Five seasons removed from his glory years of high school football, Jason Gwaltney still finds himself with options. Failure, he promises, is not one of those.
Long Island's best running back since Jim Brown finds himself something of a hot commodity again. He has enrolled at Division III Kean University (N.J.), where the former North Babylon High School star could spend the next two years. Kean beat out Mount Union (Ohio) for Gwaltney's services. But the pros may intercede. The Canadian Football League has a strong interest in him.
"Jason has ideal skills,'' said John Murphy, director of player personnel for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. Murphy grew up in Merrick and attended Holy Trinity High School.
"He can run, he can catch, a big guy like that would be able to block in the system we have up here," Murphy added. "He can have a very successful career.''
Murphy, who suggests Gwaltney can be a bigger version of CFL standout Ian Smart, also from North Babylon, expects Gwaltney to remain in school at least one more year. That is also Gwaltney's inclination. "I want to leave some kind of footprint on NCAA football,'' he said. "I can't really look at the past. I can only look at the future and worry about what I can become.''
Gwaltney, 22, has played in just 12 college games. He rushed for 186 yards in six games in 2005 as a true freshman at West Virginia. He surfaced at C.W. Post last season and led the team in rushing with 709 yards in six games. He later asked for his release.
"I didn't want to transfer schools again,'' said Gwaltney, mindful of the perception that he never seems to finish what he starts. "But I didn't go to school and fail out. That shows growth, that shows a difference. I don't feel like a letdown. I just feel a lot of times my reputation precedes me. I will be a success in life.''
Despite the circuitous route, Gwaltney has not detoured from his original goal. "People strive every day to be doctors, news writers, whatever your profession is, whatever your heart desires,'' he says. "My goal is to be a pro athlete. You have to put the hours in. I'm willing to do that and be successful in school. I don't think there's anything that can stop me.''