Devonte Spann and Mike Karycinski learned a lot from playing football at Matawan Regional High School.
Mainly, they learned the most important career skill: How to hold down a job.
Spann, a running back, and Karycinski, a two-way lineman, both balanced football with their jobs during high school.
Karycinski actually had two jobs, one with a catering company and another with the Cluck-U Chicken restaurant chain. Spann was a trainer and desk person at Retro Fitness in Matawan.
For excelling on the football field and for representing Matawan in the community, Spann and Karycinski were selected to the 41st Annual All-Shore Gridiron Classic Tthat was played on July 12 at Brick Memorial High School in Brick.
Both played for the Monmouth County All-Star team that posted a 28-14 victory over the Ocean County All-Stars.
Spann ran for 32 yards on four carries. Karycinski anchored a defensive line that helped hold Ocean County to 34 passing yards and zero points until the fourth quarter.
“It means a lot to show how Matawan plays football,” Spann said. “It’s also just fun to play your last high school game on an all-star team.”
“It feels great. I love it. I’m having so much fun right now,” said Karycinski during the game.
Spann and Karycinski both still work at their respective companies, even though they graduated in June. And they both still bring the same care and enthusiasm to their jobs away from the field.
“Nothing is handed to you. You have to work for it,” Spann said. “I apply that to work.”
“I got a lot of responsibilities. I take care of my little sister, too,” Karycinski said. “I learn how to handle all those responsibilities on the football field. You have to be disciplined.”
Spann and Karycinski will take their discipline to the next level.
Spann will play for the University of New Haven, a Division 2 school in West Haven, Conn., next fall. Karycinski is headed to Division 3 King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Spann wants to make the National Football League and play for the Philadelphia Eagles. Karycinski just hopes to “start as a freshman.”
Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School offensive lineman Justin Johnson will also play college football later this year when he enrolls at Division 3 Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
Johnson, a tall, brawny lineman for the Monmouth County squad , helped dominate the Ocean County defensive line. Monmouth rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns.
“We hit them hard and drove them up the field,” Johnson said. “We’re bigger, stronger and faster. It was definitely a great experience.”
Johnson hopes to “play all four years” at Wesleyan, he said. But he also said, “Right now I’m focused on being a student, because Wesleyan’s a liberal arts school. So I got time to decide what I want to be. It’s got a good arts program for music and performing arts. It’s got a good economics program. It’s just an all-around great education.”
Whichever program Johnson chooses, he will know how to succeed in it.
Football taught him discipline, like it did for Spann and Karycinski.
“We won four state championships in a row at R-FH. Then this year, to lose (to Somerville) in the final two minutes (of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional playoff championship game) was definitely devastating,” Johnson said. “That taught me that no matter how good I think I am, I can always get better.”