One doesn’t have to think too hard to imagine what football coach Jeff Doroski must have been thinking when he saw the hulking figure of Colin Ratsey walking through the hallways of Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School several years ago. And one need not imagine what Doroski’s response was when he learned that Ratsey was a golfer, of all things.
Doroski recalled: “I was like, ‘Golf? What are you doing? Golf?’ ”
Then Doroski went on to convince Ratsey that he has the rest of his life to play golf, but only a few more years to play football for McGann-Mercy. He got his recruit.
Years later, that recruiting pitch seems more important than ever now that Ratsey assumes valuable places on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Monarchs. At 6-feet-4, 273 pounds, the senior is the biggest player on the team, and big things are being asked of him this year.
He is also a big piece of the puzzle. It is considered vital that Ratsey, who aside from senior Pat Marelli, is the team’s only returning lineman, does well this year.
“Has to,” said Doroski.
McGann-Mercy lost some good linemen from last year’s playoff team in Ray Ellis, Chris Motlenski and Jack Strnad. That means a new line with a revamped role for Ratsey.
“Everybody knows he can do it, but he has to show it now,” said Marelli.
Ratsey started all but one game last year for the Monarchs, playing guard and defensive tackle. It’s up in the air where exactly he will play on the lines this year. Marelli will play center and middle linebacker. “With the zone blocking scheme, it’s pretty much the same no matter where you are in those five positions up front,” said Doroski.
And it sounds as if it doesn’t make much of a difference to Ratsey, either. “Wherever they need me, I’ll block, and wherever they need me on defense, you know, I’ll get through the line and do the best I can,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll have a great season.”
That is what the Monarchs are counting on. It goes without saying that backs and receivers get most of the attention and acclaim, but linemen may have more to do with wins and losses than anyone else on the field.
“We’re excited about what he’s capable of doing for us this year,” Doroski said. “He’s got good feet. He can move around pretty good. He’s not one of those slow, lumbering big guys. He can move around pretty good for a big guy. This has the potential to be a very good year for him, and if it is, it’s going to make us that much better.”
So far, outside linebacker/fullback Luis Cintron likes what he has seen from Ratsey. “He’s looking great,” said Cintron.
Ratsey, who lives in Greenport, has attended Catholic schools his whole life. He had played four years for the Peconic Panthers youth football program and is familiar with the current players on the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island team. “I know the whole team,” he said. “They always smack talk, but I’m not worried about it.”
Ratsey has twice played against the Porters. The thought has undoubtedly crossed his mind that under different circumstances he could very well be on the other side of the line wearing different colors. This year the teams aren’t scheduled to play each other, but Ratsey looks forward to meeting his hometown buddies in a scrimmage.
Ironically, a former McGann-Mercy linemen, senior Owen Finnigan, has joined the Porters this summer.
Thanks to that fateful hallway meeting with Doroski, Ratsey’s athletic course changed as he embraced football.
“Right away I loved it,” he said. “Now it’s my passion.”
Golf will have to wait.