Donahue finds niche at Framingham State
Three years ago, as a freshman, Kevin Donahue was a starting outside linebacker, and the second-leading tackler on the Bridgewater State University football team.
That season, when the Bears took it on their collective chin straps, 46-7, against visiting Framingham State, the winning team’s coach, Tom Kelley, took note of Donahue’s performance. Kelley had tried to recruit Donahue when he was the Hockomock League’s MVP playing for King Philip Regional.
“Despite the score, that kid never quit. He was tough as nails that day,” recalled Kelley, who got his wish last year when Donahue — who had transferred to the University of Massachusetts Amherst — decided the time was right for a return to Division 3 football.
The Norfolk resident had been redshirted at UMass — where he was named Scout Team Player of the Year — and after suffering a broken jaw in an offseason pickup basketball game, weighed his options.
Donahue chatted with his friend, Mike Cochrane, a fellow captain back at King Philip who was on the Framingham State football team. He also contacted Kelley.
Kelley said he felt his defense would benefit from the strength, speed, and quickness of the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Donahue, but at a new position: safety.
“I realized D-3 was a better fit and more fun, and the coaching staff and players at Framingham State made me feel right at home,” said Donahue, adding that he was all for giving his new position a shot.
Last fall, Donahue racked up 61 tackles for the Rams (10-2), the third-highest total on the team. He added two sacks, three interceptions for 138 yards (including a 25-yard touchdown in a win over Coast Guard), eight pass breakups, and a fumble recovery. He was named to the New England Football Conference Bogan Division first team.
“Kevin was all over the field for us and when he tackled someone they felt it right down to their cleats,” said Kelley. “He’s a leader, the kind of player who drives himself just as hard in practice. When I had a chance to talk to his high school coach, Brian Lee, last fall, I asked Brian if he had any more Kevin Donahues to send our way, and he said not many like him come along.”
Now, Donahue is a senior with a year of eligibility remaining, and his team is the preseason favorite to capture the inaugural Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference football championship.
On switching to safety, Donahue said, “I just had to stay aggressive and physical and the coaches designed a couple of plays off the edge for me. That pick-six against Coast Guard was the first ever for me and a real thrill. But it’s a new season, we’ve lost a couple of key players on defense, and I’ve dedicated myself to running, working out, and being ready and in shape.”
Framingham State kicks off its season Saturday at Endicott College, looking to avenge its only regular-season loss (34-7) last fall. The Rams went on to capture the conference title, and advanced to the NCAA playoffs for the first time before suffering a 20-19 loss to SUNY-Cortland.
The victory total included a 16-0 shutout over Bridgewater.
“I still have friends and old teammates there,’’ said Donahue, who has a return match Nov. 9 with his old squad, “and I wish them well. The best part of the new season, so far, is that I’m finally looking at the same playbook from the previous year.”
His athletic family includes his father, Kevin, a football and hockey player at Norwood High, and an uncle, Greg Donahue, who played football at the University of New Hampshire and earned a tryout with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Donahue’s teammates at Framingham State include senior defensive end Alex Torti, (Marian High), who racked up 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season and whose father, Chris, played the same position for Kelley. Sophomore wide receiver and return man Travis Hayes (Framingham High) and senior running back Tyler Iarussi (Medway High) are making their way up the depth chart, according to Kelley.
NU star ‘Tinker’ Connelly remembered
John “Tinker’’ Connelly, who entered Northeastern University as a freshman in 1948 and left 43 years later as manager of the school’s Matthews Arena, was its man for all seasons.
A graduate of Newton High, he was an All-New England football quarterback, hockey defenseman, and baseball second baseman for the Huskies. He coached all three sports at NU, including a run from 1956-1981 as head baseball coach.
A longtime Needham resident who died Aug. 17 at age 85, Connelly held every NU passing record after his senior season when the football team went 6-0-1. He described his final game in a 1991 Globe story.
The Coast Guard Academy team “came from behind to tie us, 13-13, down there where it was snowing and raining and so cold you could hardly hold onto the ball,” he said. “Funny, the game I recall is one we didn’t win.’’
Frank Rando, his three-sport teammate in college and close friend, said Connelly was adept at hiding the football on his hip and executing the bootleg play, and they were loyal NU football fans through the years, spending many Saturday afternoons at Parsons Field in Brookline to root for the Huskies.
“He always stayed until the final gun,’’ said Rando.
Connelly’s love for baseball included countless summer nights at Boston Park League games, where he would banter with coaches while keeping an eye on his Northeastern players.
Framingham High seeks girls’ hockey coach
Framingham High is seeking a varsity girls’ hockey coach. Candidates should send a cover letter, resume, and three recommendations to athletic director Gary Doherty at the high school, 115 A St, Framingham, MA 01701.