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Lombardo-Signing Day

Posted Monday, February 09, 2009 by Robert Lombardo

Not every kid has the personality fit for an elite military academy. This past weekend, though, Rob Lombardo realized he is one of them.

The Somers senior fullback visited the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and decided he wanted to play football at the prestigious military school.

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"A few months ago when I was getting recruited by Maryland and Rutgers, I never would have expected this," Lombardo said. "But when I went there, I realized it was the perfect fit for me."

Lombardo will make his commitment official this afternoon on national signing day for college football. He'll be one of several players across the Lower Hudson Valley signing his national letter of intent.

Fox Lane lineman Ryan Schermerhorn (Bryant College), Iona Prep defensive back Darlos James (Maine), Carmel lineman Chris Watkins (Fordham) and three New Rochelle players - safety Tremayne Williams (Rhode Island), lineman Ian Solomon (Stony Brook) and versatile Janna Chukumerije (Georgetown) - all will sign today.

So, too, will Kevin Royal, who grew up in Sleepy Hollow and attends the Brunswick School in Greenwich, Conn. The wide receiver has committed to Virginia.

Royal attended Stepinac for two years before transferring to Brunswick, where he repeated his sophomore year. He played only eight games the past two seasons - he broke his collarbone as a junior and broke his forearm as a senior - but a monster sophomore season at Brunswick helped.

"It's a dream come true," Royal said. "These past few years have been tough, but everything worked out."

Royal chose Virginia over Boston College. He also was recruited by North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse, Connecticut and Rutgers.

Although he'll sign today, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Lombardo will attend Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., in the fall before enrolling at Annapolis.

Lombardo chose Navy over offers from Albany and Wagner. He'd drawn serious interest since the summer from Maryland, Rutgers and Syracuse, but never received a formal scholarship offer.

"I think his height might have hurt him," Somers coach Tony DeMatteo said. "It's ridiculous how schools are looking for a kid with a certain height and a certain weight. They can't measure a kid's heart, and Robbie has the heart of a lion."

Lombardo showed that throughout his years at Somers.

As a junior, he rushed for 1,276 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also recorded 100 tackles and nine sacks and was named a Journal News first-team all-star in Westchester/Putnam. Lombardo overcame a broken finger early last season to gain 794 yards and score 11 touchdowns in seven games.

Navy runs a triple-option style of offense that revolves around a tough, durable fullback.

"I think the type of offense Navy runs is a good fit," DeMatteo said. "Not too many teams in the country are looking for a fullback since so many teams run the spread offense. At Navy, fullback is the first option. As soon as they saw Robert's tape, they loved him."

Navy's fullback the past two seasons, 6-1, 243-pound Eric Kettani, is an NFL prospect, which also caught Lombardo's attention (Kettani scored a touchdown in last month's Senior Bowl).

Considered one of the toughest, most physically imposing players in Section 1, Lombardo expects to thrive in the military setting.

"I couldn't be more happy," Lombardo said. "They have things at the school like mandatory boxing and jujitsu and wrestling classes, which are things I'm really into. The facilities at the school are among the best I've seen, and I wouldn't have gotten in there academically without football."

Lombardo said he's always thought about going into the military. After he finishes his four years at the Academy, his goal is to become a Navy SEAL.

"I've always been into that stuff," he said. "Everyone I know is just as happy for me as I am myself. This is the perfect situation."

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