At first, good news was no news.
"They didn't believe me," Sean Christie said with a laugh about his family's reaction to the Patchogue-Medford offensive lineman being awarded a full football scholarship to Maryland. "I had been taking a nap -- I just got home from my official visit to Albany -- when Coach [Randy] Edsall called to tell me. My Dad [Thomas] was downstairs cooking and my sister [Gabriella] and her boyfriend were in the house," he related. "I walked downstairs and I'm smiling and I tell them, 'Maryland just offered me a full scholarship.' For a minute, they all just went back to what they were doing. Then I showed them the call and they finally believed me and they were really happy."
Latest HS sports stories
Happiest of all, was Christie's mother, Candice. "She's going to hate that I told you this," Christie said impishly, "but I called her at work to tell her -- and she cried over the phone."
Those tears of joy were the culmination of years of dedication to a sport Christie had been playing since he was 6 years old, starting out as a tall, thin quarterback and evolving into a huge (6-5, 295-pound) Division I prospect who had scholarship offers from more than a half dozen schools but eventually was drawn to the Terrapins, who, like Rutgers, will begin Big Ten play next fall.
"It's an awesome opportunity," said Christie, a Newsday All-Long Island first-team selection last fall. "I'll be going from playing home games in front of 2,000 people to playing road games in front of 100,000 people. I'm thrilled to be a part of all that."
Christie, who did not allow a single sack in 250 pass attempts by the Raiders last fall, according to coach Gary Marangi, is part of a bountiful crop of Long Island linemen that earned Division I scholarships or committed to Ivy League schools that to do not offer athletic scholarships. From Newsday's All-Long Island first team, James Kretkowski of Oceanside (Delaware), James O'Hagan of Seaford (Buffalo) and Steve Fletcher of St. Anthony's (Princeton) will play at the next level.
Additionally, Tariq Cole of Long Beach (Rutgers), Bryan Reed of Mount Sinai (Delaware), Ryan Shortell of St. Anthony's (Bryant) and Chris Buchalski of Miller Place (Villanova) signed their letters of intent yesterday.
"It's great for other kids to see something like this," Patchogue-Medford athletic director Tom Combs said. He was speaking about Christie, but his observation holds true for all of Wednesday's signees. "If you work hard, you can achieve your goal of getting a football scholarship. This is the proof. It's a pride thing, too. This is what we do and this is what you're going to get out of it."
Christie hopes to get an education at Maryland, where he intends to major in business, plus the chance to play college football at the highest level. "Maryland is moving into the Big Ten so I'll be playing against schools like Ohio State and Penn State. It's an awesome schedule," Christie said. "I hope to go to a couple of bowl games. That would be nice."
Especially for a kid who acknowledged, "My 10th-grade year was subpar, but I started working out hard in the 11th grade, won our team's most improved player award and thought to myself, 'Wow, this is something I can do and hopefully get a nice education out of it.' "