by Jacob Bogage ‘12All-American.
A classification reserved for few; comparable to the Army Rangers or the Navy SEALs. It takes dedication to reach that plateau; years upon years of practice and repetition, unshakable focus and undying commitment.
Senior Michael Begley is honored to be one of the few and the proud to reach All-American status. As a midfielder for the varsity lacrosse team, Begley is among the all-time Sherwood leaders in groundballs, faceoff wins, goals and points. After the 2010 season, he was named to the Under Armour All-America team. He was an All-County selection in both 2009 and 2010, and he is committed to play Division I college lacrosse at Marist College. So naturally, the next step for Begley was to take on football.
Not just backyard football or recreational flag-football or two-hand touch; oh no, we’re talking 4A varsity football for Marc Thomas’ Stormin’ Warriors. The likes of which run pro-style offensive and defensive schemes, carry a 63-man roster, run three-a-days at preseason workouts and are merely three years removed from a State Championship win.
“I’ve been playing lacrosse since second grade,” he said. “I pretty much have not played another organized sport since then and to be honest, I’ve been bored out of my mind playing lacrosse. I wanted to play something else and I know I’m playing lacrosse in college in my next four years anyway, so I was like, why not? … I’m just trying to have fun senior year.”
Begley is not just having fun… He is succeeding, and at a rate no one thought was possible. Through five games as a wide-receiver, he has racked up five touchdowns to lead the Warrior receiving corps while averaging 20-yards a catch, second-most on the team.
“I didn’t think too much of Begley. I’ve had him in gym class and I know he’s a great athlete, but football is such a different game. I’ve seen great athletes try and play and they’re scared, they can’t take hits, they can’t catch the ball and they’re just a totally different person when there is an aggressive factor towards the game. And here at Sherwood, our offense and defense are so complicated it normally takes someone two years before they learn the system,” said Thomas. “He’s done really well. All the coaches were saying he was going to start and I was skeptical. I said we got [Alex] Cole, we got [Jamal] Merritt, we got [Danny] Hunt, we got all these guys already who are getting Division I-A scholarships. I couldn’t imagine him being better than them and he darn well might be.”
Begley is returning kickoffs and punts for the Warriors in front of Division I college football recruits and his blinding speed is ripping apart opposing defenses. Recently he returned a kickoff against Gaithersburg 95-yards for a touchdown. In seventh grade it took him merely five seconds to run the 40-yard dash. Compare that with first round NFL draft choice (fifth overall) Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs who ran the 40 in 4.47 seconds.
“He’s faster than you think,” said senior quarterback A.J. Pignone. “His fifth gear is very deceiving… That kind of speed speaks for itself.”
Coming from a physical sport like lacrosse is useful to Begley. He is no stranger to taking hits. However Begley has seen no ill-effects from the hits he takes in lacrosse. Reaction time, agility, quickness and toughness are simply a few of the attributes that helped him the transition to football.
But football is a whole new sport to Begley and he struggled mightily in the beginning trying to fit into Sherwood’s offensive schemes. He even considered quitting during summer practices.
“The offense here at Sherwood is extremely complex for a first-year player; however, he stuck with it and kept working,” said Pignone. “He put in extra time with the coaches to get things worked out and look where he is now. It definitely paid off and I’m glad he stuck with it.”