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WR Troy Stellato commits to Clemson ...

Salem native Sean Stellato watched with supreme interest early Friday afternoon to a decision being made nearly 1,500 miles south in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

It was appointment viewing for a family whose lives have been fully entertwined with football to see what premier college football program Stellato’s nephew, Troy, would attend.

Troy, a highly touted four-star wide receiver out of Cardinal Gibbons High School, born in Salem before moving to Florida as an infant, verbally committed to national powerhouse Clemson.

“I fell in love with coach (Dabo) Swinney and what he preaches to his program and what he’s all about,” said Troy, who chose to join the Tigers over Ohio State. “Right when I stepped on campus, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

Troy is ranked the No. 13 wide receiver prospect in the nation in the class of 2021 according to 247 Sports, and held 43 scholarship offers from a slew of elite programs. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound wideout possesses an immense skillset out of the slot, featuring strong, reliable hands as well as breakaway speed — he ran a 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash — which helped him amass 86 receptions for 1,433 yards and 14 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

Even though he became a star in Florida, Troy, who likes to model his game after Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen and New England Patriot Julian Edelman, said his roots are still planted in the northeast.

That’s where Sean made a name for himself, when after starring on the gridiron and the hardwood at Salem High in the mid-1990s, he played both sports at Marist College and in the Arena Football League before becoming a certified NFL sports agent.

“He’s driven to be the best,” Sean said. “A lot of guys are one-dimensional or one-trick ponies. His ability to block he takes extremely serious, film session takes extremely serious and his speed is elite, elite speed… He’s going to have a chance to do something special, and God willing he can stay healthy and just continue to put in the work, which I have no doubt he will.”

Troy’s father, Eric, played a role in Troy’s on-field development and Sean’s oldest brother, Michael, won a Super Bowl title as a coach with St. Mary’s of Lynn.

Continue reading on Boston Herald.

Patriots sign former St. John's Prep and Boston College star Burt

Not many accomplished athletes boast career paths quite as unique as former St. John's Prep football standout Jake Burt. 

After shining in Danvers for four seasons, the physically imposing Burt stayed close to home by committing to another Eagles' program: Division 1 Boston College. Although he battled significant injuries (including two torn ACLs) throughout his time in Chestnut Hill, the versatile weapon worked tirelessly to make his presence felt. He wrapped up his 2019 senior campaign with career-highs in receptions (15) and receiving yards (212) while scoring his second collegiate touchdown. 

But unlike most college athletes, Burt wasn't ready to give up playing the game he loved. 

Sunday afternoon, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound tight end signed an undrafted free agent deal with the New England Patriots. Nearly a decade after his debut at the Prep, Burt's career has come full circle as he's now reached the highest level of competition without straying far from home. 

"I took over as head coach (at St. John's Prep) heading into Jake's senior year; he was one of my first captains," recalled SJP head coach Brian St. Pierre. "He was our best player at the time and I certainly have fond memories of him. I think what's most impressive is he tore his ACL twice in college and continued to fight through it and battle back. So I'm just really happy for him. He's a great kid, comes from a great family and I'm just really pumped for him."

While Burt was unavailable for comment following the signing on Sunday, his agent, Sean Stellato, was eager and happy to speak on his behalf. 

According to Stellato, Burt's three-year deal comes with $80,000 in guaranteed money, one of the highest totals for any undrafted tight end in this year's class. He's now one of five tight ends on the Patriots' current roster that also includes recent third-round draft picks Dalton Keene (Virginia Tech), Devin Asiasi (UCLA) as well as veterans Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo. 

"Jake's skillset and traits are really a testament to his grit and grind through the years and I think the Patriots have a rare ability to go after high-caliber, talented kids that fly under the radar. So it was just a great fit," said Stellato. "We grew up very close to each other so for me to be able to deliver and move this thing forward not only for him, but for all Massachusetts high school football players who have that vision and dream to play in the NFL, is awesome.

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No rookie minicamps means no Malcolm Butler-like stories across the NFL

In a normal year, Matt Beardall wouldn’t have to worry about not getting drafted. As a four-year starting long snapper at Marshall, who was on the Senior Bowl watch list in 2019, Beardall would have certainly been invited by a team to try out at its rookie minicamp the weekend after the NFL Draft. A tryout can lead immediately to a roster spot, or, at minimum, a spot on a team’s emergency backup list.

But 2020 is not a normal year, of course.

While the draft went on as planned last weekend, the pandemic has canceled all practices and on-field work indefinitely. With no rookie minicamps this weekend, undrafted players such as Beardall don’t have an opportunity to compete.

“I’m kind of just waiting to hear a call from a team right now. It kind of sucks,” Beardall said from his home in Merritt Island, Fla. “Just waiting on an opportunity and trusting the whole thing.”

