Playing a sport at a community college may be surprising to some. Smaller crowds. Less school spirit. Not as much notoriety. But for many, a love for the game and a vision of playing for a larger school is the motivation to use community college sports as a stepping stone to something larger.
A notable local community college, Nassau Community College located in Garden City, NY, has athletics teams that are nationally recognized. The college houses over twenty intercollegiate athletic teams and competes in the Region XV Conference as a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). One such team is the Nassau Community College Football team — the Lions.
This year, the football team is made up of ninety-nine players who hail from all over the United States. The Lions are the 2014 Northeast Football Conference champs as well as being ranked sixth in NJCAA Top 20 Poll. They beat Scottsdale in the Valley of the Sun Bowl on Dec. 6 to end their season a perfect 10-0.
“I came to Nassau to play because of the high football recognition they have,” Jalen Burgess, cornerback from Columbus, GA, explains.
“I play football for NCC because of the exposure they get from 4-year schools,” states Chicago native, offensive tackle Chris Hawkins.
Keyon Pippen, defensive end from North Carolina piggybacks, “I play football at NCC because it’s the best junior college in the country and coming here is my best chance of getting a scholarship to a bigger Division-I university.”
Like most players, such athletes look at their time at a junior college as a stepping stone for transferring to a larger college or university. Nassau is known for offering student-athletes the opportunity to develop both academically and athletically. The coaches strive to help students perform better in the classroom, get their grades up and move on to D- I schools. Recent recruits include Brian Baldinger, Duke; Bob DeSantis, Cornell and Mike Minter, Georgia Tech.In addition, head coach Joe Osovet was named the 2014 Northeast Football Conference Coach of the year.
“I’ve had a chance to prove myself and it’s only going to get better next year,” Pippen adds.
Playing at a community college does have other perks such as meeting new people, “I’m happy playing for a community college because you meet different people from everywhere all over the US,” Gabriel Moultrie explains but quickly amends “but I am hopeful that I will move on to a D1 school so I can get solid playing time…and eat for free!”
Moultrie has seemed to hit a cord and verbalized the common gripe his team shares about community college football, as they all cry, “We need a meal plan!”
Try and catch the Lions before their season commences. They are undefeated and put on a great show. Grab a seat, a hot pretzel and sit in the stands. And if you’re feeling generous, buy an extra for the team…they’re hungry.