Tyler Linderbaum makes the move to center for Iowa's football program – Hawk Central


Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz explains the logic behind moving Solon native Tyler Linderbaum from defensive tackle to center
Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz looked into the near future and didn’t like what he saw at the center position.

The best answer for 2019, he felt, was to move Solon native Tyler Linderbaum from defensive tackle to the offensive side. Two weeks ago, as the Hawkeyes started preparing for the Outback Bowl, Linderbaum made the switch. And it appears to be permanent.

“He was really doing well on defense,” Ferentz said of Linderbaum, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound freshman. “What I kept coming back to is I think we really had a little bit of a void at the center position.”

Starter Keegan Render is set to graduate. Fellow senior Dalton Ferguson was the third option at center. That would leave sophomore Cole Banwart as the “one guy that really looks like he can handle it,” Ferentz said of a position that is typically the captain of the offensive line.

Banwart is a starting guard. Moving Linderbaum would give the Hawkeyes the option of keeping Banwart there next season.

Ferentz has always been effusive in his praise for Linderbaum, a four-sport athlete who was an Army All-American football player as a senior at Solon.

“If they were triplets, it would have been perfect, because we would have two at defensive tackles and one at center,” Ferentz joked of wanting more Linderbaums on his team. “I wouldn’t mind having one at guard, too — at each spot, so five — quintuplets would be OK. He’s just a real good football player and the tenacity, I think, he shows on the wrestling mat — he showed it in football last year, too — he brought it with him. That’s who he is. He’s really serious and he’s got a lot of pride. I think he’s going to do just fine.”

The move leaves Iowa with two primary options at defensive tackle next year, with Matt Nelson and Sam Brincks also graduating. The starters would be Cedrick Lattimore and Brady Reiff. Linderbaum would have been a backup. Now, that will be a question mark entering spring practices.

But center will not be.

Three other position changes, plus an injury

Linderbaum isn’t the only Hawkeye shifting from one side of the ball to the other this month. Ferentz said sophomore Austin Schulte has also moved from the defensive line to the offensive line. Levi Duwa was an offensive lineman but has now become a defensive tackle. And Henry Marchese has gone from wide receiver to safety.

Duwa, a redshirt freshman from Kalona, is making his second position switch — this time back to his original spot.

“Some guys are more instinctive or play faster at certain positions. It just seems like he’s a little more aggressive and natural in his play, if you will, on the defensive side. But we gave it a good shot,” Ferentz said of Duwa. “It just didn’t seem to be a good fit for him.”

Ferentz also revealed the Hawkeyes have suffered one significant injury: Junior offensive lineman Jake Newborg had knee surgery and will miss the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Mississippi State.


Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says players considering an early jump to the NFL need accurate information, and not from agents. Listen in:
Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

Ferentz wants ‘accurate information’ for players thinking about NFL

Iowa junior tight end Noah Fant has already declared that he plans to enter the NFL draft. He will miss the bowl game. Junior quarterback Nate Stanley said this week he’s definitely returning for his final season as a Hawkeye.

That leaves redshirt sophomore tight end T.J. Hockenson, junior safety Amani Hooker and junior defensive end Anthony Nelson as three Iowa players who have yet to announce their decisions about their immediate NFL futures.

Ferentz said at the outset of his Wednesday news conference that he didn’t want reporters asking those players questions about it once they arrive in Tampa, Florida — he wants the pregame focus to be solely on the Outback Bowl.

But he’s also aware that there’s much speculation among media and fans about whether those three vital players will be in a Hawkeye uniform next year. Ferentz said his primary role in the decision-making process is to help his athletes get “accurate information.”

“The agents are selling one thing: Leave now — that’s the only way they’re going to make money this year,” Ferentz said.

“I would be willing to bet that most of (players who declare for the draft early) think they’re going to go first, second, third round. Obviously, the statistics don’t back that up. There’s some people on the outside that really sell that because they’ve got nothing to lose. It’s a game for them. But we’re talking about young people’s lives. And to me, there’s a real responsibility there. So we try to get good, accurate information, and I think the NFL has stepped up their game.”

Ferentz will sit down with each player and let them know the round of the draft they are projected to be chosen, if at all. Last season, center James Daniels and cornerback Josh Jackson departed early and were picked in the second round.

