A pair of LuHi football stars signed their college commitment letters Wednesday. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: NewsdayTV

In Long Island Lutheran’s chapel, just a brisk walk up the hill from the school’s football field, friends and family gathered in the pews. They weren’t there for a sermon or Mass — they were there to watch two athletes make official one of the biggest accomplishments of their lives.

TJ Bacon signed his commitment to Yale football on Wednesday morning, sitting alongside teammate Rodney Mills who committed to Long Island University.

“Looking at all my offers at the end, [Yale] kept in touch with me the most,” Bacon said. “They treated me and my family like family, so it was a good choice to pick them.”

Bacon spent five years at LuHi, catching 23 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns in his senior season. He added two more scores on the ground.

“It’s the end of a long journey, he’s been at LuHi since middle school when he was all hands and feet,” coach Chris Reno said. “He’s continued to grow, academically and athletically. That’s what leads to opportunities such as Yale. I’m proud of him.”

Bacon had spent time playing football in the South Side and Mineola programs before joining LuHi, playing numerous positions before putting those skills to use with the Crusaders. After years of work and practices, Bacon is Connecticut-bound to play in the Ivy League.

“I felt at times I was never going to be where I am today,” Bacon said. “I just want to thank God for that, my family around me. It’s been a good ride.”

“I don’t think we can ever replace a player like TJ,” Reno said. “We can only hope to get some new folks in there that can do the job, and I know it won’t be the same.”

Bacon wasn’t the only captain in the chapel. Mills was a leader on the defense this season, despite only arriving at LuHi this year after playing at Baldwin.

“It was evident by his work ethic on the football field that he was just so serious, so dedicated and so focused on getting the job done,” Reno said.

Mills, a defensive end, plans to study to become a veterinarian. It’s a long-rooted passion, growing up watching wildlife documentaries rather than cartoons.

“My mom has always told me since I was a little kid, ‘You’re going to be in the NFL one day,’” Mills said. “I’d say, ‘You know, Ma, I’m going to be a vet.’ And then every day I’d show her something new on the field, and I surprise myself all the time. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to perform at a high level.”

While Mills and Bacon may be going to different schools in different states, the LuHi connection will always be between them. Change is often scary, but not to Mills. He knows from experience just how important it can be.

“Change is necessary in life. Change is not a bad thing,” Mills said. “Change for me [ended] up changing my life. While I had a great life at Baldwin, coming here to LuHi really brought me to a different level. So, I would say, I do not fear change.”

Long Island football players signing with Division I programs

Josiah Brown, WR, Malverne: Penn State (FBS)

Korey Duff, Jr., WR, St. Anthony’s: Rutgers (FBS)

Alex Menghi, TE, St. Anthony’s: Stony Brook (FCS)

TJ Bacon, WR, Long Island Lutheran: Yale (FCS)

Rodney Mills, DE, Long Island Lutheran: LIU (FCS)

Ethan Appolon, DE, Harborfields: Wagner (FCS)

Anthony DiMenna, OL, Sachem North: New Hampshire (FCS)

Bobby Galindo, OL, South Side: Colgate (FCS)

Lance Maiberg, K/P, St. John the Baptist: LIU( FCS)

Caden Lesiewicz, K/P, Floyd: Cornell (FCS)

Nick Rinaldi, OL, Chaminade: Davidson (FCS)

Michael Seeger, OL/DL, Lindenhurst: Wagner (FCS)

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