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Saints' Colston saddened by end of Hofstra football program
MIAMI – Marques Colston was in a meeting when his history was hijacked, when the men with the calculators and the spreadsheets took a giant eraser to his youth.
This was on Dec. 3, and the Saints’ wideout had just gathered with the rest of the team’s receiving corps to plan out how they could beat the Redskins in three days and move to 12-0 on the season. The gathering broke up, he turned on his cell phone, and the damn thing started buzzing like a hornet’s nest.
“Not the kind of news you want to start your day,” Colston said.
This was the news: Hofstra was dropping football. On sports pages across America, this was reduced to an agate-type transaction; inside the hearts of people like Marques Colston, Wayne Chrebet and Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris, Hofstra’s three highest-profile football alums, it was like drilling a hole into their soul. Without anesthesia.
“I remember all the times I’d be working out back at school, and the inspiration I got thinking that if Wayne Chrebet could go from playing here to the NFL, maybe I could, too,” Colston said yesterday, at a table inside a ballroom at the InterContinental Miami. “I was looking forward to being the guy that a lot of the younger guys there could look up to, say, ‘That guy’s in the NFL, I can be too.’ ”
He smiled softly.
“That won’t happen now,” he said.
Colston was an under-recruited kid out of Susquehanna Township High School in Harrisburg, Pa., when he committed to Hofstra, a pledge he honored even after the University of Missouri made a late pitch to let him play at the Division I-A level. Hofstra would provide neither the glamour nor the fanaticism of the Big 12, but it would offer Colston something Mizzou couldn’t promise: playing time.
Four years, 182 catches, a school-record 2,834 yards and 18 touchdowns later, he would grit his teeth through nearly two full days of the 2006 NFL draft before the Saints finally selected him with the 252nd pick — exactly 250 slots after the Saints tabbed Reggie Bush with their No. 1. As expected, one of those rookies had an immediate and stunning impact on the Saints.
Not so expected: It was Colston, not Bush.
“For me, it’s all about being respected by my peers,” said Colston, who scored a touchdown in his very first NFL game, in Cleveland, and has added 32 more across four years as Drew Brees’ biggest big-play target. “I think as long as I continue to work and do the things that I’m doing. I’ll earn that respect.”
He just won’t be able to pass it along to anyone else wearing the blue-and-gold vestments of the Hofstra Pride, a bittersweet counterpoint to a season that yielded so many wonderful moments. He admits that while the news floored him — “Especially a week or so later,” he said, “when it had time to sink in.” — he could always see clues that Hofstra’s football situation was less than permanent.
Despite a history of being ultra-competitive on the Division III and I-AA levels, it wasn’t unusual for the high-school games that shared space at the school’s stadium on Hempstead Turnpike to draw better crowds — sometimes three times as much. Despite providing a showcase for NFL-worthy talent, playing mostly a wide-open run-and-shoot format, Hofstra’s student body only modestly supported the team.
And many of its alums were far more impassioned when the program was dropped than they ever were when it was still active.
“You could see the writing on the wall,” Colston said. “But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.”
In years to come, at the start of big national TV games, you still will hear plenty of players introduce themselves and their famous schools — “The U!” and “THE Ohio State University!” — and it will sound like so much carnival barking. When you hear Marques Colston introduce himself and say, “Hofstra,” you will know the syllables are said with affection and with pride.
And a tinge of regret, too.
Saints’ Colston saddened by end of Hofstra football program
By Mike Vaccaro, The New York Post