March 13, 2011

Bell, Hugenberg & Maher are anxious and ready

"I'm ready to go. I'm ready to get started,'' says Deandre Bell.

"I get more and more excited just thinking about it,'' says Matt Hugenberg.

"If I had to use a word to describe it for me, I'd say, 'anxious.' I'm really looking forward to it,'' says Gavin Maher.

What these three high school seniors are talking about is arriving at West Point this summer to enter the U.S. Military Academy Prep School. They will be part of the first class to be on the hill now that prep school students will no longer reside at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey.

Until then they will continue working out, studying, and in Hugenberg's case, stocking shelves in a local grocery store.

Bell, a quarterback from Waller, Tex., is running track for his high school team. He's a sprinter. "I'm working on my speed,'' he says. "And I'm throwing the football right now.''

Hugenberg is working on the training schedule he was given by the Army staff. It includes lifting weights four days a week and running twice a week.

"It's really hard,'' says the offensive lineman from Quincy, Ill. "I've never done anything like this, so set up. It's tough. A couple of days ago I did some leg lifts and I'm still really sore from it. I hope it pays off.

"I miss football season. I want it to start up again. I hope I don't have to work at this grocery store too much longer.''

Maher, who lives maybe 15 minutes from West Point - exit 15 on the Palisades Parkway - is about to start his annual trips into New Jersey to work out at a speed training school.

He might go out for track, but he isn't sure yet. "I'm doing more lifting than ever,'' says the defensive end. "I do cardio twice a week, and go hard all week with the weights.''

He lifts on his own with his brothers, but the speed school offers an indoor track where he can work on various aspects of improving. "You do regular speed and explosive speed,'' he says about the routine.

"I start out stretching, form, and warm-ups, then we go 75 percent, 85 percent and then 100 percent. I also work on the treadmill, which is on a 90 degree angle.''

His busy schedule is why he is hesitating going out for spring track, which would be for the first time. One of his best friends, Darius Favors, is trying to convince to team up on the shot put and discus.

Favors, one of the top discus throwers in New York State, has earned a track scholarship. He might have earned a football scholarship if it had not been for last year's track season.

He was air-lifted to a hospital after being hit on the head as someone else was tossing a discus during a practice.

"He was bleeding from the brain,'' Maher says. "I thought my friend was going to die. It was really horrible.''

Favors remarkably returned to play football last season, but suffered a concussion in the first game and was not allowed to play the rest of the year. "He's a tough kid,'' says Maher. "I think if it was anybody else they would have died. He has the second-best discus throw in the state.

"I won't say what happened is in the back of my mind all the time,'' he adds about his friend's accident, "but it does go through my mind every now and then.''

Most of what goes through his mind right now is preparing to be a Black Knight.

But, like some of his future teammates, there should be a little break before heading toward the Bear Mountain Bridge.

"My family usually organizes summer outings,'' he said. "We go to water parks or amusement parks. It's a family thing. But again, I really can't wait.''

He wasn't referring to Great Adventure. Then again, prep school can sometimes be just that.

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