By Ella Brockway - Shore Sports Network contributor 

@ellabrockway

Three years ago, Sadiq Palmer was a 6-foot-2 freshman wide receiver preparing to start his first varsity season at Red Bank Regional.

While this year’s roster listed him as only an inch taller, he has grown tremendously and now is about to join a list that includes the legendary Jim Brown, former Eagles Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin as players who have lined up on the gridiron for the Syracuse University Orange football team.

(Photo by B51 Photography)

On April 11, Palmer verbally committed to play his college football at Syracuse, and the fact that Syracuse was the first FBS program to offer him helped confirm his decision to commit less than 24 hours later.

“For me, it was really the compassion I felt from the coaches that drew me to their program,” said Palmer, who had visited Syracuse for their spring scrimmage, but was only told that the coaching staff would be in touch.

Before Palmer officially trades the maroon and white of the Buccaneers for the blue and orange up north, he has a high school career to finish, with many looking forward to the follow-up to his standout junior season.

In his second full year on varsity as both a wide receiver and a safety for the Bucs, Palmer finished with 38 catches for 748 yards, averaging 20.8 yards per catch. His mental toughness and athleticism resulted in 13 total touchdowns on the year, and a spot on the Class B North All-Division team for the second straight season. He was also a Shore Sports Network first-team All Shore selection last fall.

“(Palmer) has tremendous body control and smooth, effortless-looking movements in everything he does,” said Red Bank Regional head coach Nick Giglio. “He always continues to work at improving upon the many different aspects of his game.”

Palmer was a key contributor to Red Bank's 5-5 finish last year, a record that was a big improvement from 1-9 in 2013. In close losses to Neptune and Long Branch, he scored all three of the Bucs’ total touchdowns, including a 99-yard kickoff return in the Neptune game.

“Sadiq is a huge part of our success at RBR,” said Giglio. “He is a threat to score on every play, whether that’s on offense, defense or special teams. A player like that doesn’t come by all the time.”

He is also the first FBS recruit for the Buccaneers since defensive end Garrett Sickels committed to Penn State in 2012. Having a future Division I player among the ranks next season, says Giglio, is a positive for the RBR program as a whole.

“Garrett and Sadiq both represent the Red Bank Regional community at a high level,” said the sixth-year head coach. “Our community will do anything for them, and they in return will do anything for our community. Their success shows that we are all doing something right.''

His fierce competitiveness and exceptional talent is also on display on the basketball court, where he helped lead Red Bank to two straight winning seasons on the hardwood and was named second-team All-Shore by the coaches and third-team All-Shore by Shore Sports Network.

Bucs junior quarterback Jack Navitsky, who has played with Palmer in both football and basketball since middle school, calls his teammate a leader who pushes everyone on the team to work harder.

“I can’t even name how many times I’ve been around someone who says that they have no clue how he made a play, and I just laugh because I’ve seen him do it hundreds of times,” says Navitsky. “He works harder than anyone I know, and deserves this more than anyone. I couldn’t be more proud of him, and I know everyone in the community is feeling the exact same way.”

The road to Red Bank's first winning season since 2004 and its first division title since 1977 will be a tough one for the Bucs this fall, but it is a challenge that Palmer feels he is ready to undertake.

“I’ve matured so much since my freshman year, and learned the game more than I thought I knew it,” said Palmer. “But I believe heavily that I’m nowhere near where I want, or should be at this point, so I’m always ready to improve my game as much as possible.”

The distance from the football field at Red Bank Regional to the Carrier Dome at Syracuse is a long 275 miles. For Sadiq Palmer, the journey starts now.