The Brown University football team had a good year last season, finishing in a three-way tie with Harvard and Yale for second place in the Ivy League. The Bears (6-4) could have lost them all and it would have made little difference to Stian Romberg.
“I just wanted to go to the Ivy League,” the Maryville senior said after signing a National Letter of Intent with Brown at the high school last week. “You get a great education, and I can get a good jump start on my life.”
Romberg headlined a trio of Rebels who made public their college choice last Friday. Playmaking receiver Desmund Horne signed a letter of intent with Carson-Newman College. Passing rushing end/tight end Jared Miller is on his way to Maryville College.
Each played prominent roles in Maryville’s march to a record-tying 12th state championship last December in Cookeville. The 6-foot-5 — and still growing — Romberg caught 20 passes for 291 yards and five touchdowns in 2010, finishing second among Rebels with 104 tackles and four interceptions and a score from his safety position on defense.
Romberg finished one back of Miller’s team-leading 11 tackles in a 23-21, championship game win over Smyrna in the Class 4A BlueCross Bowl at Tennessee Tech Tucker Stadium.
Brown’s successes on the gridiron are a big plus, Romberg said. Its reputation in academic circles is bigger.
“I wanted to play some more, and it’s the Ivy League,” Romberg said. “I want to be an engineer, and they’ve got a program where, at the preparatory level, you go right into your major. You go right into what you want to do. I thought about staying at UT, but I couldn’t pass up that opportunity.”
The Bears run a pass-oriented spread offense much like the one Romberg is leaving. That, along with the fact the sure-handed Romberg will only get bigger and stronger in college, makes him a real catch for the Bears, Maryville coach George Quarles said.
“The Ivy League is really good football,” he said. “I really think Brown got a steal there. Stian’s not fully mature physically yet. He’s still growing. His best days are ahead of him.”
Horne finished 2010 as the Rebels’ leading pass catcher despite missing several games late in the year with an injured ankle. Despite sitting, his 33 grabs for 568 yards and four touchdowns still set the pace for a decidedly deep Maryville receiving corps. Horne’s two electrifying, 70-yards scoring catches against rival Alcoa in the season opener helped make the annual classic one of the best in the history of the series.
“He had the knee and high ankle sprain,” Quarles said. “He wasn’t full speed after the first two games of the year. If he can get healthy, he’s going to get a lot bigger. He’s so smooth and has an instinct for where to go and what to do that you can’t teach kids.”
While Horne didn’t have any passes thrown his way, the Eagle coaching staff got a good look at a healthier receiver at the Toyota East-West All-Star Classic at Burke-Tarr Stadium in mid December. A month later, the Maryville speedster made an official visit.
“I went up Saturday before national signing day and really liked it,” Horne said. “They said they would put me at receiver, but I really don’t care where I play.”
Tall, broad shouldered and a big hitter, Miller finished 2010 with 83 stops, including seven tackles for loss, truly head-turning numbers for a down lineman. The 6-3, 215-pounder said the Scots coaching staff has talked about a move to tight end next season, a position Miller also played with the Rebels until his services at defensive end proved too important this past season.
“He was too valuable to us on defense,” Quarles said. “I don’t think there’s a question moving him to defensive end made us better. I think he’s going to get a whole lot bigger. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s 235, 240 before you know it.”
With a Week 2 visit to Tennessee Tech on this year’s schedule, the Scots are likely trying to add as much size as possible. It’ll be quite the chore for Division III Maryville, but Miller said he’s hoping the familiarity of contesting the last two state championship games Tucker Stadium to provide an edge.
“It’ll be a lot of memories going back to that game in December,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to it, a little D-III school against a D-I school. It’ll be a challenge.”
If the Scots are also in need of a holder for place kicks, Miller is well versed. Rebel placekicker and Tennessee Tech signee Zach Sharp connected on a state-record 111 consecutive extra points the last three seasons. The streak came to an end during an early season game at Bearden only because Miller, who’d held for Sharp since middle school, was unavailable due to injury.