There’s a simple explanation for why highly recruited basketball star Romeo Weems is playing football at New Haven.
“Football is where his heart is,” Rockets basketball coach Tedaro France II said.
“Contact – I just love it,” added Weems, a 6-foot-6 junior who has basketball scholarship offers from several universities, including Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Virginia Commonwealth.
Weems played a significant part in New Haven’s 27-20 season-opening victory over Brown City at Ward E. Young Field on Friday night.
The 16-year-old caught a touchdown pass, rushed for a key first down and knocked down a pass while playing slot receiver and defensive end for veteran coach John Callahan, who’s in his first season with the Rockets.
Weems, who played quarterback for the Rockets last season, picked up a first down that sealed the victory when he made a bruising, 17-yard run deep into Green Devils territory late in the fourth quarter.
“When I get the ball like that, I’m looking to lower my shoulder and run somebody over,” Weems said.
“I love defense, because there’s more contact, but I love playing offense, too. I just want to make plays for my team.”
Some might question the wisdom of Weems playing a hard-knocks sport like football when he faces a bright basketball future, but France isn’t among them.
“I want my (players) to play other sports,” he said. “I think that makes them more well-rounded athletes.”
France knows first-hand the benefits of being savvy in multiple sports.
As a New Haven athlete in the 1990s, he considered basketball his first love, but it was football through which France earned a scholarship from Central Michigan University.
France and Weems helped New Haven win the 2017 state Class B hoops championship, and in June Weems was a member of the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team that won the gold medal at the FIBA U16 Americas tournament in Argentina.
Basketball commitments probably will keep Weems from playing all nine football games for the Rockets, Callahan said.
“We had a talk,” the former Loyola coach said. “He has some commitments, and I respect those. He has an opportunity to do a few things. Hey, he’s one of the best players in the country.
“He knows that he’s probably going to miss one or two days, and he won’t play that week, and he’s good with it – and so am I. I’m glad to have him.”
Weems scored the Rockets’ first touchdown on a 31-yard pass from senior quarterback Tyler Dusty.
On defense, his sack threw the Green Devils for a 17-yard loss on third-and-three in the third quarter, and in the fourth quarter he batted down a pass on a second-and-17 play.
Weems also played on kick coverage.
“I know what I have in him,” Callahan said. “He’s special.”
Weems’ night didn’t go without hiccups.
He fumbled after a long run that would have produced a first down in the second quarter, and he was called for offensive pass interference later in the game.
Happily for the Rockets, they have other playmakers.
Dusty threw for two touchdowns and ran for one, and his twin, Trevor, ran for another score against Brown City. Jasaan Gantt caught Tyler Dusty’s second TD pass.
“I think we’re going to be good throwing the ball,” Callahan said.
Callahan, who led Loyola to four state championship games in the last five years, studied up on the Rockets before taking the coaching job last February.
He knew three commodities before his first workout with the team: the Dusty brothers and senior linebacker Randy Rudich.
“I saw Randy’s highlight film before I took the job, and I was very impressed,” Callahan said. “We’ve got three or four kids here who would have started for any one of my teams at Loyola.
“We’ve got to get the parts around them better.”
New Haven plays at Ida this week. The non-league game is a rematch of a 2016 contest won by the Bluestreaks, 62-14.
Ida was a playoff team each of the last four seasons.