TOWNSEND — The North Middlesex Regional High School football team had a nice tandem going with quarterback Joe Haskins and wide receiver Tim O’Neill this past year. Over the course of their career the two formed a strong bond, and the two teammates enjoyed playing together so much, that they decided to try and make it another four years together upon graduation this spring.
Haskins and O’Neill will be preferred walk-ons as they start camp on August 6 at Division II Saint Anselm College. Although their passing combo days might come to an end with a position change, the two are hoping to make a name for themselves, at the reputable Catholic college in Goffstown, N.H.
“We’re really excited,” O’Neill said. “Even off the field we are like best friends, and hang out almost every day. The chemistry we have is unreal. Being able to play with him for the next four years is really exciting.”
Quality facilities, along with strong academics and the ability for competitive football, seemed to help the two former Patriots to make their decision.
“The turf field is wicked nice,” Haskins said. “I love the weight room and lockerroom. The academics are tough, but can be done.”
Both athletes were in contact with head coach Joe Adam throughout their senior year. Having a disciple of North Middlesex head coach Sandy Ruggles, Joe Trisciani, on the staff also helped to sway the two into setting up shop in New Hampshire.
“It’s definitely exciting,” O’Neill said. “It’s great to be able to continue my career. I love playing football, it’s the type of sport that if I could play forever I would.”
Haskins and O’Neill demonstrated well-rounded success at North Middlesex, being leaders on the gridiron, in the class room, and in the community.
“We’re always excited to have kids go onto college, play football and get an education,” Ruggles said. “They are both class kids, who represented us very well. This day in age I think that is something that is very important.”
Haskins was deciding between Division I Bryant University, Assumption College, and St. Anselm. He was seeking a smaller campus community that would give him a chance to play football at a high level.
“St. A’s hit home for me,” Haskins said. “I toured Bryant and Assumption, but my visit at St. A’s felt like home. I didn’t want to go to a big school, and St. A’s is a medium sized school.”
Haskins will give up his quarterbacking duties at the next level, and shift solely to the defensive side of the ball. North Middlesex tended to protect Haskins on defense, but his natural talent lies more on the defensive side of the ball, and the Saint Anselm 4-3 defensive formation, with two high safeties, seems to fit his skill set.
“I’ve always been an outside linebacker but this past year I played free safety,” Haskins said. “It came natural to me, and I like defense a lot more than playing offense. It will be nice to not have the pressure of playing quarterback anymore.”
Haskins is 6-foot 1-inch about 190 pounds, and intends to major in criminal justice. He boasts the natural speed and field vision, needed to be a free safety at the next level, according to his former coaches.
“We tried to protect Haskins a little bit, because he was our quarterback,” Ruggles said. “He will be a perfect fit for St. A’s on defense. He’s a free safety who can come down and deliver a hit. He’s got great speed and closing ability.”
O’Neill was deciding between Salve Regina, Plymouth State, and Westfield State. He was also considering Assumption College, but felt that Saint Anselm had the feel he was looking for. He intends to major in business.
“Saint Anselm set itself apart with the community feel,” O’Neill said. “The whole coaching staff was very welcoming, and very open with everything. The academics are excellent which really was influential.”
O’Neill is a 5-foot-8, 160-pound slot receiver type and he will continue to play that type of role at the collegiate level. Saint Anselm operates a spread offense, where slot receivers have tremendous value, and there is also ample opportunity to sneak reps.
“The slots are back in the game of football,” Ruggles said. “(O’Neill) played many positions for us, and when we needed him he was certainly there. With his basketball skills, and his three quick first steps, gets you open in spread football.”