Former Panthers from Platt gear up for the next level

Former Panthers from Platt gear up for the next level


WALLINGFORD — A main point of Connecticut’s senior All-Star football games, be they the old Governors Cups against Rhode Island or the new all-CT “Super 100 Classic,” is not merely to give the state’s best players one last high school showcase, but to get them ready for college ball.

After all, that’s where virtually all of them are heading.

Practices are at a college pace with a college level of organization. The caliber of talent on the field gives a glimpse at the competition that lies ahead.

Timing and location are part of the transition, too. The All-Star game comes on the last Saturday in June, roughly a month from the start of college camps, and it’s played in a college stadium, Rentschler Field.

There is one other angle: Getting guys acclimated to the positions they’re likely to play collegiately, especially if those positions differ from the ones they played in high school.

Such is the case for two of the three Platt Panthers who will suit up for Team Nutmeg on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Jason Nelson, used primarily at linebacker at Platt, is being deployed exclusively at safety, which he’ll play at Division III Union College in New York.

Erlin Colon, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder who anchored Platt’s line at tackle, has been moved inside to guard, which is where he’ll play at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania.

“They definitely try to match you for where you’re going to be,” Nelson noted. “It was kind of your decision for the most part unless you needed to change your position for the team.”

The third Panther, Deion Lespier, will be on familiar terrain at cornerback. That’s where he played for Platt and that’s where he’s expected to play at Division III Western Connecticut.

Still, there is an adjustment for him. While Lespier typically guarded the other team’s best receiver, many of Platt’s opponents were run-oriented, and they certainly didn’t have the breadth of talent the All-Star experience provides.

“The level here is way higher. Some teams, there’s like one star and the rest of the team is all right. Here, everyone is an All-Star, everyone is good,” Lespier said after practice Wednesday. “These are the best players in Connecticut, so it’s preparing me to play in college.”

Team Nutmeg has been practicing at Sheehan, home turf of head coach John Ferrazzi, who’s been taking a distinct college approach to preparing his squad for Team Constitution.

“It’s a fast tempo,” Colon said.

“Everything moves quick, just like college. I try to take it in as much as I can to get used to it.”

Nelson, Lespier and Colon are already following conditioning programs from their respective schools. Colon, for one, hits the track every morning, Monday through Friday, running 110-yard sprints with two-mile intervals.

That conditioning, combined with agility drills and weightlifting, had the big man in pretty good shape heading into the All-Star sessions.

“I’ve been running; I’ve gone to the gym,” said Colon. “I’m just a little sore from the hitting, but it’s a pleasure to be out here.”

“It’s definitely getting me ready for college,” Nelson said of the All-Star experience. “It’s a good way to get in shape and get the feel of the putting your pads back on.”

Nelson reports to Union on August 17. Lespier goes to WCSU the following day. Colon is out of here two weeks earlier, on August 3.

In the meantime, the three ex-Panthers, along with Platt head coach Jason Bruenn, who is assisting on Team Nutmeg’s defense, have one last game to play together.

They also have two more All-Star practices to get a few licks in on one another. Hey, it’s like college: strictly two platoon, offense on this side of the ball, defense on that side. Hike the ball already, just don’t tackle to the ground.

So far, Nelson and Colon have not knocked pads.

“Yeah, lucky for Erl,” grinned Nelson, who gives away a good nine inches and 125 pounds to his fellow Platt grad.

“He almost got me a couple of times.”

Nelson better keep an eye peeled.

“When I can get a shot,” said Colon, flashing a grin of his own, “I’ll take it.”

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