St. Thomas Football introduced its latest Division I signing class on Dec. 15, National Signing Day. The high school graduating Class of 2022 has 28 players from 11 states making their formal commitment to the Twin Cities-based university and to coach Glenn Caruso's program.
St. Thomas head football coach Glenn Caruso
"We're tremendously proud to welcome new Tommies into our football family," Caruso said. "Although the majority come from the Upper Midwest, our coaching staff's efforts allowed us to once again expand our reach. We were able to sign student-athletes from 11 different states. It's an intentional decision to continually increase the footprint of St. Thomas and share the message of our university and our football program throughout the nation."
Eleven Minnesotans from nine metro-area high schools signed with the Tommies. Other states with multiple signees are Iowa (five), Wisconsin (two), Ohio (two) and New Jersey (two). The class also includes players from California, Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
This 28-player class, soon to be led by the 85 returning players, has compiled a combined grade-point average of 3.70 and includes multiple academic all-state and academic all-conference recipients. Their academic interests include multiple individuals planning to major in engineering, business, finance, entrepreneurship, exercise science, real estate and computer science.
Luis Miranda, an incoming defensive linebacker from San Antonio, Texas, who plans to major in computer science, said, "I chose St. Thomas for the great coaching staff, academics and athletic excellence."
The class includes a 50-50 split in offensive and defensive prospects. There are 13 players who stand 6-foot-4 or taller, with eight players weighing in at 240 pounds or better. This group also includes several multi-sport prep athletes. Two of the signees ran on state champion relay teams last spring as high school juniors.
Julian Alfaro Diedrich, who was a three-year varsity track runner and three-year varsity football starter at Wayzata High School in the west Minneapolis suburbs, said he chose to attend St. Thomas in part because, "I have run track there since I was a little kid, and it has always been a special place to me." But his reasons go beyond that. He added, "The coaching is special. They care about their athletes, and not just football. There has been a 99% job placement rate after college among football players, which is amazing."
"People generally see recruiting as identification of talent," said Caruso. "But for us, getting to know who the person is and who he's hoping to be draws far more time and effort than any recruiting video our staff watches. I believe that differentiating factor has helped us build and maintain our winning culture."
Logan Cassady, who hails from Truro, Iowa, where he was vice president of student council at Interstate 35 High School, said, "Outside of its amazing football program, I chose St. Thomas because of location and reputation for excellence in education. A degree from St. Thomas is prestigious, and will help me take advantage of the opportunities the Twin Cities has to offer."
announced the new recruits, he said, "The entrepreneurial spirit that our locker room has always radiated has helped lay a groundwork so we can celebrate days like today and bring in the next group of leaders and student-athletes."
The Tommies placed third out of 11 teams during its inaugural Division I season of the fall 2021 Pioneer Football League (PFL). They closed with a 7-3 overall record to continue a streak in the 14-year Caruso era with seven or more victories in all 13 seasons with games played. St. Thomas had both the PFL's Offensive and Defensive Newcomer of the Year award recipients, and also had numerous players recognized as all-conference and academic all-conference.
Select an image in the various photo galleries below to learn more about the incoming players, including where they are from, why they chose to become a Tommie and some "fun facts."
GALLERY A Quarterback (1), Running Backs (2), Wide Receivers (2) and Tight Ends (2):
Running Back Preston Taylor (5-10, 162) Akron, Ohio; Copley High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "Outside of its amazing football program, I chose St. Thomas because of location and reputation for excellence in education. A degree from St. Thomas is prestigious, and will help me take advantage of the opportunities the Twin Cities have to offer." Expected Major: Mechanical Engineering Career Goal: Engineering Fun Fact: Preston had four or more touchdowns in back-to-back games two years in a row. Running Back Peter Pezzullo (5-7, 171); New Jersey; Saint John Vianney High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "St. Thomas will help me succeed academically, athletically, and become an overall better person." What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "St. Thomas is unique as it will be a big change in city and state for me. I will also be surrounded by other students with big aspirations." Expected Major: Exercise Science Career Goal: Physical Therapist/Trainer Fun Fact: "I enjoy playing sports and going to the beach in the summer with my friends. I currently have a part-time job delivering pizza." Wide Receiver Julian Alfaro Diedrich (5-10, 175); Minnesota; Wayzata High School. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "One of the first ever to go D-III to D-I in a very long time. The coaching is special, they care about their athletes and not just football. There has been a 99% job placement rate after college among football players, which is amazing." Expected Major: Business Administration, Real Estate Studies Career Goal: Real estate agent Fun Fact: Julian compiled 2,244 scrimmage yards and 24 total touchdowns over three seasons Wide Receiver Colin Dussault (6-4, 195); Chaska, Minnesota; Chaska High School. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "How well I was treated when meeting coaches and players for the first time." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Medical sales Fun Fact: Colin was a member of the Varsity Alpine Skiing team and finished 33rd place at state meet. Tight End Will Chlebecek (6-3, 215); Lakeville, Minnesota; Lakeville South High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "Great education, excellent tradition, beautiful campus, family feeling within football program." Expected Major: Exercise/Sports Science Career Goal: Working in Medical Field Fun Fact: Will's Dad, Kris, played football at North Dakota State, 1991-1996 Tight End and Defensive Line Jack Kinsey (6-6, 230); Plymouth, Minnesota; Wayzata High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I wanted to join a program that is building something great, and I have numerous family members who are St. Thomas alumni." Expected Major: Finance Fun Fact: Jack made the 2021 state playoff quarterfinal team. Quarterback Travis Plugge (6-4, 210); Bakersfield, California; Garces Memorial High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I like the campus, the culture and the atmosphere of the area that I saw on my visit. I will have a chance to further my athletic goals under its coaching staff. I also have a chance to major in my first academic choice, Mechanical Engineering." Expected Major: Mechanical Engineering Career Goal: Project leader in DARPA, national security field Fun Fact: Travis twice was named KGET-TV's Player of the Week.
