Villanova University will add another local football star when Mark Clements of Oakcrest High School joins the team in the fall of 2012.
Clements, who will be a senior, verbally committed to Villanova on Friday.
"When I went to visit I felt a warm welcome from the coaches," Clements, 17, of Mays Landing, said. "I liked the campus and the football team was very welcoming. The coaches were really nice."
Clements joins Holy Spirit's Nico D'Angelo as another local player in the incoming class for 2012.
Chris Gough (St. Augustine), Joe Sarnese (Holy Spirit) and Justin Rhinesmith (Middle Township) will join the Wildcats in 2011 on a team that already boasts several of the area's top players.
Receivers Norman White (St. Joseph) and Kenny Miles (Buena Regional), quarterback Dustin Thomas (St. Augustine Prep), defensive lineman Antoine Lewis (Mainland Regional) and defensive back Craig James (Oakcrest) also play for Villanova.
"I knew there was a lot of Cape-Atlantic League players there like Joe Sarnese and Nico D'Angelo," Clements said. "It has to be a good atmosphere if so many of South Jersey's top players want to go there and play. I just thought it was a good fit for me."
Clements said he is excited to join the Villanova tradition and that he thinks he can contribute in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA.
"I can bring a smart young man that knows the game," Clements said. "I'm a playmaker and a ball hawk. I go get the ball."
Oakcrest head coach Chuck Smith said Clements was also being pursued by New Hampshire, Fordham and James Madison University.
Smith accompanied Clements on a visit to Villanova and said he was happy with Clements' decision.
"It's a great school academically, and a very good football program," Smith said. "It's an honor for him to play for that type of program."
Smith said he thinks that Clements, who helped the Falcons reach the South Jersey Group IV title game last fall, is one of the best high school players to play in the CAL.
"He's one of the leaders on our team and one of the best defensive backs I've ever seen from coaching football for over 20 years," Smith said. "He has great hits, great explosion, a knack for football, and is a very hard worker."
Clements' older brother John played at the University of New Hampshire and has been helping coach at Oakcrest for two years.
"He's coached me up and made me a real good player," Clements said. "I appreciate everything that he does."
Also excited for Clements' decision was his mother, Roseann, who Clements said was the first person he called after deciding.
"She was happy for me," Clements said. "She said wherever I go she'll support me. When she got home she ran in the house and hugged me and said, 'We're Wildcats now.' "
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