By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Most college recruiting processes are long, drawn out affairs. Some of them last for years. A college coach might show some interest in a prospective player when the player is a sophomore, thus beginning the tedious procedure that leads up to signing the letter of intent. Incredibly, almost astonishingly, that wasn’t the case with North Arlington High School soccer superstar Danny Cordeiro. His entire recruiting ordeal lasted all of three weeks. Here’s how the story unfolds. It really is remarkable.
Cordeiro, the Vikings’ standout center midfielder, who had an amazing 30 goals and 18 assists this season, innocently sent an e-mail to the coaching staff at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“I was interested in NJIT, because I want to study engineering,” said Cordeiro, who is almost certain to be an All-Group I selection in a few weeks. “As it turned out, they were already interested in me.”
NJIT assistant coach David Janezic knew of Cordeiro’s exploits and had a keen interest.
“As it turns out, he (Janezic) got a good recommendation from coach Robbie Fitzpatrick, the head coach at Georgian Court,” Cordeiro said. “His wife was an assistant coach at North Arlington, so he put in a good word for me, because he knew I wanted to study engineering.”
So Janezic came to watch Cordeiro play a few times and obviously liked what he saw — a tall, skilled player with excellent speed and good field awareness.
“He came to see me a second time against Wallington and after the game, he told me that he liked what I did on the field, Cordeiro said.
With that, Janezic made a scholarship offer to Cordeiro and the Viking standout quickly accepted. Last week, Cordeiro verbally committed to NJIT, becoming the first NA product to go NCAA Division I in soccer since Eric Chaves went to Marist College seven years ago.
And the whole thing took place in three weeks.
“I’m pretty surprised,” Cordeiro said. “I didn’t think I was going to get any offers, especially not Division I. Most of the Division I schools have already used up their scholarships, so I jumped at the first opportunity. I think it’s great.” Cordeiro will also get to stay close to home, giving his family and friends the opportunity to see him play for the Highlanders, who finished with a 7-9-2 record this season under first-year head coach Didier Orellana.
“I wanted to be close enough, but I’m still going to live on campus,” Cordeiro said. “I might have early practices in the morning and I don’t want to have to rush to get there. But the aspect that my family and friends can see me play is great. I like that. It’s good to be close for that.”
Cordeiro likes the way NJIT plays.
“I like how they’re trying to bring up their young talent,” Cordeiro said. “I’m glad that they’re going to have a good, young team.”
The program’s all-time leading scorer in Division I play is Kearny native Franco Gamero. Unfortunately, Cordeiro and Gamero will never get a chance to be teammates, because Gamero is graduating in the spring of 2014.
North Arlington head coach Jesse Dembowski was elated with the news of Cordeiro’s commitment.
“I’m extremely excited,” Dembowski said. “He’s my first Division I player. He’s so deserving of this. He’s an excellent player. I was just hoping that someone else saw the talent that he had. He’s so passionate about engineering, so this was a great fit for him. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Dembowski liked Cordeiro’s approach.
“He was there for every single practice, working hard every day,” Dembowski said. “And he loves soccer. He would spend his free time devising plays. He would come up with new ideas and run the formations by me. It was like having another assistant coach. He really worked hard at it.”
Dembowski will sorely miss Cordeiro.
“He’s a great role model,” Dembowski said. “He’s already got some of the kids thinking about colleges for soccer. He has absolutely opened doors. He was a great player for us and a great young man.”
Cordeiro won’t officially sign his national letter of intent with NJIT until February, but his decision is etched in stone.
“I’m definitely glad that I’m getting a chance to play D-I,” Cordeiro said. “It was always one of my dreams to get the chance. I’m going to be able to balance soccer with my education. I just want to have a good experience in college. It’s definitely a good feeling. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”