Ferentz noted that this year’s draft seems to be full of defensive line prospects. So maybe that’s an indication that Nelson will be advised to come back.

The players have until Jan. 15 to decide.

Live updates: Austin Peay football early signing day additions – The Tennessean

Here are the players Austin Peay football has signed at the start of the early signing period.

This is coach Mark Hudspeth’s first class. He replaced Will Healy as the Governors coach when Healy left to become the coach at Charlotte.

Check back throughout the day for updates.

TeKael DeMunn

Safety/LB, 6-0, 300

Opelika, Ala.

247 composite: NA

Commit date: Sept. 13

Twitter handle: @TeKael10

The final word: Split time at outside linebacker and strong safety this past season at Opelika (Ala.) High. Was a teammate of fellow Austin Peay signee JaQuan Foot. 

JaQuan Foote

Linebacker, 6-0, 200

Opelika, Ala.

247 composite: NA

Commit date: Dec. 15

Twitter handle: @Pablo_334

The final word: Foote also was recruited by Alabama A&M and North Alabama. 

David Russell III

Defensive tackle, 6-1, 274

Father Ryan

247 compsite: NA

Commit date: Dec. 18

Twitter handle:@DavidRussell718

The final word: Russell recorded a total of 81 tackles including 15 for losses. Also had five sacks and recovered two fumbles. Narrowed his choices to Austin Peay, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech before choosing the Governors.

Lelan Wilhoite

Athlete, 5-10, 179


247 composite: NA

Commit date: Dec. 19

Twitter handle: @LelanWilhoite11 

The final word: Graduated from Siegel in 2018 and attended Milford Academy prep school in New Berlin, N.Y., this fall. Was a finalist for the Daily News Journal All-Area Football Player of the Year award. Wilhoite rushed for 1,692 yards and 18 touchdowns  in 2017. He transferred fom Nashville Christian School, where he rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a junior.

► More: Siegel’s Lelan Wilhoite passes on a few offers to attend Milford Academy prep school

Jariel Wilson

Running back, 5-9, 188


247 composite: NA

Commit date: July 28

Twitter handle: @WilsonJariel

The final word: Rushed for 1,394 yards on 158 carries and scored 16 touchdowns as a senior. Gaines 276 yards on 23 carries and scored four touchdowns in win over Independence. Named Region 6-6A offensive player of the year. 

Zach Yates 

OL, 6-2, 320

Briarcrest Christian

247 composite: NA

Commit date: Dec. 16

Twitter handle: @zacyat

The final word: Big and strong. Maximum bench presses of 305 pounds and has done 185 pounds for 22 reps. Helped lead Briarcrest to the second rounds of the TSSAA playoffs where it lost to MBA 10-3. Also saw some action at defensive tackle.

► More: Live updates: Nashville-area 2018 Early National Signing Day

Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.

Football's most absurd rule is set to change – MARCA.com

Club World Cup 2018 Attackers can intercept the ball from a goal kick

Sorry, Pep: possession isn't everything. Just ask Atletico and Dortmund, football's 'medieval minimalists' – ESPN

The final matchday of the UEFA Champions League group stage was a very good one for teams who saw little of the ball, as several sides who had 40 percent or less possession claimed some notable victories. The most striking of those wins came at the Santiago Bernabeu, where CSKA Moscow, who had just 31 percent of the play, defeated title holders Real Madrid 3-0. In doing so, they not only became the first opposition to beat the stumbling Spanish giants both home and away in the Champions League in 10 years; they also confirmed the success of a very effective footballing philosophy.

It can be argued that in the world of football tactics, there are two dominant schools of thought. One of those is the maximalists: those teams, like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who don’t so much keep the ball as confiscate it. At the other end of the spectrum are the minimalists, represented by Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid and Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund; they treat possession almost as a sinful pleasure, to be indulged only when strictly necessary. Both will be tricky opponents in the Champions League last-16 given their approach to the ball; expect Juventus and Tottenham to work tirelessly if they’re to reach the quarterfinals as a result.

Simeone’s form of footballing austerity has been brutally effective; there’s something medieval about it given that it’s based upon a defence as unyielding as a portcullis, and a counterattack as swift and brutal as a crossbow.

