Back on National Signing Day, Stepinac High School hosted a ceremony for three seniors: Austin Taps, Prezemyslaw Popek and Jesse Gwin. The school hosted another ceremony Wednesday morning to celebrate its trio of commits growing by two.
Running back Caleb Gilligan-Evans and wide receiver Vincent Narog both officially committed to college today. Gilligan-Evans signed with Holy Cross, Narog with Sacred Heart.
For the 6-foot, 240-pound Gilligan-Evans, it was his second commitment and brought an end to a tumultuous two months. He originally gave a verbal commitment to Yale in January but did not sign a binding letter with the school. The program fired its coach and hired Harvard assistant Tony Reno, who brought in a new offense and far different ideas than his predecessor.
“Yale was still an option, but I just felt it wasn’t going to be a great situation for me,” Gilligan-Evans said. “They kind of gave me a negative feeling about the situation.”
Gilligan-Evans had been recruited by Holy Cross since last year, so the Crusaders were a natural option when he re-opened his recruitment. He visited Holy Cross and Byrant and recently decided that Holy Cross was the best fit.
He will serve as a lead blocker and receiver in a traditional fullback/H-back role similar to what he played at Stepinac, albeit with fewer touches. He has embraced the new destination, and credited the Stepinac coaching staff for keeping him on course through trying times.
“It was very disheartening and it was hard to look positively at it,” he said. “I really credit coach O’D (O’Donnell) and the rest of the coaching staff. They got me focused on moving on and getting attention from other schools immediately. There wasn’t much time to worry, even though it was tough to accept at first.”
Narog, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver, needed patience as well. He had made official visits to Division III Trinity and Division II Southern Connecticut and Stonehill and later narrowed his final choices to SUNY Cortland and Southern Connecticut.
All along, Sacred Heart had been on the periphery. The school began recruiting him two months ago and made two visits to Stepinac. Sacred Heart offered shortly after Narog’s visit there in early February.
He earned a partial scholarship but an opportunity he couldn’t help but pass up. The Yorktown native intends to study physical therapy in college and eventually earn a doctorate.
“Sacred Heart just seemed like a well-rounded fit,” Narog said. “It’s a little bit closer to home than Cortland. They have a renowned (physical therapy) program. That was the whole goal, to get to a good college through football.”
Stepinac's Narog, Gilligan-Evans Pick Colleges
Vincent Narog signs National Letter of Intent with Stepinac Coach Mike O'Donnell, left, and his parents standing by.
Photo Credit: Stepinac High School
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Caleb Gilligan-Evans and Vincent Narog, two star players in the success of the Archbishop Stepinac football program over the last three years, signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, committing to colleges they will attend beginning in the fall.
Narog, a senior tight end and linebacker, made his commitment to Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University, while Gilligan-Evans, also a senior, will be attending Holy Cross College in Massachusetts.
Gilligan-Evans, a starting fullback, has been an All-State, All-County, All-League selection the last two seasons and holds the record for most rushing yards and touchdowns as a Crusaders player. He was also a member of the 2011 Catholic High School Football League Class AA championship team as was Narog.
Narog was also named All-State, All-League and All-County this past season and complied 1,100 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns in his career and made 120 tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
Defensive lineman Austin Taps, lineman Jesse Gwin and placekicker Przemyslaw Popek each signed their letters of commitment in February.
The Crusaders were 9-3 this past season, reaching the CHSFL's Class AAA championship game before losing to champion St. Anthony's.
From a report by Stepinac High School
"It was frustrating at first but things happen for a reason," Gilligan-Evans said. "There's no stability in coaching. I knew it opened up chances for another thing."
That other option would be Holy Cross, the school the bruising fullback is now headed to after being accepted on Friday. The Crusaders beat out Yale and Bryant for Gilligan-Evans' services.
"The atmosphere is great, everyone there is passionate about football," Gilligan-Evans said. "There are opportunities and you work together as a family and the players are great, I really enjoyed visiting them."
When Yale hired Tony Reno as its new coach, the Bulldogs still had their offer out to Gilligan-Evans, but the fullback was told that the team was going in a different direction offensively that wouldn't utilize his services like the previous staff would have. The senior decided to check out other teams who had prior interest.
Holy Cross had been trying to recruit Gilligan-Evans but stopped once he committed to Yale. The Crusaders re-entered the picture and offered Evans a spot and he said he feel in love with it. He told the coaching staff that as long as he was accepted, he would be heading there.
Gilligan-Evans, who rushed for 792 yards and nine touchdowns this season according to MaxPreps.com, will be used as an h-back/fullback at Holy Cross, a similar role to the one he played in Stepinac's offense this season.
"I'm very excited," Gilligan-Evans said. "Everything happens for a reason and the door was open for Holy Cross and it feels amazing. This is a great opportunity and I'm very excited and I can't wait for it to happen."
NAROG TO SACRED HEART: Gilligan-Evans' teammate, wide receiver Vincent Narog, recently committed to Sacred Heart, according to coach Mike O'Donnell. Narog had interest from Lafayette, Southern Connecticut and Trinity, but liked Sacred Heart's football staff and the physical therapy program at the school.
Narog took his time to make his decision, making sure he visited each school and that he felt comfortable at whatever school he ultimately decided to attend. Narog caught 24 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns this past season, according to MaxPreps.com.
"It's a good fit for him, a great school with a good football team and they got a good player in Vinnie," O'Donnell said. "He has a lot of potential and Vinnie got a lot better this year and I think he will continue to get better.
"He didn't want to just go somewhere because the school was interested. He really wanted to study physical therapy and that was very important to find the right fit for him."