When you're a 6-4, 256-pound linebacker who can run a 4.6 40-yard dash and bench-press 415 pounds, people are going to take you seriously. And that's why the Commack coaching staff is seriously giddy over Josh Valentin.
"This is a special kid with an unbelievable ceiling on where he can take football," coach Joe Reggio said. "He has an effect on everything we do in practice, in every drill, in every phase of preparation. He's special.''
Valentin, whom Reggio calls "an impact player on both sides of the ball,'' hasn't played high school football in two years. Valentin said a season-ending injury and then an odyssey that sent him to school in Greensville, S.C., and then back to Long Island cost him a year on the field.
Valentin is expected to move around the Commack defense to prevent opposing coaches from building game plans to eliminate his impact. And he'll move from tight end to halfback on offense.
Valentin's impact has reverberated through the division. An opposing coach said he "is a player who completely throws the preseason seeding out of whack. He will certainly change the way people prepare for Commack.''
Commack entered the season as the 10th seed and somewhat of an afterthought as far as the postseason. Not anymore.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to play football for Commack,'' said Valentin, who burst on to the high school scene as a highly regarded linebacker as a sophomore at Bay Shore. He said he suffered a broken fibula at the start of his junior year before moving to South Carolina in July 2012. He did not play football for J.L. Mann High School that fall, he said, and has been given a fifth-year waiver. "I know how easily football can be taken away from me,'' he added. "One injury -- that's it. So I'm working hard in the classroom, reading and challenging myself.''
According to Reggio, "the phone is hot'' with colleges that are interested in Valentin. "He has an NFL body, commands respect whenever he walks into a room, on a field, anywhere,'' Reggio said. "He's easy to engage in conversation, open to learning and willing to lead. And we are blessed to have him. The team has responded to his seamless addition and he's become our leader.''
2012 record: 10-2
Coach: Paul Longo, 19th season
KEY PLAYERS: Chris Faison, HB/LB, 5-10, 185, Sr.; Jawan Jenkins, TE/DE, 6-2, 220, Sr.; Billy Kaastra, TE/S, 5-10, 175, Sr.; Dashawn Morton, FB/LB, 6-2, 250, Sr.; Steve Rendino, C, 5-6, 250, Sr.;
ABOUT THE COLONIALS: Hard-to-stop Faison, plus a solid core of young players, should boost the perennially strong Colonials, who have won five LI championships since 2005. However, All-Long Island linebacker Marc Coles suffered an injury and could be out for the season.
2012 record: 7-3
Coach: Dave Falco, 12th season
KEY PLAYERS: Trent Crossan, QB/LB, 5-9, 185, Sr.; Malik Pierre, RB/S, 5-10, 190, Sr.; Anthony Ross; FB/LB, 5-9, 180, Sr.; Kevin Bragaglia, RB/C, 5-9, 210, Jr.; Bryan Grasalfi
OL/DL, 6-3, 180, Sr.
ABOUT THE ARROWS: OK, OK, is this the year? The winningest program in the last five years and no LIC appearances. This is a talented program, consistently in the championship mix. With a bevy of halfbacks and a line led by the athletic Grasalfi, this may be the season of the Flaming Arrows.
2012 record: 8-2
Coach: Mike Hansen, 11th season
KEY PLAYERS: Tyler Nason, WR/DB, 5-10, 180, Sr.; Marcus Gutierrez, RB/LB, 5-8, 175, Sr.; Sean Moore, DL/OL, 6-1, 255, Jr.; Carlton Woodie, DB/WR, 5-8, 165, Sr.; Rob Dawson, OL/DL, 6-1, 265, Sr.
ABOUT THE THUNDERBIRDS: They can build on the surprise of 2012 where they marched to the regular season title with a 7-1 mark. They will be hard-pressed to replace All-Long Island quarterback Brian McKean. Wide receiver Nason is dynamite and linebacker Gutierrez anchors an active defense.
2012 record: 6-3
Coach: Kip Lukralle, 28th season
KEY PLAYERS: Brett Hall, FB/LB, 6-3, 210, Sr.; Kenny Radigan, WR/FS, 6-4, 195, Sr.; Matt Nicolai, TE/LB, 6-3, 190, Sr.; Peter Kennedy, TE/DT, 6-5, 210, Sr.; Preston Perkins, OL/NG, 5-10, 225, Sr.
ABOUT THE TIGERS: The defense has six starters back and the team is loaded with experience. First-year quarterback Connor Quinn, a senior, will be the key to success for a team that last year reeled off six wins in a row, beating Sachem North and Floyd in the middle of the run.
2012 record: 3-5
Coach: Gary Marangi, 2nd season
KEY PLAYERS: Connor Coughlin, WR/DB, 6-1, 190, Sr.; Sean Christie, OT/DE, 6-5, 280, Sr.; Kevin Morrissey, WR, 6-0, 180, WR, Sr.; Matt Acierno, OL, 5-11, 290, Jr.; Cody Casagrande, LB, 6-0, 220, Sr.
