When Syracuse coach Doug Marrone took over at his alma mater two years ago and looked at the roster, he had to re-read it more than a few times.
Where were all the players from New York City?
“We always had a large majority of players from here,” said Marrone, a Lehman graduate from The Bronx.
Thanks to Marrone and expert city recruiter John Anselmo, the Orange’s defensive backs coach, they do now.
On Wednesday Syracuse inked four elite city players: Fort Hamilton’s Brandon Reddish and Ivan Foy, Christ the King’s Terrel Hunt and Archbishop Stepinac’s Donnie Simmons. Last year’s team returns defensive tackle Jason Bromley (Flushing), offensive tackle Michael Hay (Holy Cross), wide receiver Steven Rene (Canarsie), and linebacker Mario Tull (Xaverian). Former Cardinal Hayes’ wide receiver Jeremiah Kobena and Lehman linebacker Siriki Diabate will also be on the roster after spending time at junior college or prep school.
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Fort Hamilton's Brandon Reddish is one of four locals who signed with Syracuse on Wednesday.
Paul J. Bereswill
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, after winning the Pinstripe Bowl, has made a concerted effort to lure the top prospects out of New York City to the Orange.
“It’s an area that has a lot of talent,” said Marrone, who led Syracuse to an 8-5 record and 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Kansas State last season. “When I was in high school a lot of kids [from New York City] got overlooked. There are a lot of diamonds in the rough that are not only from the bigger programs, but they are at smaller schools, too. We’re not gonna let any kids slip through the cracks.”
They sure haven’t.
Syracuse landed every city player they recruited this winter outside of Lincoln All-American Ishaq Williams, who picked Notre Dame. The new staff has created a buzz in the city and this group’s incoming recruiting class is looking forward to proving itself.
“New York has a lot of talent and now everybody can see that when we come as one, we’ll be very hard to stop,” said Reddish, The Post’s All-City Player of the Year who starred as a wide receiver and defensive back for the PSAL city champion Tigers.
Fort Hamilton coach Danny Perez said Reddish was initially focused on Rutgers and Connecticut in his recruitment, but Syracuse kept on pushing and he was blown away when he took an official visit in December.
“They made everything a family atmosphere, they made me feel welcome and loved,” Reddish said. “[Coach Anselmo] acts like a close friend, he’s always joking around with us.”
Anselmo and Marrone have also impressed city coaches with their patience and willingness to take risks. Foy, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive guard, drew interest from several BCS-level programs but his grades were sub-par. While the other schools left, Syracuse hung around and Foy rewarded them by improving academically over the winter.
Flushing defensive tackle Jason Bromley drew little interest, but after a dominant performance in the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge last summer, the Orange brought him in and he became part of the defensive line rotation.
Hunt, a two-sport star at Christ the King, was one of the city’s most dynamic players on both sides of the ball. The 6-foot-3 quarterback threw for 1,289 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 1,218 yards and 14 scores.
“He’s competitive in everything he does in life,” Marrone said. “He brings skill to the quarterback position, where he’s going to start out with us. We hope to develop him and work with him.”
Hunt, also a major contributor on Christ the King’s basketball team, said he’s excited about the chance to play quarterback at Syracuse, calling the signing “a real relief. It was just like a whole bunch of weight was lifted off my shoulders."
It was a bittersweet day for Hunt, who signed one day after his father, Darryl Dockery, died from kidney failure and nearly a year to the day his mother, Katrina, died from ovarian cancer.
"It was hard, but after having this, I was really happy," Hunt said of the ceremony at the Middle Village, Queens school.
Hunt and Simmons were competitors in the CHSFL AA-A for a few years, but they will now be able to call each other teammates. The Archbishop Stepinac defensive end joined Akron-bound quarterback Tyrell Goodman in a ceremony Wednesday morning at the White Plains school.
“It’s a great feeling, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Simmons said. “I feel like I’ve finally made it.”
Simmons was a beast this season, leading the undefeated Crusaders to the CHSFL Class AA championship. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end had 110 tackles, 70 solo, 10 sacks and interception and a pair of forced fumbles. He said he’ll likely be used as a rushing defensive end.
“Donnie is a tremendous athlete, he’s been gifted with great size and brute strength, but his unbelievable quickness is his greatest attribute,” Stepinac coach Mike O’Donnell said. “He has a great nose for the ball.”
All four have different qualities that make them valuable commodities. In Syracuse, they found a place to nurture those talents.
“Syracuse kind of forgot about New York for about 10 years,” O’Donnell said. “I think Coach Marrone has made an unbelievable effort to get back to his roots and make Syracuse the New York University.”