By Hector Longo
---- — DANVERS — When recruiting this 6-foot-1, 200-pound outside linebacker/safety out of St. John’s Prep, there are “wild cards” everywhere.
First, there’s the lineage.
Then, there’s the legendary NFL Pro Bowl tight end, sitting quietly in the lawn chair, just off the 20-yard line.
And finally, there’s those size 14 feet, suggesting the potential for one more late growth spurt.
So as you watch Lucas Bavaro help carry St. John’s Prep into Saturday’s showdown here on campus against Central Catholic, you can’t help but ponder the future possibilities.
“You have to understand this is a kid that came to us and started as a freshman at barely 140 pounds,” said Prep coach Jim O’Leary. “Coming in the door, we knew was special, because he’s always been physical. To do that in our conference and play at that level, you know the kid has to be as tough as they come. And you could see that right away.”
The son of former Giants two-time Super Bowl champion Mark Bavaro and nephew of ex-NFL linebacker David Bavaro, Lucas has already been offered a full scholarship to Colgate, while Dartmouth has also applied the heavy pressure.
“One thing that sets Lucas apart is his football intelligence,” said O’Leary, who has coached NFLers in the past like ex-Dolphin Rob Konrad, quarterback Brian St. Pierre and ex-Giants offensive lineman Wayne Lucier. “He’s as smart a football mind as we’ve ever had come through here.”
As high school season progresses here early, Bavaro says no decisions are imminent.
“You know, we’ll see how the season plays out and how things go recruiting-wise,” said Lucas. “There’s a lot more work to be done before any decisions are made.”
Work, both on the football field and in the classroom, is something the youngest of three Bavaro siblings hasn’t shied away from. In school, he owns an attractive 4.2 GPA and scored an exceptional 1,830 on the SATs.
“I definitely think a lot of that work ethic was instilled by my dad,” said Bavaro, who led the Prep with 55 tackles last fall and added 16 catches for 235 yards and a pair of TDs.
The elder Bavaro, known for his quiet nature almost to the point of a recluse, has been the model parent, according to O’Leary.
“He’s helped us any time we’ve asked, but he’s probably talked to me about four or five times in four years, which is very rare in this day and age,” said O’Leary.
A resident of Boxford, Lucas had heads turning in the junior high ranks, picking up the game in fourth grade after talking Mark and his mom, Susan, into the idea.
“My dad never really pushed me at all or put pressure on me to play,” said Lucas. “He gives me tips, he just tries to help out. He was a great player, and I always wanted to be like him.”
Coming up as Mark Bavaro’s son, he immediately drew attention and was expected to follow big brother Dom’s (now at Curry College) footsteps and step right in at the public school of choice, Masconomet Regional.
“I feel bad. I was good friends with the coaches there because my brother played,” said Lucas, who had only seen one St. John’s football game ever before attending school there, and that was from the Masco sideline.
“In seventh grade, I can remember playing in a 7 on 7 tournament, and the Masco coaches were pushing for me to play then.”
But by the time Lucas was ready for high school, mom had found a home on the St. John’s faculty, and the free education was too good to pass up.
Bavaro has huge hopes for the season. This St. John’s senior class has carried the goal of putting the Prep back on the Catholic Conference map. Should that happen, Bavaro could expect more than a handful of other recruiting options to open.
“My heart isn’t set on any one place yet,” he said. “But I’m excited to see what lies ahead for me.”
Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.
DID YOU KNOW: St. John's Prep with 10 starters back on offense and 9 on defense, is picked third in the Catholic Conference by many. That's not something coach Jim O'Leary enjoys hearing. "There's 15 kids from this class alone, who'll play college football," said Jim O'Leary, whose club opened by trouncing Dracut, 49-6.