TASTY TIDBITS Prep grad Wilkes gets tryout with San Diego Chargers

Other notes from county track championships; Purcell closes out career

Khalil Wilkes was trying hard to avoid watching the recent NFL Draft.
The former St. Peter’s Prep standout, who recently ended his brilliant collegiate career at Stanford with an appearance in the Rose Bowl, believed that he wasn’t going to hear his name get selected in the draft.
“I told myself that I was not going to watch the draft at all,” said Wilkes, one of the nation’s top centers. “It was hard, because I heard that if I was going to get picked in the late rounds or then free agency. But I started to watch for my friends and teammates that were going to be picked, so I ended up watching the whole thing.”
Wilkes, who has his degree in science technology and management science and engineering from Stanford, was disappointed not to hear his name called.
“The draft didn’t exactly work out for me,” Wilkes said. “Before the draft, I was contacted and had interest from about half of the league, but that all fell through during the draft.”
Wilkes said that he was considering offers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins, but decided to accept a tryout offer from the San Diego Chargers.
Wilkes spent last weekend with the Chargers. He doesn’t have a contract offer as of yet, but he did get his foot in the door.
“I’m still waiting to see if they’re going to sign me,” Wilkes said. “This was just a workout and tryout.”
But Wilkes was with other aspiring rookies in San Diego last weekend, showing the Chargers’ coaching staff and front office that he had what it took to be a center in the NFL.
“I thought it went well,” said Wilkes, who returned to Stanford after the weekend in San Diego to train on a regular basis. “I felt good about it. The offensive line coach said that he was impressed with my overall intelligence of the game, that I was learning quickly.”
Wilkes was the lone center at the Chargers’ rookie free agent tryout, so that was a promising sign.
“They told me to stay in shape and that if something happened, they would call me,” Wilkes said. “I think I more than held my own.”
Wilkes was recruited by Stanford to be a guard, but shifted to center before last season.
“I could see that’s the way my career was going,” Wilkes said. “Because of my size and my intelligence, it made sense for me to move to center. I loved it and because of it, I got a chance to start. I really made the position my own. Now, I really like playing center. It worked out very well for me.”
The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Wilkes was named Second Team All-Pac 12 last season and played in the prestigious East-West Shrine All-Star game for the top seniors in college football.
Now, Wilkes, the son of former Prep and Rutgers University standout defensive back Willie Wilkes, who was a long time assistant coach at Grand and Warren, is getting a taste of professional football with the hope of making it his vocation in a few months. At the very least, Wilkes can hold off on putting that Stanford degree to practical use…
Speaking of St. Peter’s Prep, Kieran Purcell’s high school golf career ended Monday when he shot a round of 80 at the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions at the Hopewell Valley Golf Course.
Purcell, last week’s Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week, finished among the top 25 golfers in the state, but he was a little disappointed with his performance.
“I was pulling my putts all day,” Purcell said after he completed his third appearance at the T of C in four years, the first Marauder golfer ever to do so. “I couldn’t figure it out. I was disappointed a ton.”
However, Purcell, headed to the University of Delaware on a golf scholarship, paused to reflect about his stellar career.
“It absolutely was a good legacy to leave,” Purcell said. “It was fun. It would have been a lot more fun if my whole team was here.”
Purcell did not qualify for the T of C last year as a junior and shot a 78 as a sophomore…
Zemora Matthews of Lincoln might have stood out at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association’s championships last weekend, earning her Athlete of the Week honors here, but there were others who fared well at the championship meet at Secaucus High School.
First, St. Dominic Academy held off a solid challenge from Secaucus to earn the girls’ team title. The Blue Devils accrued 78 points to Secaucus’ 72. North Bergen was third.
St. Peter’s Prep ran away from the field to capture the boys’ team title, with Memorial second by a 127-81 margin. North Bergen was third among the boys as well.
Individually, freshman Nyoki Jones of Snyder certainly made a name for herself, winning two gold medals in the 400 and 800-meter runs and finishing second in the 400-meter hurdles. She’s definitely someone to watch and has a promising future.
McNair Academic’s Brittany Gibson won the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs. Jaliyah Gardener of Bayonne captured gold in both the shot put and discus. Secaucus’ Carleisha Forteau won the 200-meter dash, with Carolina Herrera of North Bergen winning the 100-meter dash and Darlene Holmes of Dickinson winning the javelin.
St. Dominic won the team title without winning a single event, quite an accomplishment and a show of true team effort. Camille Bertholon was second in both the 800 and 1,600-meter runs. Basketball star Hannah Johnson was second in the 400-meter run and was part of the Blue Devils’ relay team that finished second. Shannon Hester was second in the javelin and Ayana Patterson was third in the shot put.
“It was an adventure,” SDA head coach John Nagel said. “I wasn’t aware that we didn’t win an event.”
Among the boys, Fritz Heinrich won the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs to pace the Marauders’ easy victory. Chris Butko won the 800-meter run. Eamonn Dwyer made a successful return from an injury to capture gold in the high jump. Football standout Minkah Fitzpatrick, fresh off his declaration to attend Ohio State in 2015, won the long jump, with grid teammate Jonathan Hilliman (bound for Boston College this fall) second. Freshman Benjamin Pedrula won the shot put gold medal.
Jonathan Ramirez of Memorial won both the 100-meter dash and the javelin. Kwesi Owusu of University Charter won both the 200 and 400-meter dashes. Kelvin Almonte of Memorial won the 100-meter hurdles, with Alex Ortega of North Bergen winning gold in the 400 hurdles. Shariff Taylor-Ali of Dickinson won the triple jump and teammate Kassem Darwiche won the javelin…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Baseball Top Five: 1. Marist (21-5). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (22-4). 3. Union City (15-8). 4. Hudson Catholic (14-7). 5. Secaucus (16-8).
Hudson Reporter H.S. Softball Top Five: 1. St. Dominic Academy (19-4). 2. North Bergen (13-9) 3. Bayonne (11-10). 4. Hoboken (12-7) 5. Secaucus (14-10). – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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