New Castle News

February 7, 2014

Signing up: Five New Castle seniors formally commit to Division I football programs

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Five New Castle High School seniors shared the spotlight yesterday when each committed to an NCAA Division I football program.

The pep band played during a special signing day ceremony in the auditorium. as Jake McPhatter (Ball State University), Malik Hooker (Ohio State University), Julian Cox (Albany University), Stew Allen (Duquesne University) and Drew Allen (Robert Morris University) formally committed to their respective schools. They were cheered by family, friends, coaches and teammates as more than 100 other varsity and junior varsity athletes looked on with pride.

The event, originally scheduled on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, was delayed 24 hours by winter’s latest blast, which caused school to be closed.

But the athletes returned yesterday with pens in hand to sign the official paperwork, which will result in the combined scholarship amount of $850,000.

“It shows what hard work and commitment can get you,” said Ralph Blundo, assistant principal and boys basketball coach, to an audience filled with younger student-athletes who aspire to follow in the footsteps of the five.

“This is just step one in their process,” said Joe Cowart, who coached the young men in football the past two years. “Now they will go on to represent New Castle in five great programs.

“And they are saving their parents the cost of a college education. This is where you want to be.”

Yesterday’s salute was unique in that it marked one of New Castle’s largest number of football scholarship recipients from one class in recent memory.

All five seniors participate in multiple sports for the Red Hurricane. Cox plays baseball, while the other four are integral parts of the undefeated and two-time defending WPIAL champion boys basketball team.

Hooker will be the first New Castle athlete to play football at Ohio State in almost 40 years. Joe Allegro started at safety for Woody Hayes’ Buckeyes in 1976 and 1977. Hooker is projected as a safety on the Ohio State depth chart for next season.

Hooker and McPhatter will continue wearing red as college players. Ohio State dons scarlet and gray while Ball State features Cardinal and White.

“We are celebrating what they accomplished,” Cowart of the New Castle five. “And we hope (the younger athletes looking on) are aspiring to be in their shoes one day.”