Putting one player into a college football program is a special accomplishment to behold.
Putting two players into two different college football programs, on the same day, no less, is a big-time statement — a statement that means that the Portsmouth football program is doing something right on the offensive line, and in getting their players noticed in some way, shape of form.
Those two individuals, Anthony Ferrara and Jadan Josey, are the beneficiaries of not only what the Portsmouth football program did right, but what they did right as well. The pair, who are highly regarded from the standpoint of their character and work ethic, signed with Wittenberg and Tiffin, respectively, to continue their football careers last Friday at Portsmouth High School in a signing ceremony that took place in front of family and friends.
And for both players, signing with their respective programs is a feeling that has been a long time coming for each of the pair.
“I’m really excited,” Ferrara said. “I really like it up there (at Wittenberg), and I believe that I made the right decision for sure. I’m ready to get up there and get into shape. The transition from high school to college is going to be hard, but I feel like I’m ready for it.”
“It feels good,” Josey said. “I’ve been working my entire life to play college football, and now it’s finally happening. It’s an unreal feeling.”
However, for outgoing head coach Aaron Duncan and new head coach Bruce Kalb, the pair have more than earned their respective opportunities.
“Both of those young men have worked awfully hard for four years and deserve every good thing that comes their way,” Duncan said. “They’ve been two mainstays in our program who have kept the core of the team tight, and they just do everything the right way, both academically and athletically. I’m just really happy and pleased for them that they will continue to have a chance to continue to play this great game at the next level.”
“You couldn’t ask for two better young men,” Kalb said. “For them have the opportunity to go on and play at the next level and get a good education is excellent. I have no doubt that they will take their studies very seriously, and they’ll graduate and use football as a means to get that education. I’m very proud of them for that. As far as coaching them up front the past few years, I couldn’t ask for two better kids.”
Throughout their careers as Portsmouth High School football players, Ferrara and Josey wasted no time making an impact on the Trojans’ football program. The former (6-2, 275), who played at center and was the team’s long snapper, started all four years of his varsity football career, while the latter (6-1, 235) was a three-year varsity starter at both offensive guard and linebacker — notching 63 and 65 solo stops, respectively, at the latter position in his junior and senior campaigns.
However, their production on the field comes from the consistent work the pair put in when it came to the weight room.
As a whole, Ferrara can bench press a max of 240 pounds while also posting a 350-pound lift in the squat, while Josey holds massive numbers of 300 pounds in the bench press and 425 pounds in the squat. The former — again, at the previously mentioned 6-2, 275 pounds — has added an astounding 23-inch vertical, a very impressive mark for his size.
“(Gerald Cadougan, assistant football coach, head boys track coach and head swimming coach at Portsmouth) has played a major role in my development,” Ferrara said. “I’ve been around him for my entire high school career. He’s played a major role in developing me, helping me get better, and learning technique. He’s a great coach.”
Both players, however, didn’t just participate in football. In fact, the duo have participated in track, where Josey, on his own, has posted impressive numbers — as his team-high 39 foot, 8.25 inch throw in the shot put and his 111 foot, six inch throw in the discus suggest. Ferrara’s met a mark as high as 34 feet, six inches in the shot, as well.
“Track is not the fastest sport, but we have a great time under (Gerald),” Ferrara said. “It’s a great group of guys. We all play football, too, so we just love getting out there, hanging out with each other, and working together.”
It’s also clear, especially in the manner that they speak of him, that both Ferrara and Josey had an affinity for Aaron Duncan and what the outgoing head coach had done for them in their three seasons together. However, a special bond has also been built between the pair and Bruce Kalb, who will be Portsmouth’s newest head coach after serving as the offensive coordinator for the unit over the past three years.
“I loved playing under (Aaron) Duncan,” Ferrara said. “He’s helped turn this program around. I’ve seen some great things, and I believe that those things will continue under (Bruce) Kalb. I’ve got to play under him, and I just believe that he is a great guy.”
“(Duncan) made me the player that I am today,” Josey said. “I love everything about him. He’s like a second Dad to me. Everything he’s taught me and everything that he’s done for me makes him a great man. The entire coaching staff has made a huge impact on my life. I’ll never forget them and everything that they’ve done for me. It was a great program, and I feel blessed to be a part of it. I know that they’ll do great things in the future under (Bruce) Kalb.”
And it was their love for their staff that allowed the pair to overcome those hard times in the trenches — which, from center to the bookend spots at left and right tackle — is arguably the most underappreciated area in the game today.
“It’s hard,” Josey said. “You’ve got to be in shape. I was tired sometimes, but you’ve got to push through it and help your team as much as you can.”
“It takes a lot to play on the line,” Ferrara said. “You’re hitting somebody every play. It takes a lot to play on the line, and it’s something that I’ve cherished a lot. It’s been really fun.”
The amount of fun that the pair had on the offensive line was evident in Portsmouth’s offensive numbers in 2017, as star playmakers Isaac Kelly and Talyn Parker excelled with the duo protecting the pair at all times. Kelly ran for 1,215 yards and threw for 1,105 more while accumulating 21 total touchdowns, and Parker obtained 1,010 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns on the ground despite only playing in six affairs due to injury.
