The headmaster at St. Sebasian's School describes Sedale Threatt Jr. as "a young man with confidence, a terrific sense of humor, a zest for life, and a personality that lights up every room he steps into."
St. Sebastian's varsity football coach Bob Souza will never forget the first time he met Threatt, a skinny-as-a-Q-tip seventh grader.
"He walked up to me on the sidelines of a varsity football game and told me that he was Sedale Threatt and that someday he was going to be my quarterback," Souza says. "Then, this kid with loads of confidence, but little noodles for arms, starts auditioning for me. While the game is going on, Sedale was lofting passes where he knew that I could see him. After a couple passes, he'd move back further, throw a few more, and then move further back until he was throwing 50-yard bombs right on the money."
At that point, Souza admits thinking, "You know what? He probably will be my quarterback someday."
Threatt was the starting quarterback for Souza's Arrows in 2001 and 2002, engineering two memorable fourth-quarter comebacks against St. Sebastian's bitter rival, Belmont Hills.
"He was a great leader for the football team," Souza says. "I'll never forget those two fourth-quarter drives against Belmont Hills as long as I live. And neither will the Belmont Hills coaches, who joked that they were going to come to Sedale's graduation to make sure he left this place."
A team captain in both football and basketball during his junior and senior years at St. Sebastian's, Threatt's first love has always been football, so he decided to chase that dream. Despite his big-game heroics and the fact that he was an all-New England selection, Threatt couldn't get Division I schools to bite.
"I talked to the Boston College coaches until I was blue in the face, but they just didn't see what I saw," Souza says.
Threatt decided to play a postgraduate year in hopes of getting a Division I scholarship. So following his graduation from St. Sebastian's, he had two choices: Valley Forge Military Academy (outside of Philadelphia) and Taft (Conn.) School (a co-ed New England prep school).
"They were both good options, but the discipline at Valley Forge really appealed to me," Jackson says.
Valley Forge is a full-blown military school -- early morning reveille, chores -- but the school had recruiting pipelines with a number of big-time programs and has a handful of graduates currently playing in the pros -- most notably Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Seattle Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson.
"We seem to have one kid every year that Division I schools just flat-out miss and that year it was Sedale," says former Valley Forge athletic director Jim Burner. "Schools like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pitt showed some interest. But because he didn't have any really good weapons to work with on offense, he couldn't truly show them enough to get a full ride. It's a shame, because he's a Division I athlete, no question about it. Lehigh got themselves a steal in my opinion."
Pete Lembo, Lehigh's head coach at the time, agrees with Burner's assessment. "The entire time that we were recruiting Sedale, we were convinced that some Division I-A school was going to swoop in at the last minute and grab him," recalls Lembo, now the head coach at Elon (N.C.) University. "But it never happened."
When it became clear that Threatt was going to be a Division I-AA recruit, it certainly didn't hurt Lehigh's cause that Valley Forge's coach that year was Ray Powers '95, whose brother, John, was an offensive line coach on Lembo's staff.
"I had a great experience at Lehigh, but I only spoke to Sedale about it when he asked. I never pushed," Powers says. "But I knew that he would excel there, if that's where he decided to go."
Threatt quickly came to the same conclusion.
"From the minute I came on my visit, I noticed Lehigh's commitment to excellence -- from how the school strived to provide an outstanding education to its student-athletes, to its terrific facilities, to the coaches' commitment to do everything in their power to help the players develop into fine young men," Threatt says.
"The course work is rigorous, but I believe that I'm being properly prepared to succeed in the business world, if my NFL dream doesn't come true," Threatt says. "The education that I'm receiving here is unmatched, in my opinion. The school is small enough that you can truly get to know your professors and your classmates. The College of Business and Economics is rising in the national rankings all the time. I'm thrilled that I came to Lehigh."
Like most college freshman quarterbacks, Threatt sat on the sidelines with a clipboard in his hands, getting used to a new offense, a new academic workload, and the speed of the college game. Midway through his sophmore season in 2005, Lehigh's starting quarterback, Mark Borda, suffered a season-ending fractured fibula and Threatt was thrust into the starting lineup.
"Obviously, I've been in tough spots before in my life, so I just viewed it as another challenge to face," Threatt says.
Not surprisingly, he rose to the occasion. Threatt went 4-1 as a starter the rest of the season, the lone loss coming against bitter rival Lafayette, 23-19. He completed 81 of his 156 passes for 1,015 yards, 12 TDs, and just four interceptions and also rushed for 371 yards and two scores.
Entrenched as the starting quarterback and as a team leader, life threw another unexpected curve at Threatt when Lembo, the man who recruited him, left Lehigh to take the head coaching job at Elon on Dec. 18, 2005. The school hired Penn's offensive coordinator, Andy Coen, a former Lehigh assistant who was a part of two Patriot League championship teams on South Mountain.
"I was obviously sorry to see Coach Lembo go, but I liked Coach Coen from day one," Threatt says. "Like me, he's a fiery competitor. From the time he took the job, Coach Coen said that he wants to win a national championship here, and I love people that set the bar high like that."
Lembo still keeps up with Threatt's exploits, and predicts great things for him this year.
"Sedale will be one of the best quarterbacks, if not the very best, in I-AA football next year," Lembo says.
And his old high school coach foresees Threatt shining on an even bigger stage.
"People laugh at me all the time, but I believe that Sedale Threatt will play pro football," says Souza. "He just has 'it' and he just never stops working, never stops competing. He's well aware of all the sacrifices that his mom has made for him, sacrificing her own dreams so that he could live his. And his dream is to play in the pros. With all that he's overcome in life, I wouldn't bet against him.
"And if he doesn't make it in the NFL, he'll be a big-time success in the business world with his charisma, his smarts, his Lehigh degree. Either way, there will be a happy ending to this story."
Photo by Douglas Benedict
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Lehigh Alumni Bulletin