When John Haggart looks back on his freshman year at Stony Brook, he won’t have much to talk about. Weight lifting, running and studying have taken up most of his year. Haggart was only able to help the Seawolves from the sidelines of the football field this past year, as he was redshirted, or considered a full teammate, but did not play in any games, for the 2013 season. Under NCAA regulations this allows student-athletes to gain an extra year of eligibility.
Haggart described his past year as a lot of different things.
“It’s been about getting used to the whole being a Division I athlete thing, realizing that you’re a part of the team,” Haggart said. “But being a redshirt you can’t play and you can’t have the satisfaction that you had in high school.”
He was a high school football star at Sayville High School in Suffolk County. A starter on the varsity team since his sophomore year, Haggart was a star at running back and defensive end.
In his senior year, Haggart piled up stats on both sides of the ball. He finished with 41 tackles and 11.5 sacks. On offense, he totaled 1,158 yards and 14 touchdowns. That season earned him first team All-State, All-Long Island and All-Metro honors.
Notably, Haggart hurt his right knee in his final game of his senior season. So coming into college he knew he would probably have a lot of time off.
He chose to play football at Stony Brook University, turning down another scholarship offer at Buffalo.
But being a Stony Brook Seawolf has been a big change of pace for Haggart. Playing both sides of the ball in high school, he was able to get as much playing time as possible. Now at Stony Brook, he’s had to work for everything.
“It’s hard here. Nothing’s given to you,” he said. “You come here and everything’s fresh. Everyone here was also the top dog at their high school so you have to compete.”
Haggart explained that the last time he had to compete for a starting job or even playing time was his freshman year of high school. But that hasn’t deterred the pass rusher, he explained that he’s ready to come out next year fighting for a starting job.
“I like the year because it lets you learn how be a better football player before getting on the field,” he said.
For many student-athletes that make the jump to collegiate athletics, the idea of not being the best player around is a harsh reality.
Despite his success in high school, Haggart was mostly recruited as a linebacker due to his size and speed. Coming into college he stood at 6’1, 205 lbs. with a 4.6 40 yard dash.
Stony Brook head coach Chuck Priore said that Haggart’s athleticism would help him make the transition to becoming a DI-level outside linebacker.
“He runs real well and has explosive speed so I think he’s the type of guy that can handle playing on his feet,” Priore said.
Priore and his staff often decide to redshirt their entire freshman class. According to Priore, this gives the new recruits a chance to adjust to being a college student and a college football player.
“It gives him a chance to develop physically, a chance to get in the weight room, gives him a chance to learn the scheme,” Priore said.
There have only been certain exceptions where true freshman get significant playing time for the Seawolves. Freshmen get on the field almost exclusively on a team-need basis. Injuries and lack of depth at positions are the main reasons why.
Redshirts are especially popular in football because of the large number of athletes on each team, but they also play a factor in baseball and basketball.
“First and foremost it helps the kids,” said Priore. “It helps them adjust to college socially, academically and football wise. So it’s a huge plus.”
With his redshirt year almost over, Haggart is looking to make an impact next year. He wants to help the team get back to the top of the CAA conference but he, and the team, have an ultimate goal of winning the national championship.