. That's 12 or 13 games. So we only got about a half season.”
Brown said he and his teammates practiced on campus this spring as restrictions began to be lifted.
“We're allowed back up there now,” Brown said. “We have some light practices, lifts, things like that.”
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PROGRAMS ARE CALLING THESE TWO
Brown and Carter are being recruited by elite college football programs across America.
Brown has committed to Rutgers University of the Big10 Conference. He has 22 offers on the table.
In Carter's case. recruiting sites list 16 schools that have offered the standout two-way player a football scholarship. The list includes the who's who of Power 5 football.
South Carolina, Syracuse, LSU, Ole Miss, Penn State, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Tennessee, USC, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Ohio State are among the suitors.
At press time Carter has not committed to a program. There is a post from an Ohio State themed football camp in Columbus, Ohio where Carter was having a great showing.
Carter is also a very good basketball player for the Explorers. But football is his future. He is still thinking about getting a jump on his college football career by doing what many prospects do who have the academic chops to pull it off.
So this was not a surprise answer he gave when asked if basketball was still on his radar for this coming season.
“I don't know, I don't know if I'm going to graduate early,” said Carter, who says he is taking enough courses to graduate in January if he chooses to. “I may want to attend college. It is still a question.”
The 6-foot-4, 235 pounder talked about what he is looking for in a college coach and his staff.
“My biggest thing is good coaching,” Carter said. “Are they good men? Are they going to teach me? Are they honorable? Are they trustworthy? That's the biggest thing to me.”
Carter also said the level of hunger a program has for him to play as a freshman will also weigh into his decision on where he plays college football.
BACK TO BROWN AND HIS PLANS
Brown's favorite NFL player from the past is former Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell. Currently Tennessee Titans back star Derrick Henry and Carolina Panthers standout Christian McCaffrey top his list.
Brown's visions of playing running back like these guys against the best in the sport will start in the fall of 2022 for the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, NJ.
“When I visited Rutgers back in March (2020) before COVID hit, I loved it there,” Brown said. “I loved the campus, loved the coaching staff. From that point, I just built a really good relationship with the coaches. I did a bunch of virtual visits and tours with the academic staff, the athletic staff...I fell in love with the school. It felt like the place to be. On top of that, I started seeing the guys who were coming in. Of course you want to go to a school that is bringing in good players as well.“
UNFINISHED BUSINESS ON THE FIELD
Before any of that starts, these two have one goal and that is to leave LaSalle with a state championship.
The Explorers one loss in 2020 was to Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse St. Joe's Prep. The Hawks have won the PIAA 6A state title three consecutive years.
Does Brown think the Explorers have a chance to get over that Prep challenge and go far in 2021?
“Yes we do,” Brown said. “One of the goals I've set and I'm sure Abdul will say the same, for our last year, our goal is to win the state championship. As a team, I feel like that's what we're striving for. But it comes one game at a time.”
Getting accurate high school statistics can be a challenge any season. But during the pandemic, it has been more difficult.
According to public reports, Brown scored four touchdowns against Manheim Township High School in Lancaster, PA winning 35-27 in the team's opener September 18.
In that game Brown rushed 18 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns and added one reception for a 25-yard touchdown.to his big night.
On October 9, Brown rushed 23 times for 110 yards and three scores against Downingtown East.
There is no question the 6-3, 195 pound feature back had a great season and big games against Archbishop Wood, Roman Catholic and Delaware Valley (Milford, PA).
He will be a Power 5 running back playing with and against the best college football has to offer over the next few years.
So it's not selfish to believe that the bigger numbers he puts up, the more wins the Explorers will earn and the closer LaSalle will get to achieving its biggest goals.
Brown wanted to be clear he is answering this question in this light.
“I would say, of course I want to be a thousand-yard rusher,” Brown said. “I want to aim for about 20 touchdowns and also...I know it's not easy...but to get a thousand yards rushing and a thousand yards receiving, that would be nice too. I'm used in the receiving game a lot and I'm a threat there as well.”
What will get LaSalle back on track to start taking back the Catholic League from the Prep and making a run to Hersheypark Stadium this December?
“I would say, from our freshman year until now, they had a really good team,” Brown said. “That's a hard team to stop, especially on the offensive side of the ball.”
Brown is referring to a unit that included quarterback Kyle McCord, a five-star recruit headed to Ohio State and wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr, a four-star recruit also headed to Ohio State.
“But also they had some guys that were strong on the ball defensively,” said Brown, referring primarily to Jeremiah Trotter Jr., a five-star linebacker headed to Clemson. “But I would say with us, it's about getting a good starts. This past year, our first possession (against the Prep) we fumbled the ball (bad snap). Against a team like the Prep, that's something you can't do because they'll take advantage of that.”
Brown talked about some of the offensive linemen he is looking forward to seeing block for him. Obviously he knows this is a Coach Steinmetz call, but these are some of the guys he sees stepping up this fall.
“I'm pretty sure we have two starters coming back,” said Brown, who says he is not leaving LaSalle early and plans to play basketball for the Explorers this year. “Brendan Krug and Ryan Carr are back. A lot of the guys are going to be first-year starters so we're going to be young. But I know Krug and Carr are going to do really well. The whole offensive line is going to do really well. Some of the new guys did play some last year."
Brown said Alan Paturzo was the starting quarterback last year and expects him back to lead the offense.
CARTER'S TAKE ON THE 2021 SEASON
Carter revealed his favorite Eagle right now is Fletcher Cox. His all-time favorite player is former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. Carter also follows Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, plus Titans wide receiver Julio Jones.
Carter says his future in college football will be as linebacker, but believes he could play several positions on offense this fall for LaSalle, including wide receiver, tight end, or even running back.
Will Coach Steinmetz want Carter to play on both sides of the ball in 2021?
“Most likely,” Carter said. “I think that's what we're leaning towards.”
Carter talked about what type of defense the Explorers employ.
“We're more of a zone-based defense,” Carter said. “We're not much of a man-to-man team. You stop the run...we're real big on that. Clog the box a little bit. But I think we'll be able to spread out a little bit more this year.”
He, too, wants nothing less than a title this fall.
“We're expecting a lot this year,” Carter said. “We're expecting a state championship. That's the goal every year. This year we really have a big chance, a great opportunity.”
Carter listed some of his teammates he will lean on for success.
“Chris Thompson (LB), Amir Anderson (WR), offensive lineman Ryan Carr and junior running back Sean McFadden all should be really big for us.” .
How is Coach Steinmetz having an impact on Carter and the upcoming season?
“He's making good changes, hiring more coaches, good coaching, I think he's really serious about this year,” Carter said. “He really thinks we've got a shot.”
REMEMBERING A FRIEND AND TEAMMATE
The week before the Explorers 2020 opener against Manheim Township, Isaiah Turner, a senior offensive lineman, died suddenly while leaving a practice session.
On October 26, 2020, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Turner died of a sickle cell crisis, quoting a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s office.
It was a tragic loss for the LaSalle College High School family and the entire Delaware Valley sports community.
Brown was asked if there was a feeling to dedicate the season to their teammate.
“Yes, especially for the seniors,” Brown said. “When that happened like a week or two before the start of the season , that was really hard on the guys. We wanted to, of course, play. That first game was the start of it. We had a really good season going 5-1.”
Carter said Turner is always on his mind.
“I still think about it a lot,” Carter said. “It was sad what happened. Every game we still keep him in our prayers.”
As you can see, Carter and Brown, best friends, well rounded, and on the right path. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii