Listen to Jonathan Debique speak in his confident but quiet tone off the football field, and you could never imagine how he sounds and acts as Baldwin’s star player.
“You put that helmet on him and all of a sudden it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” Bruins coach Steve Carroll said. “On the football field he’s possessed, but he’s under control too.”
That can be a lethal combination, with Debique capable of destroying anything in his path. The cerebral, hard-hitting linebacker who blocked six extra-points last year doubles as a powerful, fast running back who scored 12 touchdowns. He is the primary reason an inexperienced Baldwin team coming off a 3-5 season received the No. 5 seed in Nassau Conference I this year.
“It’s a credit we got seeded up there with not having a winning season,” Carroll said.
With the goal of earning a Division I scholarship this season, Debique said he worked to improve his speed and agility this offseason.
He also added muscle, jumping 20 pounds from the end of last season to 230 for this season. The 5-11 senior has drawn serious interest from programs in the Patriot League, Ivy League, Conference USA and independents, according to Carroll.
“He’s a legit 330 [pound] bench press guy and he’s probably like 400, 450 squat and legit,” Carroll said. “If you said let’s go in there, it would take him a few warmups and he would be able to put it up for you and not just once. He’d get two or three times and you’d just look at him like holy smokes.”
Other than Debique, the Bruins have two returners who received consistent, regular playing time last year: RB/DB Kendal Frink and R/DB Matthew Washington. So Baldwin will rely on that trio to lead a group of former reserves and varsity newcomers.
“It’s good because we have some people who can lead us but at the same time people can develop and become better,” Debique said. “I know that we have a lot of kids that didn’t play last year, but I know they can be good this year and really change the team for us.”
The Bruins expect T’Khi Wood-Smith to emerge at defensive back and Anderson Sylvain and Joseph Gallagher to make an impact on the line.
Thomas Airey starred at tight end and linebacker for Baldwin’s JV team last year. Fellow varsity newcomer Avalon Henry will have an opportunity to earn a job on the line.
“We obviously want to do better [than last year],” Debique said. “I think we can. We just have to put it all together in camp and the next couple of weeks. I think it’s possible for us to do better.”