Mike DeTroia plans someday to teach history.
When he does, the Barnegat High School senior will have some interesting lessons to share with his students about a ninth-grader who was just another player on the freshman football team at a practically new high school.
About how that player and team persevered, progressed and, eventually, prospered.
DeTroia, a Press first-team All-Star who excelled at wide receiver and defensive back, verbally committed last week to attend the University of New Hampshire on a full athletic scholarship.
On Monday, DeTroia recalled that three years ago he was "an average role player on the freshman team, just like everyone else. It's funny to look back on it and see how far I came."
He and the Bengals both came far. Barnegat went 6-5 this year and got the first playoff win in the 6-year-old school's history.
DeTroia joined the varsity as a sophomore but didn't play all that much. He began to emerge as a junior and had a breakout season this year. "He really blossomed," Davis said.
This year DeTroia led the Shore Conference in both catches (62) and interceptions (eight), Barnegat coach Rob Davis said Sunday night. DeTroia had 931 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches. He also threw one touchdown pass. "His presence opened up (the field) for other people on our team, too. He was a real threat for us ... even when he wasn't getting the ball," Davis said.
At defensive back, he broke up five passes in addition to his picks. For his career, he had 108 catches for 1,621 yards and 20 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions and 12 passes broken up, Davis said.
Throwing all those touchdown passes to DeTroia the last couple of years was University of Tulane-bound quarterback Nick SanGiacomo, another Press first-team All-Star.
Barnegat opened in 2004 and made the playoffs in its first varsity season in 2006. But the Bengals lost that game and had not been back to the postseason until this year, when they beat Lower Cape May Regional 29-28 before losing to 56-7 to perennial power West Deptford in the South Jersey Group II semifinals.
The Bengals finished the season 6-5 with their Thanksgiving Day win over Pinelands Regional.
The 6-foot-4, 198-pound wide receiver said he is proud not only of his accomplishments but of the progress the Barnegat football program has made. "That first class that came in and got to the playoffs when they were all juniors, they really set the bar for the past couple of teams that came in. Everyone kept saying, 'We have to get to the playoffs like them.'
"We were lucky enough to take it a step further and win the first playoff game."
DeTroia said he got nine Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) offers and that his decision came down to New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
He never made an official visit to New Hampshire but went several times informally. "I got a good feel for the campus. I got pretty comfortable with the coaches," he said.
DeTroia also got input from New Hampshire's Nico Steriti, a freshman running back out of Toms River East. They friended each other on Facebook and kept in regular contact. "I've gotten a lot of good feedback from him, and I know he'd be honest with me. He's told me some good things and some bad things, so I know he's being honest with me," DeTroia said.
New Hampshire's roster also includes freshman linebacker Robbie Zauck, from Ocean View (Ocean City H.S.). Under coach Sean McDonnell, the Wildcats went 8-5 this season, including 5-3 in the highly competitive Colonial Athletic Association.
It's all more than DeTroia could have envisioned three years earlier as an average player on the freshman team.
"My entire football career," DeTroia added, "has been a surprise."
And every good teacher knows history is full of surprises.
Contact Charles Schroeder:
Mike DeTroia's scholastic stats
A look at the senior season and career stats for the Barnegat High School senior wide receiver and defensive back.
2010 62 931 11
Career 108 1,621 20
2010 8 5
Career 13 12