Sports

Gallagher, gridiron goliath, chooses Georgetown

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

High school kid. Football player. Big as a Mack truck, strong as an ox. Arms the size of tree trunks. Mashes smaller players into the turf - and pretty much everyone else is smaller. Gets praises from his coach and other teams' coaches and wins all sorts of postseason awards. Literally, he's the big man on campus.

But the grades just aren't there.

And the dream of playing college football for some big name school is dashed because the kid can't match his athletic prowess with his arithmetic.

Ahem. Let me stop myself. This is not Thomas Gallagher's story.

Not by a long shot.

Don't get me wrong. At 6 feet

5 inches and 315 pounds, Gallagher fits half of that story.

The combo offensive and defensive lineman is a line coach's dream. He's big, hard-working, quick on his feet for a lineman (or anyone putting on pads for that matter), bright, focused and unaffected by the divine gifts of his massive leverage and slow-twitch muscle fibers.

But Gallagher's name is found as often on an honor roll as an all-league list. And consider: He's been an all-league first-teamer since his sophomore year, an all-state honorable mention the past two years and helped the Wolves to four consecutive state playoff appearances.

"I was given a gift and I took full advantage of it but I was surrounded by a lot of good players who helped me get to this point," he says.

It's his 3.6 grade-point average and solid standardized test scores that helped separate the Sequim youth from other aspiring college o-linemen.

That's why, even from a small school like Sequim, the lineman who drew raves from coaches far and wide caught the eyes of numerous college scouts across the country his junior and senior years. A 300-pound bruiser lineman with no academic "issues?" Bring him on!

Add to the package a whirlwind of summer camps that put Gallagher on the national scene. At three massive prep camps for college recruits last summer, the Sequim youth simply was unstoppable. At the Princeton football camp in July, where partially padded youths hammer each other in drills all day long, Gallagher was named Most Valuable Player among offensive linemen. At a top invitation-only camp in Los Angeles, he again earned MVP status among the lineman. At the annual University of Oregon football camp, a 1,300-player event, he brought home his third MVP trophy.

But Gallagher isn't going Pac-10 or Big-10 or Big-12 or even ACC. He's going Patriot League.

Next fall, Gallagher straps on the pads - and attends plenty of tough classes - at Georgetown University, one of the top schools in the country.

"If I don't make it, I'm still set," Gallagher says without bravado or machismo.



The NFL dream

Make it? Yes, he's talking about the National Football League. Sure, it's every football player's dream, right? From the time they're old enough to put on pads, it seems like every footballer wants to play for a living on Sunday afternoons and Monday nights.

Gallagher's no different - except the size, strength, conditioning, attitude and college scholarship, that is.

Gallagher had offers - some likely full rides, some partial scholarships - to bigger schools, the likes of Boston College, UCLA, Florida State and Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Princeton.

But Georgetown caught Gallagher's eye.

"It really wasn't a tough decision for me," he says, noting that he plans to major in advertising or business. "I've always liked Washington, D.C. I'm probably going to stay there all four years because of the education. The chance ... was irresistible."



A Hoya in the making

Gallagher has family on the East Coast and spent much of his childhood in Delaware, so that part makes sense.

But Georgetown football? The USC Trojans, they are not. Last season, the Hoyas went an un-illustrious 0-6 in the Patriot League and 0-11 overall. And 2-8 the year before that. And 1-10 the year before that. And 2-9 the year before that.

Gallagher isn't panicking. In fact, the rebuilding process even seems to interest him.

"One of the things I've noticed (with good teams), there's always sort of a build-up year," Gallagher says. "Coach (Kevin) Kelly is starting to recruit a wider range of players, not just from the East Coast. Call it a gut feeling; the next couple of years at Georgetown are going to be pretty good."

Gallagher adds: "My chances at the NFL, it doesn't really matter where I go."

Will Gallagher get noticed? Probably so. The Sequim youth says he'll likely be the biggest player on the team at season's start, likely start as a true freshman and likely play the coveted left tackle position.

Yeah, but 0-11 Georgetown?

"Do I want to go be a beat-up dummy for a year or go to a school where I can play and get education?" Gallagher asks rhetorically.

Good point. Plus, he's already getting some interest from schools that suggest he transfer.

"The nice thing is, if I find that I need a higher level of football to play at, I have that option," he says.



A business decision

But first, Georgetown, where Gallagher's "full-ride" scholarship pays for all but $2,000 of the $57,000-per-year price tag that comes with being a Hoya.

"I think I made the right decision," Gallagher says. "In 10 years, my goal, my dream is to be in the NFL. I personally think I can do it. If not in the NFL, then the business world."

A long shot? Sure, some may think that's what Gallagher is when he talks assertively, confidently, purposefully, about the National Football League. He's a long-shot of long-shots.

Maybe, Probably, just looking at numbers. But you know that joke about what a 600-pound gorilla eats? Anything he wants.

The 32 teams in the National Football League made a few hundred 20-somethings' dreams come true at the draft last week. After Sam Bradford, the quarterback from Oklahoma, was chosen with the No. 1 pick, four of the next five selections were offensive or defensive linemen; a total of 13 linemen went in the first round alone.

Seems that quite a few NFL teams are looking for talented linemen to play for them on Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings.

Next fall, there'll be one of those in a Georgetown Hoya uniform. If you're trying to pick him out of the crowd, he's the big guy with the even bigger brain.



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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