His approach has a proud lineage; in fact, one could argue that the Atletico manager is as faithful to old ideals as Guardiola. While the Spaniard took his lead from Johan Cruyff at Barcelona, Simeone could be said to follow in the tradition of Helenio Herrera, a fellow Argentine who, in the 1950s and 1960s, used a similarly stripped-back style to win four La Liga titles, three Serie A titles and two consecutive European Cups. (In a striking historical parallel, Herrera also excelled at Atletico and Inter Milan, two clubs particularly close to Simeone’s heart.)

For all the praise that Guardiola rightly receives for his influence on the modern game, it can be argued that Simeone, in some sense Herrera’s spiritual heir, had a significant hand in France’s World Cup triumph this summer. Two of his players, left-back Lucas Hernandez and forward Antoine Griezmann, started every match in Russia; the latter scored four times in the tournament, including two in the final. What’s more, they were both perfectly suited to Didier Deschamps’ tactical outlook, which relied (much like Simeone’s Atletico) upon watchful defence and the ability to break at warp speed.

During this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, Simeone has found himself bested by Favre and Dortmund, a team using a more thrilling version of his method: less sturdy in defence, faster and more flamboyant in attack. When the two sides met, Dortmund prevailed 4-0, a game in which the Germans not only had less possession than Atletico (49 percent to 51 percent), but fewer attempts on goal (11 to 13). In essence, Favre and his team had upgraded Atletico’s approach but it’s unlikely Simeone would have taken that as a compliment.

Fortunately for Simeone, Atletico would get revenge the next time the teams met, beating them 2-0. In that match, Simeone remained resolutely on brand; despite playing at home, his team had just 32 percent possession yet had a remarkable 15 shots to Dortmund’s four. Atletico handled their opponents with the disdain and efficiency of professional snipers. Both teams, with their successful variations on the same theme, would make good bets to win the entire tournament.

Minimalism is a fitting identity for clubs who see themselves as underdogs, which is why it suits Dortmund and Atletico. Though they have considerable assets compared to most of their peers, they’re still on the fringes of football’s elite, the small enclosure that is home to the very biggest institutions such as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Against these giants who can easily outspend them, minimalists like CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen — who beat Roma 2-1 in Champions League matchday six — are the daring raiders, storming the barricades of the wealthy and making off with the stash. The ultimate minimalists, Leicester City, won the 2015-16 Premier League title with an average of just under 45 percent possession all season: only two teams in the division, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland, had a lower amount in that campaign.

There is a widespread lament that teams with abundant resources, like France at the 2018 recent World Cup, should play with an open, flamboyant style but their success shows that there is still a great deal to be said for safety first. And, as they and now CSKA Moscow can readily attest, less of the ball is truly more.

Memphis football players relieved, proud to graduate – The Commercial Appeal


Memphis coach Mike Norvell on offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham leaving for Auburn and D-coordinator Chris Ball heading to Northern Arizona
Evan Barnes, The Commercial Appeal

Tony Pollard couldn’t put into words how he felt to graduate from Memphis.

Tito Windham had one word. Freedom.

Both covered the range of emotions that 15 Memphis football players probably felt as they were set to receive their diploma during commencement ceremonies Sunday at FedExForum.

“It’s a dream come true,” Windham said Friday. “You have to represent and make family happy.”


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In addition to tight end Pollard and defensive back Windham, fellow starters Emmanuel Cooper (defensive line), Trevon Tate (offensive line), Roger Joseph (offensive line), Drew Kyser (offensive line) and Curtis Akins (linebacker) also were set to graduate.

For some, Sunday’s ceremony meant even more because they’re among the first in their families to get a college degree. Cooper, who earned his degree in health care leadership, is a first-generation college graduate.

Akins, whose degree is in interdisciplinary studies, is the second in his family to get a degree.

Windham’s father, Tito Sr., has both a master’s degree and doctorate, but the younger Windham will be the first on his mother’s side with a degree.

“Out of all the places in the United States of America, I feel like Mississippi is one of the hardest places to come out of,” said Windham, who said last year he wants to run a pharmacy or medical clinic after leaving Memphis. “I feel like we beat the statistics and beat the odds, so to us, that means a lot.”

Graduation kicks off the final week of the Tigers’ season as they leave Tuesday for the Birmingham Bowl to play Wake Forest (6-6) on Saturday (11 a.m. CT, ESPN). Memphis (8-5) will try to win its first bowl game in four years.