ABOUT THE RAIDERS: There is a host of talent on the defensive side of the ball with linebacker Casagrande, Robert Kohler and Division I prospect Christie. Coughlin is an offensive weapon and one of the top receivers on Long Island.
2012 record: 3-5
Coach: Aden Smith, 2nd season
KEY PLAYERS: Isaiah White, RB/LB, 5-11, 200, Jr.; Dashawn Taylor, RB/DB, 5-10, 190, Sr.; Matt McKeon, QB, 6-3, 200, Sr.; Darrell Jones, WR/DB, 6-0, 170, Sr.
ABOUT THE LIONS: Although they missed the playoffs last year, Smith and the Lions got a preview of good things to come with from White. The running back scored 9 touchdowns as a sophomore. Taylor added four touchdowns. The coaching staff is excited about McKeon and his potential at quarterback.
2012 record: 2-6
Coach: Nick Lombardo, 5th season
KEY PLAYERS: Peter Mangione, RB/WR, 5-10, 180, Sr.; Kevin Harvey, RB/LB, 5-11, 205, Sr.; Anthony Lanzieri, RB/DB, 5-9, 170, Sr.; Matt Gianelli, OL/DL, 6-2, 215, Sr.; Alban Lekaj, OL/DL, 6-3, 230, Sr.
ABOUT THE BULLDOGS: The loss of key players to injury last season derailed the Bulldogs' playoff hopes. The parity in the division and an experienced backfield led by Mangione and Harvey will keep them in the mix. Linemen Gianelli and Lekaj will play important roles.
2012 record: 6-5
Coach: Mark Wojciechowski, 3rd season
KEY PLAYERS: Danny Wolff, QB/DB, 6-2, 180, Sr.; Zach Geer, TE/LB, 6-4, 210, Sr.; Christian Levatino, OL/DL, 6-0, 250, Sr.; Connor Farrell, RB/LB, 6-1, 220, Jr.
ABOUT THE FLAMING ARROWS: Wolff threw for 1,106 yards and 8 touchdowns to lead the Flaming Arrows to the division final. Geer was a big threat coming off the edge and had eight sacks and forced two fumbles. After a brilliant playoff run, Wojciechowski's team is hungry to return to the playoffs.
2012 record: 5-4
Coach: Rob Neugebauer, 4th season
KEY PLAYERS: Jake Biro, QB/DB, 6-0, 210, Sr.; William Nuti, OL/DL, 6-1, 265, Sr.; Tom Kellerman, LB/RB, Sr.; Tom Reilly, WR/DB, 6-1, 185, Jr.; Mike Troy, RB/LB, 5-9, 185, Sr.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS: Ward Melville is hoping to build off last year's playoff appearance. The return of Biro at quarterback -- he is equally strong in the running game as he is in the passing game -- will help keep the Patriots in games.
2012 record: 6-3
Coach: Joe Reggio, 8th season
KEY PLAYERS: Willy Monroy, RB/C, 5-9, 175, Sr.; Andy Caccamo, WR/LB, 5-10, 180, Sr.; Kyle Prpich, C, 6-1, 260, Sr.; Rob Paccione, QB, 6-1, 175, Sr.
ABOUT THE COUGARS: The addition of senior linebacker Josh Valentin makes the Cougars an immediate threat. The 6-4, 256-pounder is an impact player that could lead halfback Monroy through opposing defenses and into the playoffs. The last time Commack was a 10th seed was in 2000 . . . when it won the Suffolk I title.
2012 record: 1-7
Coach: Jon Sorbera, 3rd season
KEY PLAYERS: Jose Jimenez, OL/DL, 5-10, 235, Sr.; Lavelle Hall, QB, 6-1, 175, Jr.: Matt Anthony, OL/DL, 5-10, 210, Sr.; Jason Niehr, TE/LB, 6-0, 190, Sr.; Christian Pellot, OL/DL, 6-1, 250, Sr.
ABOUT THE INDIANS: Although the team struggled to find the end zone last season, Sorbera expects improvement. Hall is athletic and will run the wing T offense and spread formations behind an experienced offensive line.
2012 record: 3-5
Coach: Mike Patrovich, 3rd season
KEY PLAYERS: Quentin America, RB/S, 6-0, 185, Sr.; Dan Bockelman, WR/CB, 5-10, 165, Sr.; Blaise Spinelli, RB/LB, 6-0, 220, Jr.; Mike Dwoskin, G/LB, 5-11, 195, Sr.
ABOUT THE THUNDERBIRDS: Their defense will be the key. Last year, they averaged 30 points a game but allowed a division-high 36 points per game. The team will benefit from the return of Spinelli and Dwoskin, who averaged seven tackles apiece last season. America, Bockelman and Spinelli are keys to the offense.