Marc Narducci: Delsea's Awotunde owes discus success to coaches

Awotunde, who is also a shot putter, placed 4th in the event at states last spring. He won the Group 3 title in the discus. DAVID M WARREN / Staff
Awotunde, who is also a shot putter, placed 4th in the event at states last spring. He won the Group 3 title in the discus. DAVID M WARREN / Staff
Posted: May 04, 2013

Senior Josh Awotunde thought he would be throwing spirals well past his days at Delsea Regional, but his plans were intercepted as early as his freshman year.

Awotunde was the strong-armed and hard-to-bring-down, 6-foot-2, 230-pound quarterback and defensive lineman for Delsea's team that went 11-1 and won the South Jersey Group 3 championship in the fall.

Awotunde went out for track as a freshman, hoping to be a sprinter and improve his speed for football. Even at his size, Awotunde can motor, but he was looking to get even faster.

That's when Delsea assistant track coach and head football coach Sal Marchese Jr. convinced Awotunde that throwing instead of running - at least in track - would be in his best interest.

"Sal convinced him he could be a good discus thrower because he has really long arms," said Delsea head track coach Ron Flaim, also a longtime football assistant.

Marchese coaches the discus throwers, and Flaim coaches the shot putters. Awotunde has excelled at both. Last year, he won the NJSIAA state Group 3 title in the discus and placed fourth in the shot put.

"I always wanted to be a sprinter, but Coach [Marchese] convinced me otherwise," Awotunde said. "I remember being a freshman and seeing seniors throwing [the discus] 160, 170, and I thought I would never throw that far."

He was wrong.

At last month's Penn Relays, he finished fifth in the high school discus for the second consecutive year. His throw of 184-3 was an improvement of 14 feet from the previous spring.

Not only did Awotunde have visions of sprinting in high school, but he also was hoping to excel in football at the next level.

In fact, he said he did receive a football scholarship offer from James Madison, but schools' interest for his ability in track was much greater.

Awotunde accepted a full track scholarship to South Carolina. Among the other schools he considered were Connecticut, Rutgers, East Carolina, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Nebraska.

"At South Carolina, you are competing in the SEC, the best conference in my opinion for college sports," he said. "I also may want to major in business, and they have a great business school."

Plus?

"I don't think it ever gets under 50 degrees there," he said, laughing.

While he looks forward to his time on the track, Awotunde concedes that not playing football will leave a major void.

His final football game was a 41-12 win over Northern Burlington in the South Jersey Group 3 final.

"It was hard, my last football game, because I knew I would not be playing again . . ." he said. "Track is fun for me, too, and I feel I have a higher ceiling and could go further."

To the Olympics?

Awotunde is well-grounded and says everybody thinks of that. But what he is most interested in is continuing his progression, something he feels will happen now that he can concentrate fully on one sport.

"Right now, I am competing with guys who compete in track year-round," he said. "I think that once I devote myself to one sport that I can keep improving."


Contact Marc Narducci

at mnarducci@phillynews.com. Follow @sjnard on Twitter.

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