Deerfield defensive lineman Patrick Forrestal, left, smiles for a picture with his mother Allison after the 6-foot-4, 312-poound football star signed a Division I scholarship Wednesday with the Naval Academy, where his grandfather, Thomas Forrestal, was a former All-American QB for the Midshipmen. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — The first time Patrick Forrestal went to the Naval Academy he was 12 years old.
He was a bit moved by the whole experience.
Forrestal still remembers stopping to look at the plaque of his grandfather, Thomas Forrestal, who was an All-American quarterback for the Midshipmen and the MVP of the 1958 Cotton Bowl.
Now he’s going back.
Forrestal, a bigger-than-life defensive lineman who helped Deerfield-Windsor win the GISA Class AAA state title this past season, signed his national letter-of-intent with the Naval Academy on Wednesday at the DWS media center amid friends and family.
There were other schools, including a list of Ivy League colleges and Georgia Tech, that expressed interest in Forrestal — a 6-foot-4, 312-pound defensive lineman who is quick and agile for his size — but Navy simply stormed the beach to bring home the kid they want to some day anchor the defensive line.
“They just were on me and stayed on me,’’ said Forrestal, who said Yale also showed a tremendous amount of interest. “They really wanted me. When I went to their camp (back on June 30) they told me then that I could have a home there. And they called every week.’’
The odd thing about this story is that when the recruiting process began, Navy didn’t realize that Forrestal was related to his All-American quarterback grandfather, or that Forrestal’s father, Thomas Jr., had graduated from the Naval Academy. His father lives in Pennsylvania and was not at the signing.
“They didn’t know,’’ said Patrick’s mother, Allison Forrestal. “They weren’t anywhere on Patrick’s radar until last spring. They had their eyes on Patrick before they knew about the lineage. They saw a highlight film of Patrick’s on YouTube and contacted him.’’
The first contact?
“The Navy recruiting coordinator (coach Justin Davis) contacted me on Facebook,’’ Patrick said. “Then he added me on Facebook. He came down to see me, and they measured me to make sure of my size. Then I went to their camp in June, and I loved it.
“It’s cool to be part of a legacy. You want to follow in (your grandfather’s footsteps). But all along they were the best offer for me to take.’’
Forrestal could see playing time as a freshman. Navy has gone to a 5-3 defense, and the nose guard is critical. That’s where Forrestal’s future lies — right smack in the middle of the Midshipmen’s defense.
“They rotate players in their defense, and they really want a big guy to play at the nose guard,’’ DWS coach Allen Lowe said. “They’re looking for some big bodies to fill that hole, and he fits the bill. He may get into the rotation early.’’
Forrestal played both ways at DWS and many felt his future might have been as an offensive lineman, but his quickness and jump off the ball improved so much on defense that it changed everyone’s perception of him.
Lowe believes it’s because of a past injury: Forrestal broke his tibia in his left leg playing basketball as a sophomore.
“I think it wasn’t until this year that he fully recovered. I don’t think he was at full speed until his senior year,’’ Lowe said. “He has brought himself all the way back, and you could see it in his quickness off the ball and in his mobility on the line of scrimmage. He really impressed me.’’
Forrestal was one of the top offensive linemen in GISA and was even better on defense, making 79 tackles, including 43 solos along with two sacks. He was even better in the classroom, where he has a 3.9 GPA.
“He’s the best lineman we’ve ever had here,’’ Lowe said. “He could have played tight end. He’s got great hands, and he’s that good of an athlete. We’re really going to miss him. But what an opportunity! The football is gravy. To go to the Naval Academy. ... very few get selected. He knows what this means to him — not only for his football career, but for his career in general.’’
Forrestal first told The Herald back in November that he had verbally committed to Navy because it made sense, and he was thrilled to make the commitment as early as he did. He was even happier on National Signing Day.
“It was very surreal,’’ said Forrestal, who knows he will have to lose some weight and become even quicker on defense at the next level. He prepared for his senior season by working out with a trainer in Atlanta last summer, and he said it helped his burst off the ball and overall agility.
“I know they are going to want me to lose some weight and get down (from 312 to 300),’’ he said. “That’s what I’m focusing on, getting stronger and getting faster. I like it. It’s motivation. I’ll push myself harder.’’
Lowe said there’s no doubt Forrestal will be a force at Navy.
“He has excelled at everything he has done, on the football field and academically,’’ Lowe said. “There’s no reason to think he won’t excel at Navy.’’