While 256 players got drafted this year, nearly twice as many will sign with teams as undrafted free agents to fill out the 90-man offseason rosters. And hosting tryout players at rookie minicamps has become a significant part of the NFL draft ecosystem, as teams essentially hold competitions for the final few spots on the 90-man offseason rosters.

Last year, the Jaguars signed five tryout players after their minicamp, swapping out five players that they had signed immediately after the draft. The Redskins signed five tryout players as well, and the Bills signed four players. In 2017, the Redskins invited 40 tryout players to rookie minicamp.

Titans receiver Adam Humphries came into the NFL as a tryout player. Same with Buccaneers offensive tackle Demar Dotson. And the most famous tryout player of all may be Malcolm Butler, who was operating the fryolater at a Popeye’s restaurant when the Patriots called him with a tryout opportunity in 2014. Nine months later, he made one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history.

Maybe at some point this spring or summer the NFL will allow teams to open their facilities and host workouts and practices, but that time does not appear to be close. Commissioner Roger Goodell has stressed competitive equity throughout the pandemic and does not want to open facilities until all 32 teams can do it.

Until then, hundreds of undrafted hopefuls can only stay in shape and pray that the tryouts will eventually come.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed that these kids can get a chance if everything opens up and teams run rookie minicamps,” said Beverly-based agent Sean Stellato, who has five rookie clients that he would expect to get tryouts this year. “That’s an important part of the process — getting guys in that had a grade, getting that opportunity to come in there and compete and get an evaluation. If you go in there and open eyes, maybe you don’t sign that weekend, but any injuries, any hiccups off the field, you’re the first one they’re calling.”

It has been a double whammy for under-the-radar prospects who didn’t get invited to the Combine, Senior Bowl, or East-West Shrine Game. Most didn’t get to hold their Pro Days after the NFL shut down all travel March 13, and now they don’t get to showcase their skills at rookie minicamps.

Stellato said that Jason Maher, a tight end/fullback from Division 3 Framingham State, spoke to eight to 10 teams during the pre-draft process. Maher added 20 pounds since his last game in November, and likely would be getting tryouts with multiple NFL teams now.

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Memory of late father stokes Nate Ebner’s Olympic rugby quest

The wristband on Nate Ebner’s right arm bears a powerful message. “Finish Strong,” it says.


Ebner, 27, a special teams standout for the Patriots, already has a Super Bowl ring. Now he’s hoping to help the US team win an Olympic medal in rugby.

 

Long before he thought about stepping foot on the gridiron, Ebner was a rugby prodigy — a two-time MVP of the USA Rugby team at the Junior World Cup and an All-American at Ohio State. He did not play football until his junior year in college.

 

Representing the US at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August, he says, “would be a dream come true,” and a great tribute to his father, who died in 2008.

 

On a late afternoon in Chula Vista, Ebner is dripping with sweat after the two-a-day cardio-laden workouts. Patriots practices were never this exhausting, he says, even in the dog days of August.

 

“You see how long we are running around out there? It’s no joke,” says Ebner. “I don’t know why I put myself through this pain. It’s so painful. See how tired everyone is?”


Players trudge up a hill to the dorms to shower. Ebner, a rookie of sorts, has to carry the blocking pads. But he’s not complaining.

 

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RB Alfred Morris eager for opportunity with Dallas Cowboys

Alfred Morris drove his 1991 Mazda 626 to Valley Ranch in Irving on Wednesday.

 

Though his belongings still are in storage in the Washington, D.C., area, Morris had the car he nicknamed “Bentley” transported to his new home in Dallas-Fort Worth. “I grew up in not the best of situations, so I wasn’t fortunate enough to get a car at graduation,” Morris said. “In college, I had to hitchhike, ride a bike or walk. I just wanted a car. I got tired of relying on other people.

 

“I got this one and took ownership of it, and it just reminds me of what it took to get to where I am today — a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of sacrifice. It reminds me of my struggles to get here.

“That’s my baby. Eventually, I will get another car. Who knows when eventually is.”

Morris has hitched his wagon to the star, signing an incentive-laden, two-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys last month. He could earn up to $5.5 million.

 

“We don’t have a problem earning our money,” Sean Stellato, Morris’ agent, said. “At the same time, we got some guarantees. I think what it really comes down to is the opportunity to put him in the best situation, and I feel his best football is ahead of him.

 

“…There’s something in the water down in Pensacola. The Cowboys had quite a good run with Emmitt [Smith], and Emmitt paved the way for Alfred to have big dreams coming out of Pensacola. It’s exciting to know that he’s going to a place where Emmitt became one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.”

 

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