Lincoln football stars make college choices offical

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Abraham Lincoln’s Khendell Puryear was left scrambling for a college destination when New Haven football coach Pete Rossomando left for Central Connecticut State two weeks ago. He ended up not having to look far for his future home.

The Railsplitters cornerback started calling around to find a school to fall back on — but then Central Connecticut State and Rossomando contacted him.

“It was relief,” Puyear said. “It was a blessing for those coaches to call me back to come to Central Connecticut.”

He signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Devils on Wednesday at Lincoln, along with Railsplitt­ers’ defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Florida) and wide receiver Malik Andrews who will attend Division-II American International. The group led the Railsplitters to the Public School Athletic League title this year.

Puryear was active in attending combines over the summer and increasing his strength. He got coaches to look past his 5-foot-8, 165-pound fame to his playmaking ability and speed.

“He’s one of the top corners in the city,” said Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor. “He’s proven that over and over and over again.”

Holley, an Under Armour All-American, was equally relaxed, now officially having a place to call home in Florida, after having to decommit from Penn State after coach Bill O’Brien left to take over the Houston Texans. Holley, who transferred from Christ the King as a junior, has played in just 21 games in his career after transitioning from basketball to football. His success didn’t come without help.

“When I get on the football field I have great players like Khendell and Malik and everybody supporting me,” he said. “Even though I may be the big name, I wouldn’t be that if it wasn’t for them.”

It was Andrews’ connection to former teammates that made American International feel like home. Former Lincoln star quarterback Jessel Jones and linebacker Andrew Justice just finished their freshman and sophomore years there respectfully. Andrew, who had a 61-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of the title game, feels he will make a smooth transition to college ball.

“Not many people have an opportunity to go there and play with people they played with in high school,” said Andrews, who transferred as a sophomore from Nazareth.

Days like this never get old for O’Connor, who has helped turn Lincoln into one of the city’s top programs after taking over in 2000. Consistently producing scholarship players shows how far the Railspitters have come in getting kids prepared for college both on the field and in the classroom.

“It’s just different kids, different families,” O’Connor said. “I said, besides winning championships, me and my staff, our first goal was to get kids into college.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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