By Gianna Addario
---- — On every football team there’s a handful of guys whose names you don’t often hear. They don’t have the stats of a running back or the notoriety of a quarterback, but without the consistency of the linemen a team wouldn’t be able to function.
St. John’s Prep center James Fagan has more than earned his day in the spotlight. Today’s Super Bowl matchup against Brockton is the perfect opportunity for Fagan to showcase his talents in his final high school football game of his career.
The Eagles, in their second Super Bowl appearance since 2010, haven’t taken home the hardware since 1997 and with the way this team is structured, this could most definitely be the year they do so.
“Everybody knew that last year was a rebuilding year,” Fagan said of the Prep’s 4-6 record. “After we walked of the field on Thanksgiving last year we said we weren’t stopping until we got a state championship. Obviously winning the Catholic Conference was great, but we’re not satisfied unless we get a win today.
“It’s all we’ve been thinking about since Tuesday. I’ve had complete tunnel vision, it’s been the only thing on my mind.”
One of four captains this year, Fagan earned CC all-star honors for the second season in a row. The two-year varsity starter came up through the Lynnfield Youth Football system and progressed as a tight end through freshman and sophomore year, but made the switch over to lineman the summer of his junior season.
Fagan realized that tight end positions on the varsity at the time were already taken, so he worked out in the weight room and put on 40 pounds and stepped in as the starting center for head coach Jim O’Leary.
“There was a need for a center on the team,” said O’Leary. “He was willing to help the team and James has evolved into one of the best centers we’ve ever had.”
The only senior on the line, Fagan is the rock in the center at 6-2, 245 pounds. For a team that’s rushed for over 3000 yards this season, the Eagles have Fagan to thank for opening up holes.
There’s a lot that goes into being a center, more than most people think. Fagan has to know the type of defense the other team has set up, he has to know the count to snap the ball back to quarterback and then quickly block so that plays can develop.
“He’s such a great guy and brings us together as a team,” said senior running back Alex Moore, who’s rushed for over 800 yards this season. “As the only senior on the line, he takes the other guys under his wing. Without him, the line wouldn’t be what it is.
“Johnny (Thomas) and I try to give all of the credit to the line, it’s one of the best in the state. One of the main reason why Johnny and I can be successful is because of the work of our line.”
Fagan goes nose to nose with some of the best lineman in the state. On Thanksgiving, Fagan covered Xaverian’s Maurice Hurst, who’s playing at Michigan next fall. This kind of responsibility could weigh heavy on some players, but Fagan thrives under the pressure.
“It takes a very special type of personality to do what he does,” added O’Leary. “He has these guys six inches away from him ready to take his head off. He’s just an outstanding young man.”
Though Fagan is still undecided if he will play in college next year, he did say that he will be making the decision soon after the big game on Saturday.