One advantage that three star Army commit Elijah St. Hilaire has over the majority of his future teammates is that he is just forty minutes away from the West Point campus. This of course allow the soon to be Black Knight who is out of Palisades Park (N.J.) Palisades High School to take in a practice or two ... something that the 5-foot-10, 180 pounder did on Sunday, as the Army squad logged in another early morning spring practice.
"I arrived on campus this morning at 6:55am ... right when the team started," shared St. Hilaire, who was joined my his father. "As soon as I got there, they were doing drills and everything. So I stood with Coach Waugh with the slotback and watching them. I got to talk to a lot of prep school guys, who were there as well. They will be in the same with me this season, so it nice connecting with a lot of them.
Of course seeing a college practice up close and person, often offers a wake-up call for many incoming players, as they are able to witness the speed of the practice, the level of intensity ... something that often escapes many high school practice sessions.
"I was talking to Coach Waugh and my dad about that ... the tempo and everything is a lot different than high school," says St. Hilaire, who will be a direct admit this summer. "Even though Coach Ellerson was telling me that Sunday's are relatively more of a light practice compared to the others, but they are still going at a faster tempo than we usually do in high school."
"I was speaking with a lot of the guys and the prep school coach ... he was telling me that I should not only be working on my strength in the weight room, but also the strength to keep going, because the practices are going to be a lot different, a lot more than high school is now."
Assessing the Talent
Not only did St. Hilaire walk away with an appreciation of the pace and speed of Sunday's practice session, but he was able to put a true visual the depth and quality of talent at slotback that permeates the Army roster.
"There's a lot of depth at the slotback position and I'll being playing either slotback or receiver," says St. Hilaire, who offers up three possible alternatives for the staff, at receiver, slotback and kick returner. "In looking at it and watching it, I think that I want to come in and try to make an impact on the special teams, where I am trying to get on kick returns. Then leading up to freshman & sophomore year ... just throughout the season, try to do a little bit more. With the competition there are a lot of great guys ... I mean I like watching Fraser (Stephan) out there, who is a really good running back. I spoke to him a lot on my official visit. There's competition from I was watching today, but I just want to come in and try to make that impact so I can get on the field."
"I did speak to Coach Ellerson as well and we talked mostly about where he sees me fitting in on the field," he adds. "As I mentioned, the slotback has a lot of depth right now. However, considering that I'm an athlete, I will probably either be playing slotback or receiver. Wide receiver may be a lot tougher, but with the offense that we run, Coach was telling me that sometime you do have those one on ones on the outside. And since I'm a hybrid in what I do, I can catch guys off guard and make the plays. They also have talent and depth at receiver, but I feel that I can be one of those who can make a difference on the outside."
As Garden State native describes, he will not be participating in track this outdoor season, but his primary focus is working specifically through two S&C programs in order to get where he feels he needs to be prior to R-Day (Reception Day) at West Point.
"I have a lot of training and I just came off of surgery two months ago," says St. Hilaire, as he referenced the recovery/rehab due to toe surgery. "I just started running again, I'm almost running my mile time and when I was in Puerto Rico on vacation I did a lot of running on the bench.
But even beyond his personal road work, St. Hilaire has is working with two hired guns to enhance his workout performance. First his is under the direction and supervision of Joe DeFranco, who has players like Houston Texans linebacker and New Jersey native Brian Cushing as a client and it was DeFranco who pioneered the hardcore, warehouse-type training centers that are now popping up throughout the country.
The second venue that St. Hilaire frequents is Explosive Training Systems (ETS), which is run by EJ Barthel, where like DeFranco has an impressive list of clientele. "He has Victor Cruz (NY Giants) working out there," shares St. Hilaire. "Our high school team works out at ETS, but I was going to DeFranco's before EJ starting coming with our team and I have respect for both."
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