Colgate's appearance in the quarterfinal round of the FCS playoffs might surprise some people, and it might surprise people where a decent chunk of the New York school's players come from — Florida. This weekend, they'll face another program that recruits very well in the same state along the I-4 corridor, North Dakota State.
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Sure, Florida's a talent hotbed and everybody knows it. Lots of schools from outside the Sunshine State come to Florida to mine talent. The thing is, usually those schools are in the Carolinas, or Tennessee, maybe Kentucky or Alabama. It's not quite as common for schools in the northeast to have nearly 15 percent of their players come from a state where many times its warm enough so that you can swim on Christmas Day.
That doesn't exactly fit the norm in Hamilton — the upstate New York village of 4,000 residents that is home to Colgate University.
In fact, Colgate has more Florida products (12) than players from New York (8). Only Pennsylvania boasts more (19) than the Sunshine State.
"I actually knew absolutely nothing about Colgate," 1,000-yard running back James Holland told HERO Sports, when asked about his awareness of the school prior to signing. "When I got the envelope, I was 'who is Colgate and what is Colgate?' and I wondered if they were a Division I school because that was my goal. I saw that it was a Division I team as well as really good academically.
"That's really what my parents liked. And my JV coach (Robert Crowley) actually went to Colgate, too. Coach Hunt does a good job of recruiting Florida and selling Colgate and what it has to offer. It also sets you up before, during and after school with the Alumni connections."
Holland starred at King's Academy in Palm Beach County, tucked way down in what locals call the talent-rich area — south Florida. He was good for 145 total yards of offensive in the win over James Madison last weekend, and also popped for 166 rushing yards and a touchdown against bowl-bound Army two weeks prior to that. He's a true Florida talent dressed in Raider maroon, gray and white.
Others like starting DB and interception machine Tyler Castillo, oft utilized TE Nick Martinsen, starting punter Josh Cerra and key backup QB Sage Attwood and DB Cortney Mimms are just a few of the guys who make the long trip south when its time to see their families.
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"My great grandmother was born and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., so when I was going through the offers and I mentioned Colgate, her face lit up," Orlando (Fla.) native Castillo told HERO Sports. "She said, 'that's such a good school, you need to visit up there and go there'. As far as recruiting goes, it was down to Colgate, Air Force and Holy Cross and once I took a trip up there I knew I wanted to go there."
Since the players are from different corners of the lengthy Florida Peninsula, they don't exactly hop on the same flights home during the down times, but there have been some instances where they've made efforts to work out together during spring break and maybe enjoy a day or two to soak up the sunshine.
They also, as a collective, love to debate with the diverse roster at Colgate over which state has the top high school football, whether its Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, you name it.
Maybe the state of Florida can claim a tiny "assist" in helping push the Raiders to the FCS Quarterfinals twice in the past four seasons when most people wouldn't have picked that to happen. Now, Colgate gets to take a trip to face the defending national champions in Fargo, N.D. and see if their way of doing things will work against the mighty Bison — on ESPN in front of the entire country.
"I've never played on ESPN or anything like that," Castillo added. "Last year I think when we visited (Big Sky opponent) Cal Poly (and won) we were on ESPNU or something like that, so that was a neat experience. But knowing the FargoDome and their fanbase, I'm sure there are going to be 18,000 loud and noisy fans and it's going to be an experience, and we can't wait for it to happen."
From Florida to Hamilton, N.Y. to Fargo, N.D. Who would have dreamed it?