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December 8, 2011
Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep safety Elijah Shumate is one of four players from the legendary school to be selected as a U.S. Army All-American this season, but by most accounts he is still the newcomer to the Bosco team having played his first two years at now defunct Paterson (N.J.) Paterson Catholic. However, Shumate has acclimated very well over the last two seasons and hopes to fit in on the East squad down in San Antonio.
"It was a big jump from Paterson Catholic to Don Bosco Prep, moving from Group 1 football to Group 4 football," said the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder. "It took me awhile to learn the pace at Bosco because it's really like a college pace and much faster than I was used to."
Shumate picked things up quickly, but more often than not was the target of Bosco head coach Greg Toal's wrath during practice.
"Coach Toal knew my abilities coming in and I love him for pushing me," said Shumate. "Sometimes you can take it personally but then you just shrug it off. I see how he wants me to be great and when he pays extra attention to what I'm doing it means a lot because it shows me what he sees in me. At first I was confused by it and thought it was because I came from another school, but I began to understand it's because he wants the best for me."
Shumate was a star player at Paterson Catholic but suddenly became one of many at Bosco. However, when he received the news he was selected as a U.S. Army All-American he was probably less surprised than the rest.
"They told us all at the same time and I wasn't really surprised," he said. "I worked really hard for this for four years and it's a dream come true but also one I think earned."
"I think so," he said. "Paterson had a few Army All-Americans as well and it was a well-respected school and I was getting a lot of attention there as well. What Bosco has really done for me is getting me college-ready and made me learn that it's about my teammates first. We are a team first, individuals second."
Shumate is thrilled that he will spend his time with three of his teammates on the East squad in San Antonio.
"It feels really good, the four of us have a great bond as does the whole team," he said. "It's a dream come true for the four of us to play down there together and keep things going. I wish our whole team could play in it or be there but obviously that's not possible, but we will represent them well, as well as represent New Jersey. It will be good to know I have three people I can trust out there who have my back."
Bosco finished the season 11-0 and state champions while boasting wins over out-of-state programs like Mission Viejo, Manatee and St. Edward and many have them ranked as the top program in the land. While the results were perfect, the season was a tough one.
"It was a hard season, hard every day," he said. "We worked hard in practice and we felt no pressure but we wanted to outwork everyone and prove to everyone that we were the best. We were supposed to be No. 1 and be undefeated and sometimes people look at the results and think it was easy, but it wasn't. We worked hard and earned that."
On the recruiting front, Shumate has two visits scheduled for the next two weekends and could be ready to make his decision at the Army Bowl on Jan. 7 on NBC.
"I have Rutgers this weekend and Notre Dame the following weekend and I have already been to South Carolina," said Shumate, the nation's No. 7 safety and No. 128 player overall. "South Carolina was a great visit, I really felt at home with the coaches and the players. Rutgers is obviously my home state school and I like the coaches there and Notre Dame is Notre Dame, they want me as either a running back or a safety which is interesting. I prefer defense, but I'll play whatever."
Will he be ready to make his decision at the Army Bowl?
"I'm not sure," he said. "If I feel I know and am comfortable, I might do that but I still like Georgia Tech and Oklahoma. I've been to Georgia Tech before but I have never been to Oklahoma so I might want to take two more visits after the game. All five teams are even for me right now, I don't have a leader and I think the visits are important."
Shumate plays linebacker in high school but will play safety at the Army Bowl and, as he mentioned, Notre Dame is recruiting him as a running back. What is his favorite position?
"Safety for me, that's what I'll play in college and at the Army Bowl," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing it but I had no problem doing whatever I needed for our team."