OFF TO THE BIG LEAGUES — Justin Dewitt stands with coaches Rob Valenti (left) and John Sopko. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
SPRINGVILLE — The New York State High School Football Coaches Association hosts an annual, regional combine for student athletes who participate in Section VI and Section V.
Annually, between 200 and 250 athletes participate in the combine and compete, in a number of different contests.
On May 5, Springville-Griffith Institute junior Justin DeWitt participated in the NYSHSCA combine and has been invited to compete in the elite combine, with other players, throughout New York state. The NYSHSCA announced the 250 qualifiers who will be at the elite combine, held at East Syracuse Minoa High School on July 13. The 250 athletes will come from Sections I – VI.
DeWitt said that is excited to be heading to the combine. “It’s an honor to even go there,” he said. “There are going to be some of the top players in New York there. It will be a great experience for me. I didn’t expect to make the elite combine, because of all of the great athletes that were at the regional one.”
Out of the 200 participants at that regional event, 50 qualified for the elite combine in Syracuse. DeWitt’s best performance came in the vertical jump, where his jump of 34 1/2 feet ranked him fourth.
DeWitt was the smallest of the 50 players to qualify. “I was really surprised I qualified, because of my size, but I try to not to let my size get in the way of anything,” he said. “I try to just push through everything. I work out, six days a week, at a local gym, and do what I can, to make myself better.”
Coach John Sopko said, “He values the opportunities that he has been provided with. He stepped up and did the combine. It shows others that it can be done. He made himself available and took on the opportunity. You hope that he becomes an example for other players in our program.”
The soon-to-be senior led the Griffins in touchdown receptions, last year, and tied with Ethan Benz, for the team lead in receptions.
DeWitt made a 10-yard, diving touchdown catch in the Class B semi-finals against Cheektowaga, which he said proved to be a vital moment in the game that advanced the Griffins to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
When DeWitt is not playing football, he runs track. This past winter, he qualified for sectionals in the 55-meter dash and was named sprint most valuable player, in indoor track. In outdoor track, DeWitt was named sprint most valuable player, once again, competing in the 100-meter dash. He was also a leg on Springville’s 4-by-100 team.
“His immediate intention, when the ball is thrown his way, is not to just catch it, but to turn it up the field and get as many yards as he can, with his speed,” Sopko said. “He shows that and he’s able to model that, to other players, on the team and other players’ coming up. We require our ends to block, so his willingness to mix it up and block sends a positive message to the other ends, as well.”
DeWitt said that he is looking forward to his senior season and getting back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. He will look to continue his football career, in college, and has researched Thiel, Gannon, Clarion, Mansfield, Lock Haven, St. John Fisher and Buffalo State.
DeWitt’s brother Collin is also part of the football program. Thery are the sons of Cindy and Jerry DeWitt of Springville.