NEW CANAAN — Few top prospects have had a more miserable high school football career than New Canaan’s David Siegel. There was the run to the state championship game as a sophomore, when Siegel was moved into the starting lineup on the offensive line.
Little could anyone have predicted that the 34-0 loss to Greenwich in the Class LL final would be Siegel’s last official appearance for the Rams.
Siegel suffered a torn labrum during a scrimmage before his junior season and had to sit out the year. Then came COVID and a second straight lost season. Siegel figured if his career was going to end against Darien it would come in the Turkey Bowl, not a senior youth league game.
Amid all the uncertainty, Siegel had to make a choice last winter. He could accept what he considered his best offer, with the University of Massachusetts, or take a postgrad year, delaying the start of college but giving him time to make the kind of on-field impression that would lead more schools to his doorstep.
Siegel admitted it was a 50-50 call when fate intervened, ironically as he was in the family dining room about to make his decision.
“I was really considering UMass, I really liked the coach and as we were sitting at this exact table I get a call from the assistant O-Line coach telling me that the head O-Line coach had left,” Siegel said with a smile. “At that exact moment I knew I was PG-ing.”
When you are 6-6 and 280 pounds. coaches know how to find you. When you also have skill and a determined work ethic, the line forms to the left.
Siegel had decided to attend The Hun School, his father’s alma mater, in Princeton, NJ. Hun coach Todd Smith had Siegel come down for combines and to run drills, filmed them and sent them off to college coaches.
And that is the abridged version of how Siegel got to realize a dream last week when he gave a verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.
Siegel will soon join former Rams Drew Pyne, Jack Stewart, Jack Conley and Garrett Braden playing at the FBS level.
“The biggest factor in terms of making a college decision was the mix of academics and athletics,” Siegel said. “At Vanderbilt you get to play SEC football and you get a top 15 education in the country. I was able to visit there twice, which was great. I got to see the facilities, see the people, see the campus, which was amazing, and then I learned that they were putting $300 million into their football facilities just to make everything better. So it’s a brand new staff and a brand new AD. So it shows me that the new AD and the staff care about the football program and it’s going to be turning upwards.”
Clark Lea, a Vanderbilt alum, came from Notre Dame, where he was the defensive coordinator, to take over the program. Vanderbilt was 0-9 last season and has not had a winning record since 2013.
Siegel never thought his college future would be secured before his postgraduate season began. Obviously, there is a lot Siegel never could have predicted when it comes to football.
“Coach Smith, the way he recruits for his players, gets the film out there, as soon as I left he was sending it out to coaches and I was getting texts,” Siegel said. “The persistence he had. He told me you will have offers before you get here. And he upheld that promise and now I’m committed before getting to Hun as an actual student.”
Siegel just finished a month-long tour of major Division I schools, which led to offers from Duke, Louisville, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Colorado State and Old Dominion.
How hard was it for Siegel to stay positive amid the constant pass rush of disappointment?
“I was sorry for myself about a week after the injury and then for a week once COVID hit, but I knew that nothing could really stop me,” he said. “I was at rock bottom at that point when I was injured and the only place I could go is up, so just work and better myself in any way that I could while I was out, help the team any way that I could.”
Siegel is getting ready for Hun with a unique summer job: for the second year in a row he and former teammates Christian Sweeney, Braden Sweeney and Teddy DeClue are running a camp out of his backyard. It emanated from a family friend looking last summer for a babysitter for his four kids during the pandemic.
The campers range in age from 4th to 7th grade, they play Whiffleball, dodgeball, there is a pool for swimming and an ice cream truck comes every Friday.
“It started as a babysitting gig,” Siegel said. “Before that none of us had had a summer job and this was the best one we could ask for. Two and a half hours a day, playing sports outside with kids and then we have our down time.”
Soon there will be little downtime as Siegel gets ready to play in his first game on Sept. 11 since his sophomore season. The next week he comes home for a game at Brunswick.
“It’s very nice knowing I can go into the season and just focus on the season,” Siegel said. “I really want to play great and have the team play great. We have a ton of amazing players on the team. I’m hoping we go undefeated. I know every time I get a text from the guys it’s about going undefeated this year at Hun.”