GALLERY B Offensive Line (6) and Kicker: (1)
Offensive Line Lucas Cannon (6-4, 246); Green Bay, Wisconsin; Luxemburg-Casco High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "The football program and the school feel like home. Not only will I compete at a high level with the football team, but I know I will be getting a great education. I will have the tools and connections to find a job in my chosen career." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Business Owner Fun Fact: Lucas was team captain for both football and basketball in high school. Offensive Line James Morrison (6-6, 315); West St. Paul, Minnesota; Cretin-Derham Hall. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I wanted to be close to home and St. Thomas offered everything I needed : Education and great football program. Just felt like home!" Expected Major: Engineering Career Goal: "Find a job that I really enjoy." Fun Fact: James led his 2021 team in interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and recorded three sacks. Offensive Line Ethan Goodrich (6-5, 258); Iowa City, Iowa; City High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I chose St. Thomas so I could play four more years of football at a program on the rise. The Engineering program is one of the top in the country, as well. I will graduate with a very strong degree while being able to call St. Paul and Minnesota home for the next few years. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "They were able to be competitive during their first year at the NCAA Division I level, while also putting an emphasis on preparing their athletes for the future." Expected Major: Mechanical Engineering Career Goal: Designing orthopedic braces for athletes Fun Fact: Ethan's twin brother Avery is also on the incoming offensive line. Offensive Line Gavin Falk (6-5, 286); Edina, Minnesota; Edina Senior High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I fell in love with St. Thomas when I started coming to basketball camps when I was younger. I'm excited to become part of the football family and contribute to the development of the D-I program." Expected Major: Engineering Career Goal: Engineer Offensive Line Grahm Dixon (6-4, 272); Wooster, Ohio; Wooster High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I chose St. Thomas because of the coaches' impact on the players' lives, the students, the campus and the winning traditions of the program." What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "The opportunity for success it offers with its proximity to the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtown areas and its job placement success." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Sports Management Fun Fact: Grahm was a three-year letter winner in both football and track and field. Also, note the correct spelling of his first name. Offensive Line Avery Goodrich (6-5, 257); Iowa; City High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "Competitive football program with great culture and at a school that will prepare me for the next 40 years not just the next 4." Expected Major: Mechanical Engineering Career Goal: Mechanical Engineer Fun Fact: Avery was also a varsity wrestler. Kicker Stephen Shagen (6-0, 170); Park City, Utah; Park City High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I chose St. Thomas in part due to the way I was welcomed. I felt comfortable on my visit and loved the campus, it just felt like home to me. The Business department is also very good, which is important to me." Expected Major: Business/Real Estate Career Goal: Real Estate Developer Fun Fact: "I've never met people that are more welcoming than those I have met at St. Thomas."
