By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
MILLVILLE – Before he leaves to become a student-athlete at the Pitt, Solomon DeShields has some unfinished business to take care of with the Millville Thunderbolts football team this fall at Wheaton Field.
DeShields, ranked as one of the top high school football players in New Jersey this season, will play wide receiver, outside linebacker and defensive back for the Thunderbolts his senior year. He will lead a young team that will try to redeem itself after losing a heartbreaker in the second round of the South Jersey Group IV playoffs a year ago.
Millville lost the first three games of the season last year before reeling off six straight and was one of the hottest teams in the state before the stunning loss.
“I’m very excited about the season,” the decorated returning all-state athlete said. “We have a young team because we lost a lot of starters on our defense. We’re trying to move in the right path to win a championship this year.”
Millville lost a tough 28-26 Group IV sectional finals contest to eventually state finalist Shawnee at home last November, failing to convert a 2-point version with seconds left that would have sent the game into overtime.
Advancing in the playoffs is part of that unfinished business for DeShields.
“Just getting past the second round of the playoffs would be an accomplishment for me,” DeShields said. “I haven’t got to the championship yet in high school, so that’s something I’m looking for it.”
Team Player and Leader
DeShields, who has built a reputation of being the ultimate team player, said while he has some personal goals this season, his main responsibility will be helping the Bolts win week after week.
“I want to get more than 10 touchdowns this season and have 500 yards receiving,” DeShields said. “On defense, I want to make 30 tackles. I prefer playing offensive but I’ll do anything to help the team win, so I’ll do both.
DeShields came to Millville as a sophomore from Bridgeton, earning most of his time on varsity. Through that time, he said he had to grow up and shoulder more of the responsibility for his team.
“I played a lot my freshman year, but I had a lot of growing up to do,” he said about stepping into more of a leadership role this season. “Now, I have a lot of young guys looking at me, so I have to set the right example for the team, do every drill right and put 100 percent into every rep.
“I take (being a leader) very serious. I know a lot of people will be looking at me on the off the field so I have to make the right moves,” he added.
Recruiting Trail Ends in Pittsburgh
DeShields said he was thrilled to commit to Pitt this summer after receiving some 27 offer schools at the nation’s top football conferences like the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12.
“I’m glad it done and happy with the decision I made,” DeShields said. “Now I can concentrate on my senior year. I feels good to have it done. It was flattering (to receive the offers) but I just tried to stay humble. I brought a lot of attention to myself but I was ready for it.”
DeShields credited his father, former Bridgeton assistant football coach Warren DeShields, and his other brother Jae DeShields for helping prepared for all the attention surrounding the recruitment process.
“(Warren DeShields) prepared me for this my whole life,” the young DeShields said. “My older brother got a lot of offers, too, so I remember watching him when I was younger. We were pretty much going through the same thing.”
Warren DeShields said that his entire family if proud of what the senior-to-be has been able to accomplish so far with bigger things ahead.
“He is an extremely hard worker on the football field and really has so much raw talent yet to develop. Once he realizes how fast and powerful he is and will become, the possibilities are endless,” said DeShields, director of food services for the Bridgeton School District. “We also appreciate how humble he is as a football player and young man.
“The recruiting process could easily have given him a false sense of confidence and or arrogance. Solomon never relished that spotlight and did his best to get through it while making a decision that was best for him academically and football wise. He has set goals for himself in football and his decisions are made to keep those goals in sight. We are looking forward to seeing him pay on Saturdays,” the elder DeShields added.
Expectations will be high for DeShields to help lead Millville to another state title. The Thunderbolts won its last South Jersey state title in 2016 beating Toms River North, its first since 1975.
The wide receiver said he believes the Thunderbolts will be throwing the pigskin around more this season than last year, where it relied more on a bruising running game in front of a big offensive line. He said his young defense, though, will have to step up to the challenge.
“I think we’re going to be a passing team this year and not run the ball as much as we have,” DeShields said. “On defense, we need play faster, faster than we did last year. If we do that and stay disciplined, we’ll be alright. We still have a young team, but if we put 100 percent effort into it, we’ll be okay.”
The Solomon DeShields File
Height-Weight: 6-1, 210
Rival.com Ranking: 15th top prospect New Jersey, 41st nationwide
Positions: Wide receiver, linebacker, defensive back
2018 stats: Caught 34 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns in a run-first offense last season. Also dangerous return man on special teams, including a 90-yard kickoff return last year
Choose Pitt over: Auburn; Virginia Tech; Southern Methodist; Rutgers; East Carolina; Iowa State; Kentucky; Memphis; Michigan State; Oregon; Missouri; Oklahoma State; Purdue; Buffalo; Baylor; Maryland; Cincinnati; Buffalo; Purdue.
Featured Photo: Courtesy of Warren DeShields
Second Photo: University of Pittsburgh Twitter