Football: Justin Appleby headed to Central Connecticut
Justin Appleby was happy when Central Connecticut State University coach Andrew Christ made contact.
The 6-4, 290-pound tackle at Trumbull High was pleased when CCSU’s offensive line coach Jon Leible paid a visit to the high school and he was invited to take a trip to New Britain, visit the campus and meet some players.
Appleby was ecstatic when he had a meeting with Blue Devil head coach Pete Rossomando and was offered a spot on the roster upon completion of his overnight trip.
“On the ride home I was just awestruck,” Appleby said. “I texted Coach Rossomando and told him I was going to attend Central.”
Choosing a college, a place to commit the next four-plus years of you life is a big step for any student athlete.
This was an easy decision for Appleby.
“The criminal justice program at Central is outstanding,” he said. “It (law enforcement) runs in the family as most of my relatives on my mom’s side are policemen or detectives. It is something I always wanted to pursue.”
Chasing down running backs or getting after quarterbacks in something Appleby will be putting in his rearview mirror.
Once he graduates and heads to CCSU, the only part of the Blue Devil playbook he’ll concern himself with is the offense.
“I loved playing offense and defense at Trumbull,” said Appleby, who earned a starting spot as a sophomore. “But I like playing o-line more. There is no better feeling after you make a block and seeing your back go twenty yards. Or when you pass protect and your guy throws for a score.”
Appleby drew Central attention while attending a N.E. Elite Camp at Bentley University, where more than 100 schools were on hand looking for help. The linemen were assigned to large groups of two.
“The first day was one-on-one drills, line drive blocking,” he said. “They wanted to see who was bigger, who was badder. They kept breaking it down — if you beat your guy you kept on working the drill.”
Appleby made it to the final nine on the day. He was similarly successful the next day with pass blocking.
He credits the inclusiveness of playing football for coach Bob Maffei and his staff for making it all possible.
“It really is a family,” Appleby said. “Freshman year Coach (Gene) Cellini kept me focused and kept pushing me to get better. That continued with the varsity, where guys like Nick Roberts and M.J. Cesare motivated me. Playing the line is like a family within the family. When I was a sophomore, those seniors showed me how to play. And this year as a senior, I was able to show the younger players.”
Appleby pointed to his mom and dad for their positive influences.
“My dad played right here at Trumbull High, where he was a nose guard (on defense),” Appleby said. “He knows what it’s like to have a lineman’s mentality. My mom does anything she can to make football easier for me, from signing me up at gyms to just always being there. They are great.”
When asked to judge his strengths and weaknesses, Appleby said, “I know I have to get stronger and quicker. My technique is okay and it will get better with more drilling.
“My first goal in college is to make the travel team for some of those long away games. That’s what I want to do, work hard to get on that bus.”