Former Riverhead football star arrested; tossed off Syracuse team

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Malcolm Cater, pictured here, was surrounded by family members as he signed his letter of intent with Syracuse University in February.

A former Riverhead High School football star who was enjoying a standout freshman season with the Syracuse Orange was arrested over the weekend in connection with three burglaries and is now off the team, according to authorities and the team’s coach.

Malcolm Cater, 19, co-winner of Newsday’s 2009 Carl A. Hansen Award as the standout football player in Suffolk County, was preparing to play with the Orange in the first-ever New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium Dec. 30 against Kansas State.

He’s now being held in a Syracuse jail in lieu of $150,000 bail or $300,000 bond, according to the Associated Press. He’s being charged with three counts of burglary and one count of grand larceny, all felonies, as well as two misdemeanor counts of petit larceny.

The break-ins were at campus apartments Friday and over Thanksgiving break. Syracuse City police said property taken in the burglaries, including a 42-inch TV, were found in Mr. Cater’s apartment. Investigators reportedly tracked Mr. Cater’s footprints in the snow to his on-campus flat.

After learning of the arrest, Orange head coach Doug Marrone said that Mr. Cater, who was the backup middle linebacker and played for every one of the Orange’s specialized team units this year, except the punt team, was no longer part of the program.

“I’m aware of the criminal charges filed against Malcolm Cater by the Syracuse Police Department,” Mr. Marrone said in a statement Saturday. “Cater is no longer part of the Syracuse football program.”

Mr. Cater played in all 12 games this season for the Orange, no small feat for a freshman. He recorded 13 tackles and one sack. Just as he did while playing for Riverhead High School, the 6-foot-1, 212-pound Mr. Cater gained a reputation at Syracuse for ferocious hits. He was in line to takeover the important middle linebacker position next season, according to

Mr. Cater, formerly of Wyandanch, had a troubled childhood before a stray bullet hit him in the back of his leg during a fight at a house party there in 2007. He was then sent to live at Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead while he went to high school in Riverhead. That’s where his fortunes seemed to turn, culminating in the announcement of a full scholarship to the prestigious Syracuse University upstate in the spring.

Riverhead High School football coach Leif Shay, who witnessed Mr. Cater’s development both on and off the field during his two years at the school, said he was notified by a Syracuse assistant coach of Mr. Cater’s arrest and subsequent dismissal from the team.

“Just disappointed,” he said of his reaction to the news. “That’s the biggest word. The young man had such a great opportunity. He was doing well. He found a place where he could contribute. There was a lot of people in the school who went the extra mile for him; those are the people I feel badly for.”

Mr. Shay said he and Mr. Cater exchanged text messages weekly.

But the coach also said he has no intention of severing his friendship with his former pupil.

“I coached the kid for two years. He bled blue and white for me,” he said. “I’m not going to turn my back on him. I won’t do that for any of my players.”
In an October interview with the News-Review, Mr. Cater raved about Syracuse, calling it a “great environment.”

“What I like best about playing for Syracuse is the coaches teach you every aspect. They sit down with you and they want you to learn,” he said.

For the Orange, he wore the same No. 4 uniform — unusual for a linebacker — that he had for Riverhead. He said Syracuse had that number waiting for him.

He also said he hoped to wear No. 4 in the NFL someday.

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