By Jean DePlacido Correspondent
The Salem News
---- — An excellent student and outstanding football player, St. John’s Prep captain Lucas Bavaro has decided to continue his career in college at Dartmouth College.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Boxford native applied early decision to Dartmouth and just received a “likely letter” from the school. (A likely letter, used by all Ivy League schools for highly recruited athletes, tells a student that the probability of acceptance into an Ivy League school in April is very likely.)
It came down to Dartmouth and Colgate for Bavaro, and he ended up choosing the Big Green over the Big Red.
“Dartmouth and Princeton were the first schools to contact me,” said Bavaro, who holds a 4.2 grade point average. “They were both interested in me after my sophomore year, but had to wait until it was legal (via the NCAA) to contact me.
“The coaches at Dartmouth are great guys, and that’s important because you’re going to be with them for four years. The Colgate coaches were also great, and the two schools are very similar. I loved both, so it was a tough decision.”
Since he began playing for the Eagles as a high school freshman, Bavaro has drawn attention for his hard-hitting and heady play. He has the ability to dominate on both sides of the ball as a split end and defensive back, but it’s on defense where he really shines.
Currently, he is second on the team in tackles for St. John’s (8-1), and as opposing teams have learned all season, it is never safe to ignore No. 5 when punting. He partially blocked one kick and has come ever-so-close a half-dozen other times.
The son of former Danvers High, Notre Dame and New York Giants All-Pro Mark Bavaro (as well as the nephew of former NFL linebacker David Bavaro), Lucas is what his head coach, Jim O’Leary, termed “a special player,” one who was a leader on the Prep’s Super Bowl team of two years ago when he was just a sophomore.
“Lucas certainly has the genes, but he’s made his own way as a uniquely talented player,” O’Leary said. “He’s a born leader, a very likable kid with a great smile. He knows what every player on the field needs to do and has a clear understanding of the game.”
“He has always been a big hitter even when he was only a 150-pound freshman. Even now, he’s not all that big at 195, but he hits like a much larger player. He’s one of (assistant head coach) Mike Barbati’s all-time favorites. You only have to tell him something once and he gets it right away.”
Bavaro was recruited by Holy Cross, Connecticut, Boston College, Harvard, Yale and Brown, among others, but Dartmouth and Colgate were at the top of his list. Boston College was very interested in Bavaro, but felt that a year of prep school would be best.
“Lucas doesn’t need an extra year at prep school; he’s a great student and very mature,” O’Leary said. “Dartmouth is a perfect fit for him.”
O’Leary stressed that while every coach knew the Bavaro name and who his father is, Lucas was evaluated strictly on his play, not by what his last name was.
“The recruitment process is all about finding that right fit. It all comes down to how much the coaches want you and how comfortable you feel in the environment,” O’Leary said. “(Dartmouth head coach) Buddy Teevens drove down one day just to talk to Lucas, then went right back for his own practice. That shows how much they wanted to get him. I know they’re very happy he’s going to play for them.”
He will be the first St. John’s Prep player to suit up for Dartmouth since running back Steve Van Note did so in the mid-2000s.
Bavaro, who said he may possibly major in economics, has been told he’ll play defense at Dartmouth, possibly at safety or outside linebacker. While he’s in Hanover, N.H., he’ll become teammates with former rival Jonathan DiBiaso, who quarterbacked Everett High past St. John’s in the 2010 Super Bowl.
“I’m really happy to have the decision behind me now; it’s a big relief,” Bavaro said.