Montclair High School’s Solomon Brennan takes on two-sport challenge in college
He's a rare bird today in the land of college sports.
Montclair High School graduate Solomon Brennan will be playing football and lacrosse at Ohio’s Oberlin College, an NCAA Division III school.
Brennan said he intended to go to Oberlin just for lacrosse. He was an All-Super Essex Conference American Division second-team player this year.
But before he could even talk to Oberlin men's lacrosse head coach Ryan Polak, he was contacted by Oberlin head football coach Steve Opgenorth. Brennan played quarterback for the Mounties for a portion of the 2021 season.
"Coach Opgenorth was interested in me for football and showed a lot of interest," Brennan said, adding that he likes both sports.
"I felt like playing both football and lacrosse because both sports helped me develop my maturity and work ethic throughout high school. I figured continuing my athletic career in both sports would benefit me in the future."
Brennan was looking at different schools for either football or lacrosse. He drew interest from Ivy League schools as well as from the New England Small College Athletic Conference, including Connecticut College and Amherst College, for football. The interest for lacrosse came from Oberlin and Virginia’s Hampton University.
"I visited Oberlin last summer and loved the experience," he said. "I loved the hospitality, campus, facilities and meeting the coaches. Three weeks later I made my decision to commit."
In terms of football, Brennan's highlights included 2021’s opening game against East Orange, where he completed 14 of 26 attempts for 176 yards and three touchdowns while running for 69 yards and a touchdown.
"I remember seeing how shocked the opposite sideline was," Brennan said of the game, in which Montclair almost pulled off an upset but dropped a 37-28 decision. "No one expected us to compete with East Orange the way we did."
Despite not playing the full season in football for Montclair, Opgenorth liked what he saw on film.
"He is a dynamic playmaker with the football in his hands, and I love that he is a top-rated lacrosse player as well," the coach said. "In meeting in person and evaluating his film, there is a certainty that he will compete every rep, every play, every opportunity. I am excited to see what he can do here in a Yeomen uniform."
In lacrosse, Brennan led the Mounties in points with 27 goals and 30 assists. Along with being named to the All-SEC team, he made the all-state honorable mention list and garnered All-Fitch-Pitt second-team honors.
"Solomon was a very consistent attack man for us," Montclair head coach Mike Diehl said. "He is very balanced in his points and registered a point in every game this year."
Looking back at his senior year in lacrosse, Brennan points to the 7-6 win over Ridgewood April 21 after Montclair lost to the Maroons in the 2021 playoffs.
"We were seeking revenge from the previous season,” he said. “They came in ranked seventh in the state, thinking they were gonna steamroll us.
“But we were hungry for that game. I only had a goal, but I thought that it was one of my best games this season. And storming the field after the game was a core memory for me."
Another of his best might have been his last game, when he knew his days at Montclair were over. Brennan scored three goals and had one assist as the Mounties almost upset one of the top seeds in North 1 Group 4, Bridgewater-Raritan, before losing, 11-8.
"Coach Diehl told me that it was the best game I've ever played in my career at Montclair High School,” he said. "I took it to heart and realized that my high school career was over."
Brennan will not be going into a sea of unfamiliar lacrosse faces at Oberlin. Montclair alum Jonas Taylor-Lillquist, who graduated in 2021, played defense for Oberlin as a freshman and started in all 17 of the school's games.
But right now Brennan is getting ready for the gridiron in the fall.
"I've been following a weightlifting program that Oberlin gave me," he said. "I lift four days a week, and I see my private speed and agility trainer every week.
“I've been making sure that I'm entering training camp in the best shape possible."