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Padecky: Players of year play their last football game

BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Stephen Tomasin and Darrian Roman are two peas from the same football pod, spawned by the same football seed, it seems, with this maybe the only difference: Tomasin has this little rat fuzz on his chin that could be called a goatee.

Cardinal Newman’s Tomasin is the 2011 Player of the Year in the NBL. Windsor’s Roman is the 2011 Player of the Year in the SCL. Both played running back and linebacker in high school. Both believe the shortest distance between two points is an energetic, well-directed forearm. Both are 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. Both are going to major in kinesiology in college. Both are going to be physical therapists.

“We are built the same, play the same,” Roman said, “and I think I can safely say Stephen could be my twin.”

Especially when it comes to one other thing, a very important thing, a very important unexpected thing as it turns out. It’s the one thing they wish they didn’t have in common.

Neither Player of the Year will be playing college football.

Saturday night on Santa Rosa’s Nevers Field, at the Kiwanis 39th Summer All-Star Game, both played their last game of organized football. The SCL won, 28-21.

They never saw it coming. Not at all.

“I’m still not over it,” said Tomasin, who ran 12 times for 131 yards Saturday, caught three passes for 90 yards and scored all three NBL touchdowns.

“Me neither,” said Roman, who ran 11 times for 44 yards Saturday.

Based on the seasons they had last fall, both felt they would attract suitors. Roman rushed for 1,400 yards. Tomasin, whose coach, Paul Cronin, doesn’t believe in keeping player stats, scored something like 5,000 touchdowns. What shocked both players was the feeling they had disappeared off the radar.

“I didn’t expect nothing,” Roman said. “I expected something.”

There was something, but the way both players expressed that something, it sounded like an insult.

“Dartmouth and Cal Poly showed interest in the beginning,” Tomasin said, “but they both flaked out.”

“Humboldt State brought me up to their place,” Roman said, “and told me I would be a non-scholarship recruit.”

Meaning a practice player, someone sacrificing his body for those on scholarship.

Typically, when you are the Player of Something, interest is automatic and some school falls out a tree. So to have two Players of the Year in football leave their sport at the same time, not to play in college, is an unparalleled coincidence.

Tomasin knew he would attract interest if he shopped himself at an NCAA D2 or D3 school.

“But I’ve played against D1 athletes,” Tomasin said. “We had one on our team (Scooby Wright). I think I can play in D1. I know I can. To think about going to D2 or D3, I didn’t want to lower myself.”

Tomasin is going to San Diego State and will play rugby.

“I just started playing last February and I fell in love with the sport,” Tomasin said. “I played on a Marin club team that played in the Club National Championships in Salt Lake City. I have been told I’m going to be a better rugby player than a football player.”

Roman is going to Santa Rosa JC and will play baseball.

“My dad has told me all along that I’ll be a better baseball player than a football player,” Roman said.

But hadn’t he always loved football more?

“I used to,” Roman said.

Roman has played baseball since he was 2½; his dad sneaked him onto a tee-ball team. He’s been playing football since he was 9. Tomasin may play rugby and Roman may play baseball, but they are football players at heart, and they march to the beat of combat. It is something, interestingly, that Roman has taken to the baseball field.

“I got hit 17 times last season,” said Roman, a center fielder at Windsor. “There were two times when I headed to first base after getting hit and the ump said stay in the box.

‘It’s a ball. You didn’t try to get out of the way’”

Roman pleaded guilty to the charge.

“I mean I was going after 260-pound Elijah Qualls on the football field,” Roman said. “Why should I be scared of a little 7-ounce baseball? If the ball is coming at me, I just let it hit me.”

Roman said he might play football again. He wants to devote an entire year to baseball with no football workouts or distractions. At SRJC, Roman will be a catcher, a position he never has played before, a position at which he eagerly anticipates a home-plate collision.

“I’m not going to shy away from the contact,” Roman said with a smile.

That was especially true of Tomasin. Knowing that Saturday night would be his last organized football game, he found himself intensely involved in the NBL’s practice this week.

“I probably took it a little more seriously than the other guys,” Tomasin said. “I was extremely focused.”

Some day, they don’t know when, both say they’ll finally let go of the disappointment they feel now, sticking it in a mental compartment and leaving it alone. They didn’t ask to be 5-foot-10, 180 pounds. If they were 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with the same talent, this column wouldn’t have been written.

“I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason,” Roman said.

And the reason for this?

That one day physical therapists and best buds Stephen Tomasin and Darrian Roman will be working in the same health-care office.

Sound ridiculous?

“No,” Roman said, “I’d like that a lot.”

For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.