Although that remains a priority for the seniors, Sunday was a chance to celebrate something just as important, if not more so, than a second straight AAC West division title.

It’s why Pollard shook his head trying to explain how it would feel to walk the stage. The native Memphian couldn’t count how many friends and family he would have in attendance but eventually noted that he was most proud of graduating while still in his junior season.

“I came here in 2015,” Pollard said Friday, “so for me to (graduate) in three years, it’s just an extremely big accomplishment.”

More: Memphis-Wake Forest: How to watch the Birmingham Bowl, kickoff, times, TV info

More: Memphis football career over for Darrell Henderson, who will skip Birmingham Bowl

More: Memphis coach Mike Norvell addresses coaching changes heading into Birmingham Bowl


High school football taking a hit on LI – Newsday

Participation in scholastic football is declining at a faster rate on Long Island than in the rest of the state and the nation.

The growing concern about head injuries and concussions continues to fuel the drop in participation locally and nationally, but athletic officials and coaches attribute the steeper decline here to the demographic shifts taking place in certain areas of Long Island.

“The biggest thing to me is that demographics on Long Island are changing, and in some communities the demographics are changing drastically,” said Pat Pizzarelli, a longtime football coach and executive director of Section VIII, the governing body of high school sports in Nassau County.

While football is considered the most popular sport in the United States, many newcomers to the area have grown up playing other sports, including soccer, baseball, tennis, volleyball, baseball, badminton and cricket. Families new to the area said language can be a barrier to learning a sport that was not played in their country of origin.

Overall, high school students face great demands on their time as they try to balance academic and social pressures. For some, an after-school job takes precedence over playing sports. And the teen years can be fraught because many are challenged as they develop emotionally and intellectually, especially amid the hotbed of social media. All of this can be a recipe for diminished participation in athletics, regardless of cultural background.

The number of high school football players on Long Island has decreased 14.2 percent to 7,429 in 2017-18 from 8,660 in 2015-16, according to statistics from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the state’s governing body of high school sports. That’s more than the 5.5 percent drop in the rest of New York State and the 4.1 percent decrease nationwide in the same time.

Jericho High School had to cancel its varsity football program this season because it did not have enough players. Superintendent Henry Grishman said  the demographic shift is affecting pockets of Long Island while the decline in participation in other areas is due mostly to safety concerns.

“If you look at the parts of Long Island where the demographics have not changed, you go into these heavy football districts and their numbers in some cases have started to decline,” he said, “but I think the decline is strictly due to health and safety.”

Dawn Comstock, a sports epidemiology professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, said, “What we’re seeing today at the high school level is not some unique aspect of parental decision-making that’s just occurring today. It’s the natural evolution of decisions that parents made when their children were younger.”

Comstock said youth football experienced deep participation declines nearly a decade ago when concussions became a national talking point, and now those kids are reaching high school.

Long Island’s middle school football participation figures suggest that high school numbers will continue to drop.

There were 4,282 middle school football players on Long Island in 2017-18, compared with 5,363 for the 2015-16 season — a 20  percent decrease.

‘It’s important to talk about’

Michael Yoo, the head football coach and a school psychologist at Herricks High School in New Hyde Park, grew up in Valley Stream, played varsity football for Valley Stream South High School and later played baseball at SUNY Albany. He has been the Herricks football coach for the past 10 years and said recruiting students to play football has been a struggle.

“It’s tough to make the sell to parents when they hear a lot of stuff about concussions and football when football wasn’t a part of how they grew up,” Yoo said. “I do think the demographics play a significant role. When the conversation just surrounds concussions I think we’re missing the mark.

“It’s important to talk about,” Yoo said. “We have a very large Asian and Indian population here that didn’t grow up with football. And I say that being Asian myself and having played football. You want to be careful how you say that, but I wouldn’t be truthful if I said anything different. A lot of the kids come from families that didn’t grow up with football. It’s something we’ve had to overcome.”

Yoo, who is of Korean descent, said his decision to play football “changed my life. It developed grit that allowed me to achieve some things that I may not have been able to achieve without it.”

