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The beard is back for Delaware-bound James Kretkowski

Oceanside tackle James Kretkowski during the practice on

Oceanside tackle James Kretkowski during the practice on June 22, 2014, for Long Island players for the 19th annual Empire Challenge high school football all-star game. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

James Kretkowski has a new beard.

It’s not as full as the original, yet, but it has the same look.

"Fear the Beard"  lives on for the Oceanside offensive tackle.

“It started as something with no real meaning behind it,” said Kretkowski. "But it kind of became something that was associated with me as I went through my journey preparing for my senior year of football and traveling through the year all the way back up here to Hofstra.”

Kretkowski has returned to Hofstra this week to participate in the Empire Challenge All-Star football game as the reigning Jay Fielder Top Scholar Athlete.

He knows about Long Island’s chance to capture its fourth consecutive win over NYC when the two teams play at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

Kretkowski would like nothing more than for people to leave the game saying they remembered the kid with the beard.

“Personally, I want to leave my mark and have a couple of nice plays, where people go ‘Ooh, that guy opened up a nice big gap there for [Carey quarterback Ray] Catapano, or whoever it is to run right through,” Kretkowski said. “As a team, just continue the trend of Long Island beating up on NYC.”

The original beard came about for Kretkowski after not shaving for a couple of days. He got a little lazy and let it grow out. Soon, it became his signature look.

“People would see it and they would recognize me and they would know who I am and what I’ve done,” Kretkowski said. “And by the end of the game, I was hoping I’d add on a couple of more accolades to it.”

Getting into Delaware is right up there for Kretkowski, who started out “extremely raw,” Oceanside coach Rob Blount said, after making the Sailors roster as a sophomore.

Kretkowski said he grew up a fan of football and played some when he was younger, but that it didn’t click right away for him. His fellow students asked him to try out and the rest is history.

He never thought he’d come this far.

“Absolutely did not,” Kretkowski said. “I’m absolutely glad that it did work out this way. I saw an opportunity and figured I’d give it a shot. I’m very glad I did.”

He certainly gave the old beard a shot.

“I never measured the old one, I probably should have,” said Kretkowski, laughing. “The old beard was kind of symbolic of my past year and now I wanted to bring a new one to start my journey to Delaware football and here at the All-Star game. It’s just kind of representative of a new chapter for James.”

So what’s different about this new beard?

“The last one was a little untamed, just wild, seeing what would happen,” Kretkowski said. “This one is a little more controlled. I’m just going forward with it. I’ve got everything contained and going in one direction now.”

That direction points toward Delaware.

“It’s about developing as a player and being part of a championship level team,” Kretkowski said. “Continue that tradition that Delaware has and hopefully get in there and play against some of those big teams, like Pittsburgh in Week 1.”

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