GALLERY C Defensive Line (3), Linebacker (3) and Athlete (1):
Defensive Line Luis Miranda (6-4, 240); Texas; Communications Arts High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I chose St. Thomas for the great coaching staff, academics and athletic excellence." Expected Major: Computer Science Career Goal: Software Developer Fun Fact: Three-times Luis made it to the Academic All-Conference. Defensive Line Evan Tyler (6-4, 220); Wisconsin; Hudson High School. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "How Coach Caruso was able to continue with a winning record while transitioning to Division I." Expected Major: Finance Career Goal: Investment Fund Manager Fun Fact: Evan has it all: All-state, all-region, all-conference... Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Defensive Line Matthew Rink (6-5, 240); Lincoln, Nebraska; Southwest High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "Because of the fast, hard-hitting defense, great program, great facilities, and because it is located in a big city." What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "The general philosophy of putting someone else's needs before your own wants." Expected Major: Finance Career Goal: "To have my own business." Fun Fact: Matthew was named the 2021 Defensive Lineman of the Year for Lincoln Southwest H.S. Linebacker Grant Achterkirch (6-2, 200); Owatonna, Minnesota; Owatonna High School. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "The family culture and the winning tradition of the football program." Expected Major: Criminal Justice Career Goal: FBI or Secret Service Fun Fact: Grant's dad, Marc, played four seasons of football at Minnesota-Duluth. But for Grant, he's a three-time letter winner and team MVP and team Defensive MVP in football; captain and three-time letter winner in hockey; captain and two-time letter winner in baseball! Linebacker Charlie Boucher (6-2, 226); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Southwest High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I loved the energy and feel of campus. I love the coaching staff and how things operate." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Undecided Fun Fact: Charlie played in the Minnesota Football All-Star Game. Linebacker Ryan Sever (6-1, 205); Edina, Minnesota; Benilde-St. Margaret’s. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "The relationships that you build at St. Thomas are not temporary. The relationships that you build can lead you into a career path towards success. The culture at St. Thomas holds itself to a high standard, which I believe is also a key factor in my decision." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Undecided Fun Fact: Ryan's dad, Matthew, transferred from North Dakota State to St. Thomas and played linebacker for two years as a Tommie. Athlete Darson Jeanty (6-4, 195); Hillside, New Jersey; Hillside High School. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "The bond among the players and the level of comfort I feel." Expected Major: Finance Career Goal: Real Estate F un Fact: As a senior, Darson was first-team all-division with five touchdowns and 30 catches for 551 yards on offense.
GALLERY D Defensive Backs (7):
Defensive Back Ryan Calcagno (6-3, 185); St. Charles, Illinois; St. Francis High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "It has everything: Faith, football and family. It offers a great education with a beautiful campus, just an all-around great fit." Expected Major: Undecided Career Goal: Entrepreneur Fun Fact: Ryan made team captain as a senior, twice made all-conference, and received team's Spartan Award for leadership. Defensive Back Logan Cassady of Truro, Iowa/Interstate 35 High. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in His Eyes?: "St. Thomas is a highly-rated academic school where you can receive a meaningful degree." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Business or Athletics Fun Fact: "My nickname comes from an X-Men character: Wolverine." Defensive Back Rodrick Finley (5-11, 190); Farmington, Minnesota; Farmington Senior High School. What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "Going from a great D-III program to posting a 7-3 record for the first season as a D-I team." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Entrepreneur Fun Fact: Rod ran on Minnesota Class AA state champion 4x200 relay team last June to help Tigers' team place third at state. Defensive Back Tyree Gardner (6-1, 185); Waterloo, Iowa; Waterloo West High School. Why Did He Choose St. Thomas?: "Gave me a great opportunity to play football and St. Thomas has shown me nothing but love. The coaching staff has been great, and it's been great to build relationships with other recruits." What Makes St. Thomas Unique in His Eyes?: "The diversity of the study body and the amount of career options to look at. It's in the heart of the city and the opportunities will be once in a lifetime." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Business or Finance Fun Fact: Tyree was team captain, named team's Offensive MVP and DB of the Year in high school. Defensive Back Jordan Pendleton (6-3, 190); Memphis, Tennessee; Lausanne Collegiate School. Why Did He Choose St. Thomas?: "When I visited the campus, I immediately felt at home. St. Thomas was big enough to really enjoy the college experience, yet small enough to not just be a number. Additionally, I loved getting to know the Tommies' coaching staff. They made me feel valued and that they were interested in me as a person. The football program was high class, historically successful, and run with integrity, and I wanted to be part of the history being created at St. Thomas with the move to Division I." Expected Major: Business/Entrepreneurship Career Goal: Chief Marketing Officer Fun Fact: Jordan was a four-year letterman who helped his team to 34-10 record with two district and regional championships. Defensive Back Sanjay Redd (5-8, 153); St. Paul, Minnesota; Minnehaha Academy. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "St. Thomas felt like home. The coaches and the players have shown me love since day one. St. Thomas has an outstanding Business program and the university offers amazing opportunities on and off the field." Expected Major: Business Career Goal: Real Estate Management Fun Facts: Sanjay was twice named all-district and twice was named team's Offensive Player of the Year; broke school's career and season rushing records... as sprinter in track was state runner-up in 100 dash and ran on state champion 4x100 relay. Defensive Back Mitchell Schares (6-3, 185); Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Kennedy High School. Why Did You Choose St. Thomas?: "I choose St. Thomas because it felt like home. The amazing atmosphere and culture that surrounds the campus and the connection I made with the coaches." What Makes St. Thomas Unique in Your Eyes?: "It's great academic and athletic reputation as well as its location in the city allows for huge opportunities for all students." Expected Major: Business/Physical Therapy Career Goal: Physical Therapy/Business Fun Fact: Mitchell was team captain for district champion team with undefeated regular season and was playoff quarterfinalistnalist. Select an image to open photo gallery and read more about each player and why they chose to attend the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.