The dream of making it to the National Football League came true for a pair of former Shore Conference stars on Saturday.

Penn State defensive end Garrett Sickels, a former standout at Red Bank, signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, while Harvard fullback/tight end Anthony Firkser, who starred at Manalapan, signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent following the conclusion of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Additionally, Monmouth University’s Dimitrius Smith has been invited to the Los Angels Rams’ Rookie Mini Camp.

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Sickels declared for the draft as a redshirt junior after playing a major role for Penn State in its run to the Big Ten championship. Sickels led the Nittany Lions with 12.5 tackles for a loss and tied for the team lead with six sacks while making 47 tackles. Sickels made a name for himself in a nationally-televised prime time game against Ohio State, ironically one in which he was suspended for the first half for disciplinary reasons. In the second half alone Sickels had 2.5 sacks. 3.5 tackles for a loss and nine total tackles to key a 24-21 Penn State win over the Buckeyes, who were ranked No. 2 in the nation at the time.

Sickels was an All-Big Ten second team selection by the conference coaches and All-Big Ten third team by the media panel. Sickels redshirted as a true freshman in 2013 and then appeared in 39 games with 28 starts over the next three seasons.

In high school at Red Bank, Sickels recorded 194 tackles, 25 sacks, 9 forced fumbles and eight blocked kicks for his career. He was an All-Shore and All-State defensive lineman and was selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American game as a senior in 2012.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Firkser was a versatile player for Harvard throughout his career, posting 99 receptions for 1,559 yards and 14 touchdowns in three seasons, including 45 catches for 702 yards and 7 touchdowns as a senior. He finished his career tied for sixth in school history in touchdowns, eighth in receiving yards and 11th in receptions. He was an All-Ivy League first team selection as a senior and a two-time All-Ivy League second team pick. Firkser was also a recipient of the Joe Restic Award for leadership, scholarship and integrity.

Photo credit:

An All-Shore wide receiver for Manalapan, Firkser had 110 receptions for 2,119 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Braves and holds the program record in all three categories. As a senior he caught 43 passes for 996 yards and 9 touchdowns to help Manalapan reach the Central Jersey Group V sectional final.

The 6-foot-2, 315-pound Smith appeared in 43 career games as a three-year starter for Monmouth and made 135 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and four fumble recoveries. He had a career-high 41 tackles as a senior.

Photo courtesy of Monmouth University Sports Information.

“It was a long and stressful process, you really don't know what is or when it is going to happen,” Smith told “I've been working hard every day just trying to get a shot. This is something I've wanted and worked for all my life since Pop Warner. All it takes is just one team to believe in me. I got a call from the head scout, who offered me to come to their rookie minicamp. I'm looking to go out there and dominate, to make a name for myself. Once I do that and get into their training camp it is time to prove everyone wrong.”

Smith was a standout defensive lineman for Jackson Memorial. He is the younger brother of former Lakewood star basketball player and current Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith.

Smith’s teammate at Monmouth, Maryland native Darnell Leslie, was invited to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie Mini Camp.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.