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Manalapan athletes sign on for college

Manalapan High School held a ceremony to celebrate its student-athletes who signed National Letters of Intent.

On Feb. 7, which is National Signing Day across the country, eight Manalapan students signed their letters in the school’s auditorium.

Naim Mayfield and Matt Mazza were two of the five Manalapan football players who signed letters. They steered Manalapan to an 11-1 record and an appearance in the Central Jersey, Group 5 state sectional playoff final in December. Manalapan fell to South Brunswick High School, 18-14, in the championship game at Rutgers University.

Mayfield, the all-state running back who broke numerous school rushing records, signed to continue his career at Fordham University. Mazza, a lineman, will play next season at Villanova University.

The other football players who signed letters were kicker David Gelb, who signed with the University of Maine; receiver Scott Scherzer, who signed with Marist University; and receiver Symir Blacknall, who signed with the University of New Hampshire.

Also signing were cheerleader Sydney Hess, who will do Acro Tumbling for Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania; cross-country runner Danielle Baker, who signed with Seton Hall University; and soccer player Ariella Kaplan, who signed with the University of Maryland in Baltimore County.

Each student-athlete came up to the table to sign and then had their photos taken with their family and friends. Rodney Taylor, the supervisor of extra curricular activities at Manalapan, served as the host at the ceremony.

Mayfield was excited to be able to share the moment with his father, Imamu Mayfield Senior, and brother, Imamu Mayfield Junior, both of whom he calls his idols. His older brother was a former Manalapan football standout and his father was a professional boxer.

“It’s been great because they’ve been my support system all the way to this point,” Naim Mayfield said. “For them to be here on this special day is heartwarming because it shows they will be there for me no matter what.”

Mayfield, who finished his senior season with 2,684 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns, revealed why he chose to go to Fordham.

“It was just where I felt at home,” he said. “It was a place where I could see myself living there for four years with the culture that they’ve built. It just feels comfortable there. My expectations are now different from the summer of last year till 10 years down the road. I’m just trying to be the best person I can be and try to change the world one day at a time.”

Mazza, who played just two years of scholastic football, is excited to get to the next chapter in his career.

“It’s definitely overwhelming,” he said. “You work your way to get to this point, and you can’t wait to work even harder to perform at the next level. It’s exciting. I’ll probably redshirt my first year and learn the schemes, try to get bigger and stronger [and] try to use this as an opportunity to fulfill by full potential.”

Mazza admitted he has some important homework that he needs to do before he arrives at Villanova’s campus, which is near Philadelphia.

“I have not found my favorite cheesesteak spot yet,” Mazza said about Philadelphia’s popular food. “They have a bunch of them over there, so I’m going to have to start scouting out the best ones.”

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