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Lawrence's Santisteban Nassau's top scholar-athlete

Nassau County Golden Eleven Scholar Athletes, from top

Nassau County Golden Eleven Scholar Athletes, from top left: William Johansen (North Shore), Will Crapo (Plainedge), James Balchunas (Plainedge JFK), Joel Santisteban (Lawrence), Daniel Joseph Sprotte (Chaminade), Joseph Wetherell (Oceanside), Ross Weinreb (Great Neck North), Peter DeHazyz (Valley Stream Central). Bottom row, from left: Michael Escobar (Mineola), Jason Sirotkin (Port Washington), John Chodkowski (Clarke), Matt Wohlmacher (Lynbrook), Thomas R. Williams (Holy Trinity), Steve Katz (East Meadow), Brandon Guastafeste (Syosset). Credit: Photo by Frank Koester

Be stronger than the guy across from you on the field and smarter than the kid next to you in the classroom. That's what Joel Santisteban tells himself.

Everyone and everything is competition. And according to life's scoreboard, the Lawrence linebacker is winning.

From a pool of 42 stellar students, Santisteban was recognized by the National Football Foundation as Nassau's top scholar-athlete Sunday at Crest Hollow Country Club. His scholastic stats include a weighted 97.97 average and a 1400 SAT score. He's also a member of the National Honor Society and volunteers as a junior firefighter.

"My drive is to be the best," said Santisteban, who wants to major in engineering. His options include MIT, Harvard and Washington University. "I really want to do well."

He's so eager that he's willing to operate on short rest, regularly staying up until 1 or 2 a.m. Red Bull? Coffee? Nah. "This is what I love to do," he said. "School and football are what I'm really into. It sounds weird, but it's no problem for me to do it because those are my hobbies."

That and music. Santisteban, who plays for the jazz band, eschews video games for his guitar, alto saxophone and drum set.

He also enjoyed himself on the field. The defensive end-turned-linebacker racked up 112 tackles and four sacks to help lead Lawrence to a county title.

"He's so self-motivated," said his dad, Joel Sr. "He's my youngest of three and I never had to tell him, 'Joel, did you do your homework?' . . . He's never satisfied. You can't tell him, 'This can't be done.' He'll always try to succeed in it and so far, he's done that."

Catholic League Top Scholar: Daniel Sprotte

Who knew a hard-hitting linebacker would be a brainiac, too? Daniel Sprotte's parents weren't among the folks who did.

"He was a very solid football player growing up, but the scholar part I wasn't sure about," a smiling Kurt Sprotte said before patting his son on the back. "That was a surprise."

Sprotte admittedly "didn't take grammar school seriously." Then high school came along and, with the stakes raised, the Chaminade senior delivered.

"High school almost forces you to take it seriously," said Sprotte, who visited Amherst on Saturday and will travel to Georgetown in January. "I just made it a priority and focused."

Sprotte, ranked 31st among 405 in his graduating class, carries a weighted 94.6 average and pulled a 1470 on the SAT. He's a member of the National Honor Society and Sports Connection, a program that supplies equipment to underprivileged kids. That's in addition to being a team MVP and all-conference standout with six sacks and two interceptions.

"Part of it was maturity," said his mother, Anne. "The coaches and teachers set high standards for him and he simply rose to them."

It's that simple when you're that smart.

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