Nearly seven years ago to the day, Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds walked across the football field at Walter Overholt stadium to receive his high school diploma as a graduate of Carteret High School. It was on that very same field where Worilds wreaked havoc on the gridiron for the Ramblers over the course of two historic All-State caliber seasons that earned him national notoriety as one of the premiere defensive college recruits in the nation.
Worilds had colleges foaming from the mouth for a chance to add him to their program, having received well over 50 Division I scholarship offers. After carefully weighing his future, Worilds inked a letter of intent to play for Virginia Tech in 2006 and the rest is all history, as some may say. As a standout pass rusher for the Hokies, a program built on a foundation of strong defensive play, the Pittsburgh Steelers believed Worilds was an essential building block to their aging linebacking core when they selected him with their second round draft selection in 2010.
From roaming the crowded halls of Carteret High to becoming the starting linebacker and showcased pass rusher for arguably the most stout defensive unit in the NFL, Worilds could not have reached that peak without working hard both on the field and in the classroom in his younger years. That was the message that Worilds hoped to relay to the nearly 50 children who attended his first annual football camp this past Saturday at Carteret High School.
With the help of friends and many former high school and college teammates, Worilds wanted to pay a little respect and give back to the community that gave him so much and continues to support him on his path to stardom.
“I thought that it was something that I would have liked when I was growing up,” said Worilds. “It was something positive and a way to give back to the town that supports me so much.”
Worilds extended an invitation to the town’s children ranging from grades four through eight to attend his four hour camp that included instructional position drills and workouts which culminated in a touch-football game to conclude the day’s action.
Carteret native and former high school teammate of Worilds, Frank Rondinone, was happy to come back as a camp counselor and felt as though the camp was a success in its debut.
“I feel like it was a great day for the town and for the kids,’ said Rondinone. “It felt good to come back out here to do something for the kids. Jay did a great thing and it was just a good day for everybody here.”
While Worilds has been working hard and training all off-season in preparation for his first season as a starting linebacker for the Steelers, he relied on his close friend, Dan Hapstak to do much of the logistics in putting the camp together and ensuring that it went off without a hitch. Hapstak was very happy with how the event unfolded and realizes the impact that the event could bear on the youth of Carteret.
“It’s great to come out here and do something to bring the kids together,” admitted Hapstak. “Jay is a positive influence for everyone here and he definitely left a real impact on some of these kids here today.”
Carteret is one of the most diverse communities in the state of New Jersey but the one common thread that links all of them together is their support of the high school football program. In a town that is small in stature, they come up huge when it comes to acknowledging their beloved Ramblers.
‘When I was coming up through the ranks here, I always looked at the legacy of the players that played here in this town before me,” explained Worilds. “I knew that there was a great tradition and I remember how I felt when I looked up at some of those guys, so I can only imagine how some of these kids could feel when they see me come out here and be here for them.”
Worilds added, “I’m just very excited about how everything went. I was glad to see the kids come out and support, the families come out and support. It just goes to show how important football is to this town and in this community.”
Nearly 40 percent of the Carteret population is comprised of children less than 18 years of age, so the importance of positive influence and direction is essential to their development of successful habits and goals as they move into their teenage years.
“For some of these young kids, Jay gives them an inspirational figure to show them what you can be if you never stop working,” said former high school teammate, Gerard Spiga. “If you get your grades up and work hard at athletics or whatever it is that you want to do, you can be anything you want to be and I think that Jay is the perfect symbol of that.”
Often times when people attain fame and fortune, they tend to lose sight of the big picture and the origins of where they came from. Support is vital in the success of every aspect of life, and it typically work as a two-way street. Worilds has moved on to great things from a small town, but he didn’t forget the people who guided him down the path and the ones who have stuck with him along the way. The general impression that Worilds gives off whenever he returns to Carteret is that he is no different than the humble kid who left it in order to pursue his dream.
“Jay did a great thing coming back to Carteret to do some things for the kids,” said former high school teammate Joe McNelis. “It was a pleasure to work with him; I’ve known him for so long and even though he’s gone off to the NFL, he hasn’t changed at all.”
“It was a great turnout today,” said Spiga. “It was great to see the people of Carteret come out, not just to see Jay support these kids but for everybody to come out here and support Jay. He went out there, he went to the NFL, went to Virginia Tech but he still comes back here and it’s like he never left.”
Carteret celebrates “Jason Worilds Day” every year as an annual way to show him their support while the high school has a giant mural of the linebacker painted on the wall of their main hall way. Worilds agrees that his experiences and lessons learned as a member of the Carteret community make him feel as though he owes it to himself and the people to give back as a small token of his gratitude for their continued support.
“There is so much support for me that comes from this town,” Worilds admitted. “Not only from the coaches, but from your teachers, the people who work in the office, even the field crew people, the families who all come out here and support me, I definitely feel like I owe it to everybody because there is that much support.”
While Worilds provided pizza and beverages for all of the campers at the end of the camp, kids lined up by the dozens for photo and autograph opportunities with him. The sun was shining bright that morning, but nothing shined brighter than the smiles on the faces of the kids, who for one afternoon got to catch a glimpse not just of an NFL star, but instead a glimpse at what they too could become, with a little bit of hard work. Worilds personifies the reward of dedication and because of that, he is viewed by Carteret much like his Twitter handle suggests, the “Worilds Greatest”.