Malcolm Cater was all smiles Wednesday in the high school library. He laughed hard when jokingly asked if it were the first time he was smiling in a library. Sitting comfortably behind a table and surrounded by family and friends the Riverhead star linebacker signed his letter of intent to play football at Syracuse in the fall.
The signing comes after a grueling recruiting process that left the co-winner of this year's Hansen Award, given to Suffolk's top player, completely exhausted.
"This is a total relief," said a relaxed Cater, who also won the Collotta Award given to Suffolk's top linebacker. "Syracuse is the right place for me. The coaching staff made me to feel very comfortable. And the head coach, Doug Marrone, treated me like family."
Cater continually thanked all the people responsible for helping to keep him on track academically and on the field. He acknowledged the support of the Riverhead guidance department, his teachers and the Blue Waves coaching staff. He likely would have been remiss not to speak wholeheartedly about his time living at the Timothy Hill Children's Ranch, as a court-ordered resident for the past two years.
"Without all of these people in Riverhead, this dream of playing in college would not have happened," Cater said. "It took a lot of love and a lot of patience to keep me on track and make this possible. I don't know where I would be without Coach [Leif] Shay."
While Cater was signing his scholarship papers in Riverhead, two other prominent Long Island football players were doing the same in South Huntington and Cedarhurst.
Lawrence quarterback John Kinder, an all-Long Island selection, signed his paperwork, as did St. Anthony's defensive tackle Rob Welsh. And all three have the same destination - Syracuse University.
"It's a very exciting day," said Kinder, who led Lawrence to the Long Island Class III championship game. "I'm a part of Coach Marrone's first recruiting class and that's something I definitely wanted to be a part of. And the fan base in Syracuse is phenomenal. That's important for an athlete."
Welsh shared the same sentiments as Kinder. The 6-3, 265-pounder, who can play defensive end or tackle, said he also was excited at the prospect of playing in the Carrier Dome. He felt he could become a part of something big - the rebirth of Syracuse football.
"It's the best feeling because we really are going to turn it around," Welsh said. "It's a perfect spot. Everyone was friendly and they treated me like I was already there. I just realized this was where I was meant to play. It's awesome."
Kinder and Welsh agreed that academics played a major factor in the final decision. Both players expect to study communications. "There's so much history in the program," said Kinder, who rushed for 23 touchdowns and passed for eight. "They had Marvin Harrison, Donovan McNabb, just to name a few guys that have passed through there. And in the Carrier Dome you don't have to worry about the weather."
Welsh, who plays on the St. Anthony's basketball team, said Syracuse was a no-brainer for him. He wanted to play I-A ball and admitted he's a huge basketball fan of the Orange.
"I'm a big basketball fan, so that definitely factored in," he said. "I think they're going to win the national championship this year."