However, while the pair had fun playing alongside each other in a Portsmouth uniform, the pair are serious about competing, and proving themselves, at the collegiate level. In fact, both Ferrara and Josey have continued to partake in the offseason weight and conditioning program that the Trojans have offered — despite the fact that the pair will be graduating in just a couple of months.
“We knew that when we needed to go somewhere, that we could go behind them and we would get there. Any coach could attest to that, as well,” Kalb said. “We knew that they were going to lead by example and do things the right way, and I was very proud of them for setting that tone. I have both of them in the weight room still. They’re outgoing seniors, but they’re lifting with the group coming in next year, and they’re still setting a good example of what it means to be good football players in this program.”
It’s clear, however, that consistency is the pair’s M.O.
“You couldn’t have two better examples as far as Anthony and Jadan as far as doing things the right way,” Duncan said. “They have good GPA’s and good ACT scores. A lot of times, after the season ends, kids will opt to take some time and step away because it’s a grind of a season. Anthony and Jadan would hop right back into Coach Kalb’s Advanced Physical Education class in order to try to prepare themselves every day. They’re working out with the future of the program that is coming in, and I know that’s good for those kids to see the way that Anthony and Jadan do it. When you get guys in there that have done things the right way for four years, and are opting to stay in the weight program and be leaders even though their time at Portsmouth is almost over, that truly speaks volumes.”
Josey, especially, has a great respect for what Ferrara has been able to do for four consistent, consectutive years.
“Anthony’s been my best friend for years now,” Josey said. “I’ve played football almost my whole life with him, and played the same position with him. Not everybody can play on the line, and he did it. It’s good to be able to sign alongside him.”
At Wittenberg, Ferrera will not only get to play for an excellent head coach in Joe Fincham — who has obtained a 201-44 overall record and has won 10 or more games in six of the last nine years — but will also get to play alongside Notre Dame graduates Sam Kayser and Grant Sparks in doing so. Sam’s older brother, Jack, flourshed as an All-Conference linebacker under Fincham before making the move to defensive back in his final season of play with the Tigers — a regular contender in the NCAA Division III Ohio Athletic Conference.
“They’ve got a good line of recruiting down here,” Ferrara said. “I know the Kaysers and Grant, and I’m good buddies with them. I grew up with Sam. We all have always wanted to play football together, and said, ‘Hey, why not do it now?’ I really like it up there, so I’m excited to play with all of them.”
And like the trio that can before him, Ferrara knows the kind of work that will be expected of him — both inside the classroom as well as out of it.
“They’re excited to get me up there,” Ferrara said. “I’ve obviously got to get in the weight room and get conditioned, but they’re really excited for me to get up there. It’s going to be a tough challenge, but I’m going to be at Wittenberg for the long haul, and I’m ready to get up there and play. They’ve got a great program up there, and Wittenberg’s academics, in general, are top of the line. I’m just blessed to be able to go up there, get a great degree, and play football as well.”
As for Josey, the two-way standout isn’t going to a slouch himself. Tiffin, who hadn’t posted a winning season from 2008 to 2015, has posted 8-3 and 6-5 records in back-to-back years as the Dragons have emerged as a top-flight contender in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference at the NCAA Division II level.
“They like my hard work and my work ethic,” Josey said of what Tiffin was attracted to. “I’m just going to go up there, work as hard as I can, and do what they need me to do.”
However, the standout student-athlete knows that his success wouldn’t be possible without the individuals that have been there for him since Day One.
“None of this would be possible without my family,” Josey said. “They’ve done everything for me since I was a little baby. I love every single one of them. Without them, none of this would be possible. I’ve been waiting for this day, and now it’s finally here. It feels amazing. But it’s just the beginning. I’m ready to work hard and see where it goes from there.”
And when both players come upon hard times and hit rough patches during their collegiate football careers — because it’ll happen as a part of life — Duncan and Kalb will be right there to guide Ferrara and Josey along.
Because as the saying goes, ‘Once a Trojan, always a Trojan.’
“We’ll be there for them no matter what they need,” Kalb said of himself and Duncan. “Whether it’s a phone call to just say, ‘Hey, it’s alright. You’re going to make it through this,’ or, ‘Hey, coach. Can I come down here and lift? I’m on break.’ They know that they can always come down here. The door is always open, because in their hearts, they always are Trojans, and they always will be Trojans to us.”
“Naturally, it’s a business and it’s a job when you go to that level,”Duncan said. “I have no doubt that the perseverance that they showed in the football program here will carry over with them. Those guys will continue to persevere and work hard. There’s going to be tough moments when they’re in camp where they’re going to be thinking, ‘What am I doing?’ It’s a job. But with the type of young men that they are, I believe that their character will allow them to excel and be a student-athlete. It’s a little harder to balance school and football at the collegiate level, but they’ll adapt. They’re awesome kids who will persevere, and I think that they’ll bring a lot of heart, dedication, and hard work to the table. Wittenberg and Tiffin are better universities for having young men like them entering their campuses, I can tell you that for sure.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT