Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Drew Pyne Succeeds In Face Of Criticism

January 11, 2020
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The opinions of Drew Pyne are varied depending on who they’re coming from.

There are the people who dislike him because they assume the 2020 Notre Dame signee must be the prototypical arrogant, hotshot quarterback.

There are others who criticize him on the field, believing he’s overrated as a player.

Still others, fall into both categories and have either voiced their opinions loudly or used social media to whisper rumors, many of which, like the one that he’s really in his mid-20s or actually lives in Florida, are downright comical. 

And then, there are those who actually know him.

New Canaan Athletic Director Jay Egan doesn’t spend a ton of time on social media, so he hasn’t been overwhelmed by a sense of negativity, but thinks it says more about others than Pyne.

“There’s something about human nature that wants to see people fail rather than wanting to see people succeed,” says Egan. “I’ve noticed it throughout my life.

“Instead of saying, ‘Well, he’s going off to Notre Dame. He’s going to have a chance to be the quarterback there. We hope he succeeds.’ It’s, ‘He’s never going to play there. He’s not the right guy to play at Notre Dame. Look how much better this guy is.’”

Fortunately, that attitude never permeated the halls of New Canaan High School.

“We’re all rooting for Drew,” Egan continues.

Egan describes Pyne as “just one of our students” and thinks the New Canaan community looks at him differently than outsiders.

“Here, he’s well-liked,” Egan says. “He has a lot of friends. On top of that, I haven’t really witnessed or heard about a lot of jealousy within the athletic community at New Canaan of him.”

New Canaan English teacher Ellen Fitzpatrick has paid attention to the Rams football program for more than a decade. Her brother played for head coach Lou Marinelli and she was a student-manager for the team when she was a senior at the school.

But she didn’t even know Pyne was a big-time football prospect with the attention of major college programs until he was already a freshman in her class.

“It wasn’t until later on, after other students had actually brought up his reputation as a football player,” she says. “In a way, I’m really glad I got to know Drew as a person and student first. I’m glad that my perception of him wasn’t colored by ‘rumors’ or gossip from people who didn’t even know him.” 

Pyne signing an autograph for a young fan after an Under Armour All-America practice.

New Canaan Math teacher Sean Killelea was well aware who Pyne was coming into that freshman year given the fact he’d landed a scholarship offer from Florida State before the start of that season. Killelea wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from a kid who was coming in with such attention, but ended up being extremely impressed.

“He’s super down to earth,” says Killelea. “He treats everyone with respect. Honestly, he treats everyone equal. It’s a testament to the person he is. There’s got to be confidence in there, but he’s very kind, very down to earth.

“If a freshman class came in right after him, it’s not at all out of the ordinary for him to say, ‘Hey, what’s up man?’ I know he’s a Patriots fan, so if somebody had a Patriots shirt on, he’d say, ‘Hey man, go Pats!’...He’s just a regular kid.”

Fitzpatrick has seen the same thing.

“Drew is the biggest cheerleader for the quietest kid in class,” she says. “He loves collaborating with all of his peers and he truly listens to them. His classmates are inherently drawn to him as a leader in the classroom, not because of what he does on the field, but because of his character, compassion, and integrity. He will work side by side with the shyest student and encourage them wholeheartedly. He will quite literally root for them during class discussions and cheer them on when they share their ideas.

“He truly embodies empathy and warmth on a cellular level. Kindness is quite simply rooted in his DNA.” 

Spend enough time around elite young athletes and you’ll see it’s often the adults who do more of the fawning than the athlete’s peers or even young children. If you spent any time around the New Canaan Football Program the last couple of years, you’d have seen dozens of adults approaching Pyne just to say hello or wish him luck or say thank you, but they never seemed to be just seeking some brush with fame.

And, those encounters were seldom quick. Each conversation seemed meaningful and genuine enough that the only conclusion you were left with is that they were meaningful and genuine.

Oftentimes, Pyne was the one who initiated them. It wouldn’t be uncommon to spot him darting off the field to spend a couple minutes with a former coach or family friend during warmups. As much as he would rush to the conversation, he never seemed to be in a hurry for it to end.

Pyne is excited to enroll at Notre Dame this weekend, but he’ll undoubtedly miss being part of The Bomb Squad, New Canaan High School’s student cheer section, during basketball and lacrosse season.

“I saw him at a ton of lacrosse games last year,” says Killelea, who is also an assistant coach for the Rams’ lacrosse squad. “Every time we played a big game, he was there in the stands cheering everyone on.

“When the Bomb Squad is there and it’s a ton of kids cheering you on, it’s going to make everyone want to play that much better. I’m sure he thrives off it in the fall and then he adds to it in the winter and spring.”As far as young athletes go, Pyne is polished, but not to the point of coming across as programmed or calculating. It’s clear he understands what to say and what not to say, but he’s not scripted by any means either.

He’s quick to jump at the opportunity to help somebody else and does so without seeing a need to promote himself. And when the good deeds do catch attention, he understands his ability to harness those stories for good, the way he did with Ryan Berg.

Pyne with Ryan Berg.

You won’t hear him respond to the negativity, but he is well aware of it, choosing to internalize it and use it as added motivation.

But that may not have always been the case.

“Drew wrote a personal narrative last year about his relationship with his father, and detailed how he helped him deal with criticism and people who have formed judgements about his character without even meeting him,” Fitzpatrick says. “Drew explained that this used to really get to him, and he would want to immediately respond to his critics to defend himself.

“His father would often settle him down, reminding him that it doesn’t matter what other people think and that it’s best to be the bigger person and remain cool and collected. His parents have clearly taught him how to navigate adversity and not let any kind of fame (or controversy) get to his head.”

While Pyne has learned to accept it, it’s obvious it still gets to him sometimes, although it isn’t clear if he’s more annoyed or confused by the negative attention toward an unknown teenager.

George Pyne isn’t your protypical quarterback dad, either. He’s obviously proud as father and confident in his son’s abilities on the field, yet he never sees the need to try to knock any of his son’s competitors the way some others can’t help themselves.

It’s also clear a great deal of his graciousness comes from his mother, Helene Pyne, the kind of woman who refuses to take no for answer when offering a cold drink on a hot day. He’s close enough with his siblings that they sincerely consider each other best friends and are each other’s greatest supporters.

The Pyne children have been fortunate enough to have amazing opportunities placed in front of them, but they’ve also worked hard to take full advantage of them.

Pyne with his mother, Helene

 

 
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