ADVERTISEMENT

Brad Zaffram, who was a first-team All-Western New York football selection as a sophomore, will transfer from Sweet Home to Canisius next season.

That news broke 13 days ago. Since then, some people have drawn their own conclusions about a very notable transfer of a very talented player to a very good football program. Based on my experience dealing with a segment of Western New York’s high school fans, it is unfortunate that some of them might never believe what really happened.

So we’re going to start with some repetition, just our attempt to make things clear:

His mother contacted the school first. He was not “recruited.”

His mother contacted the school first. He was not “recruited.”

His mother contacted the school first. He was not “recruited.”

“I’ve heard that we recruited him, I’ve heard that he’s going to school for free, the rich get richer … I’ve heard all sort of things,” said Canisius coach Rich Robbins. “We don’t do any of that.”

When Robbins opened his email to see one from Carol Zaffram inquiring about her son Brad attending Canisius, he called in two assistants to check it because he thought it might be some kind of hoax.

“I thought someone was pranking me,” he said. “I was shocked to see it.”

Ultimately it is a perfect storm. As a sophomore, Zaffram helped Section VI superpower Sweet Home to its sixth straight championship and the Class A state final, and his first-team honor was the rarest of achievements. Western New York all-time leading rusher Jehuu Caulcrick of Clymer is the only freshman to be first-team All-WNY. The list of first-team sophomores is a very short one.

And you have Canisius, coming off one of the greatest seasons in recent local football history, an undefeated campaign ending with a share of the state’s No. 1 ranking. The Crusaders also have a loaded crew of returning players, including Player of the Year and major Division I recruit Qadree Ollison (12 scholarship offers and counting).

It’s a move that will get people talking, especially in Western New York, where Section VI does not include private schools. I wholeheartedly agree with that, and this case might even back that up: You’ve got apples (public schools only drawing from their district) and oranges (private schools that have no such restrictions), which should be kept separate.

But there are those that take their high school passion and go over the line by seeking to demonize private schools just for being private schools, which is beyond me. I can understand some measure of disappointment on the part of public school coaches and fans when a player chooses to attend a private school, but only some. Private schools have been around for 100 years. Families are going to choose to send their children there.

That’s what Carol Zaffram is doing, because she feels it is best for her son.

“It was a very difficult, trying decision,” she said, “but it was just something I felt very strongly that I had to do.”

Zaffram loves Sweet Home. Her two older children graduated from the school. She’s been the PTA treasurer for eight years.

“For me it’s really about academics,” said Zaffram, who said Canisius was the only school she inquired about, calling it a decision based “in my gut, it was a mother’s instinct.”

She acknowledged that Canisius having a strong football program didn’t hurt things. However, it’s not like Sweet Home doesn’t.

Zaffram is paying to attend Canisius; filling out the same financial aid forms that any attendee would and not getting any financial assistance because of football. When the decision was made, she wrote a check to the school and there will be more to write. There is no scholarship, one of the things a friend’s father insinuated to Brad shortly after his decision had been made.

Carol’s focus is how things will turn out in her son’s junior year, not just his junior football season.

Brad said when the idea was first mentioned by his mom, “it took awhile to process it. I wanted to stay because of our team” at Sweet Home. “But when I went and saw the school, I really liked it. They send a lot of players to college.”

Wheatley decision awaited

Get this: Another very notable football transfer seems likely, and it is one that would be bigger than Zaffram’s, which I would have thought was impossible.

With Tyrone Wheatley taking the Buffalo Bills running back coaching job under Doug Marrone, for whom he was an assistant at Syracuse University, that means that Tyrone Wheatley Jr., who was a sophomore this past season at Fayetteville-Manlius, is likely to become part of the Western New York high school scene. Wheatley Jr., a 6-feet-6, 240-pound defensive end, has already received scholarship offers from Alabama, Penn State, North Carolina, Syracuse and dad’s alma mater, Michigan.

Sources tell me the family has toured several area schools – public and private, with no decision made.

email: kmcshea@buffnews.com