Citing Long Island’s “dramatic” shift in demographics in the past decade, Christopher Sellers, a social and behavioral sciences professor at Stony Brook University, said it is typical for first-generation immigrants to stick with the cultures they left behind, including sports. Immigrants are less likely to value football because it wasn’t played in their country, he said.

“There’s sociology and psychology researchers that have looked at first-generation, second-generation and third-generation immigrants,” Sellers said. “They have identified patterns about how each of those generations adapt. The first generation really holds on to their country-of-origin values. The idea of family and tradition become really important for them. That’s part of their identity that they hold on to as a way of not losing who they are. The second generation follows by critiquing the parents as not being adaptable. The third generation says, ‘We need to remember, we need to look back.’

“I can tell you we’ve seen this story before. It’s a fairly repeated pattern in American history.”

While Long Island’s population held steady at about 2.85 million from 2010 through 2016, the Asian population grew 21.8 percent and the number of Hispanics grew 16 percent, according to a Long Island Association analysis in 2017. During that period, the Asian population was leading the pace of growth in Nassau County. Latinos were leading growth in Suffolk County, according to the LIA analysis.

Yoo said it doesn’t matter what a student’s cultural background is, a family that understands the positive aspects of the game is more likely to allow their child to play.

Those families “see the value of their sons participating in it,” Yoo said. “There’s a lot to be gained by it. I hesitate to bring stereotypes into it because that’s not necessarily how we think about it. I think of it as these families not valuing football and the benefits of football because they just didn’t grow up with it.”

Janet Rodriguez, whose son Brian, 17, plays football at Copiague High School, grew up on Long Island after her parents came here from the Dominican Republic. She said people from other countries are likely to gravitate to the sports they know.

“You go to the Dominican Republic, you don’t see anybody playing football,” Rodriguez said. “They’re all playing baseball. It’s tradition. Kids just learn what all of their family members played. When they get together on weekends for barbecues, they’re playing baseball or soccer. Nobody really plays American football.”

Pizzarelli points to mentors such as Yoo for showing how football can have a positive impact on children.

“If Mike Yoo is not there, they wouldn’t have football at Herricks,” Pizzarelli said. “That program was on the brink of dissolving before he took it over. And he’s out there on Saturday mornings doing clinics for the young kids. You need that guy out there in the community making the sell about the things the game of football will do for you, how it builds citizenship, teamwork, sportsmanship. And you need to make football fun. If it’s not fun, kids aren’t playing in this day and age. There’s too many other things out there.”

Speaking their language

Copiague head coach Ken Rittenhouse has worried about the future of football at his school for years. He hopes to add a Spanish-speaking coach to help attract new students and teach them the game. Rittenhouse, the coach for 10 years, said some of his players only started playing tackle football recently, which “does present challenges.”

Brian Rodriguez recently finished his second season playing offensive guard and defensive tackle for Copiague. He said a Spanish-speaking coach “would 100 percent help” attract more Hispanic players.

Rodriguez, who grew up in Copiague and speaks English and Spanish, said many of the newer students are more comfortable speaking Spanish. He said he once had to translate a play for a teammate who was confused and didn’t want to speak up.

“The coaching staff is great because they’ll explain things really well,” Rodriguez said. “But the main thing is this is not their first language and they feel uncomfortable asking questions. That’s not a football thing. It’s a life thing.”

Victor Gamarra, 17, who is captain of the Copiague team and has played football since first grade, said he hasn’t had much luck recruiting Hispanics who recently immigrated to the United States.

“It’s kind of hard to convince them because they’ve never done this before,” Gamarra said.

Gamarra, who is a senior and plays running back and safety, said many students don’t have time for football because of school and work commitments.

“They said they had to support their families,” he said. “I got that a lot.”

Southampton High School head coach Bruce Muro said his team uses players from neighboring schools without football teams in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor just to field a squad.

“There are kids who can’t play sports because they have to work,” said Muro, who teaches life skills. “They’re trying to put food on the table and have a place to live, and obviously that’s more important.”

Numbers tell story

There were 7,429 football players at 120 public schools on Long Island in 2017-18, according to the NYSPHSAA. The year before, there were 8,082 football players at 121 Long Island schools. In 2015-16, the number was 8,660.

