Even though he had an All-State football season in 2018, rushing for 1,700 yards and scoring 24 touchdowns on offense, while collecting 93 tackles and an astounding 15 sacks on defense, Lyndhurst High School’s Piotr Partyla didn’t have a host of college interest as he entered his senior year of high school.
“It was a little frustrating,” Partyla said. “I really thought I’d have something.”
“It was frustrating to him,” Lyndhurst High School head football coach Rich Tuero said. “He wasn’t exactly feeling the love. I was making calls, e-mails, talking to coaches and they were all saying the same thing.”
The message: At 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Partyla wasn’t big enough to play major college football.
But then Tuero reached out to an old friend. Tony Sorrentino, an assistant coach at Northern Illinois, located in DeKalb, is a Belleville native who grew up in Parsippany and went to Mountain Lakes High School.
Tuero and Sorrentino developed a friendship, going back to when Sorrentino played at the College of New Jersey and Tuero was playing at Montclair State.
Tuero told Sorrentino about Partyla and insisted that Partyla might not be the biggest kid in the world, but he certainly has NCAA Division I talent.
“Tony Sorrentino trusted me and took a look at Piotr,” Tuero said. “They have brought other kids from New Jersey to Northern Illinois.”
Talented receiver Mohamed Toure of Irvington is a freshman wide receiver on the NIU roster.
The new head coach at NIU is Thomas Hammock, the former running backs coach with the Baltimore Ravens, who was born in Jersey City, so there is another Jersey connection.
“Northern Illinois was the only school to give Piotr the legitimate chance,” Tuero said.
The coaching staff invited Partyla for an official visit a few months ago. And that sold Partyla about his future.
“They treated me very well out there,” Partyla said. “I loved it there. It felt like home. The coaches and the players all treated me like I was on the team already.”
So recently, Partyla made the call to the NIU coaches and told them that he was giving a verbal commitment to attend NIU next fall.
With that, Partyla will become the first Lyndhurst football player to play NCAA Division I football since Ted Shoebridge and Marcel Lajterman in 1968 and before that, Tom Longo to Notre Dame in 1962.
Shoebridge and Lajterman were on the Marshall University football team that perished in the tragic plane crash that killed the entire team in 1970. Longo, who went on to play in the NFL with the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, died in 2015.
Partyla was pleased that his recruiting process is now over.
“I didn’t want to wait it out any longer,” Partyla said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. The coaches have put their trust in me. It feels great. I can go into my senior year now and not worry about who’s going to offer me.”
Partyla was asked if he who knew the last player from Lyndhurst was to get a Division I scholarship.
“I just know that I’m the first in a very long time,” Partyla said. “I’m very humbled by it.”
Tuero is also happy for his star player.
“I’m super psyched for him,” Tuero said. “It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid. He has it all. Northern Illinois treated Piotr like he was a king. I could trust the coach (Hammock). I could see it in his eyes. He was all business. I wish there were more like him. It’s a very rewarding feeling and a sense of relief. It really was a long and crazy process. Northern Illinois did all the right things with him. It’s just awesome.”
The Golden Bears were 9-3 last season, the most wins the school ever had in one year. They began practice for the 2019 season recently with one thing in mind – topping last year’s mark.
“The kid is now focused on one thing,” Tuero said. “He wants the big prize this year.”
“I think we’re going to do fine,” Partyla said. “I know I have to step it up this year. But I’m ready for this year. I’m ready for anything.”
Partyla has been training at FASST in Lyndhurst, getting ready for the 2019 season.
“I never worked this hard in my high school career,” Partyla said. “I’ve been working like crazy. I’ve been working on my speed drills with Coach (Bruce) Johnston and Coach Ryan (Marshall). I’ve gotten stronger and faster. I’m 100 percent ready for the season. The minute I committed, I just wanted to go all out this season.”
That’s a scary thought for any opponent of the Golden Bears this season.
Lyndhurst High School standout senior running back/linebacker Piotr Partyla has given a verbal commitment to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, becoming the first NCAA Division I product from Lyndhurst in 50 years. Photo by Jim Hague
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”