In the rest of New York, there were 22,875 players in 2017-18 compared with 23,488 players the year before. In 2015-16, there were 24,201. Nationwide, there were 1,036,842 players in 2017-18, down from 1,057,407 players the year before. In 2015-16, there were 1,080,693 players.

The Long Island and New York football participation data come from annual sport-specific school surveys done by NYSPHSAA. The national football participation numbers are from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the national school athletics governing body, which conducts annual sport-specific participation surveys of all 50 states.

Newsday’s analysis of the local, state and national football participation numbers shows a steady decline in traditional 11-player tackle football at every level of play since 2009, when head injuries in football became a national talking point.

That year there were 8,806 players on Long Island, 28,867 in the rest of New York State and 1,109,278 players nationally.

participation numbers | amCharts

Like Jericho High School, Roslyn High School was forced to cancel its varsity program before this season. East Hampton High School has not been able to field a team for the past two years.

The Great Neck school district has two high schools, each with enrollments that rank among the highest in the county. Yet the interest in football was so low last year the schools had to combine to field a varsity team. Neither school has had a junior-varsity team in years.

“We are a very big immigrant school district,” head coach Ben Krauz said. “We have a lot of Middle Eastern, Asian population.”

Krauz, a middle school physical education teacher in the district, said players are more likely to play soccer or volleyball. He added that he hopes to get more players interested in football so the district can maintain a team.

Great Neck’s quarterback, Donovan Phan, 16, whose parents came to the United States from Vietnam in their early 20s, also wrestles and plays lacrosse. He said many students are focused on academics and don’t have time for sports.

Phan said his parents have always supported his interest in sports, but his extended family often questions why he’s spending so much time away from schoolwork.

“My cousins set high bars in terms of academics, and they always tell me, ‘Why are you doing so many sports? You should just focus on your grades,’” Phan said. “Football, when they see it on TV, they don’t get it. They just think it’s violent, like a bunch of people hitting each other.”

Phan runs into the same thing when he tries to recruit players to join the team.

“Most people I talk to about football, when I’m trying to recruit them, they don’t even know what I’m saying and they’d rather not try new things,” he said. Cultural differences “definitely play a huge role in that.”

Joe Huang, 16, plays tight end and linebacker for Great Neck. He was born in Queens and then spent the first five years of his life with his grandparents in China. He moved to Great Neck when he was in third grade.

He said his interest in football began in middle school when he started watching the National Football League. He wanted to play football in eighth grade, but the school didn’t have enough players to field a team.

Huang began playing varsity football as a freshman and recently finished his junior year. He also plays basketball and lacrosse, but he said many students don’t have time for sports because their parents would prefer them to focus on academics.

“A lot of students I talk to, their parents are interfering because they feel football is an obstacle to them getting good grades in school, maybe even a distraction, and that’s the biggest reason,” Huang said.

Huang said more of his friends might be interested in football if they had a role model in the NFL.

“The biggest challenge is just society giving us an example,” he said. “We’re not really seeing a lot of Chinese Americans playing in the NFL.”

Of the 2,257 players in the NFL in 2016, 1.9 percent were Asian/Pacific Islanders while 0.8 percent were Latino, according to University of Central Florida’s The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, which publishes annual diversity breakdowns for all of the major sports.

In college football’s Division I, the highest level of the college game, Asian/Pacific Islanders made up 1.7 percent of the players, while Latinos accounted for 2.9 percent.

Safety concerns

In October 2014, a Shoreham-Wading River High School junior died hours after a hit to the head during a varsity game. And in August 2017, a rising junior at Sachem High School East died when a wooden log fell on his head during a training drill at an offseason high school football camp.

“Anytime there’s a catastrophic injury, I think it has a big impact on the way we live our lives,” said Robert Zayas, executive director of New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, which oversees school sports in Suffolk, said the decline in football participation is “cyclical.”

Combs points to the state rules that now regulate how much hitting a high school team can do in practice and the still relatively new regulations that mandate a player who suffers a head injury must be removed from play. Combs said football is “the safest it’s probably ever been.”

He added, “Hopefully, the parents will become more aware of the safety associated with football.”

Pizzarelli, who oversees school sports in Nassau, said it might be appropriate for schools that constantly struggle to field teams to ask whether it’s worth continuing to play the sport.

“Maybe it’s time they say they’re not a football school, which is OK, it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “Not every school has to have football.”