By Kyle LoJacono
Two Steinbrenner student-athletes made their college plans official last week.
Boys soccer player Conner Fleming became the first in program history to sign with a college April 19, picking Florida Institute of Technology, a Division II program in the Sunshine State Conference.
“It’s probably the best achievement I’ve accomplished in my life so far,” said Fleming, who will play midfield/defense. “It’s why I’ve been training every day for three years.”
Football player Brian Gainer joined the ranks of college athletes when he committed April 18 to the University of Mount Union, a Division III program in the Ohio Athletic Conference.
“My freshman year I told my mom I was going to play college football,” said the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Gainer. “Then I was 5-foot-3, maybe 103 pounds. I was probably the last player on the junior varsity team.”
Both will study premed, which is one reason Fleming picked Florida Tech.
“It’s a Tier 1 academic college, which means their academics are in the running with some of the top schools in the nation,” said Fleming, who has a 5.3 grade point average. “Also they have a 70 percent acceptance rate into medical school.”
Fleming, who attended Freedom until his junior year, had a relationship with Florida Tech coach Robin Chan from when he was on the southeast region Olympic development team.
Gainer, who went to Alonso and Sickles before coming to Steinbrenner as a junior, was impressed with his new team’s reputation.
“The winning tradition is something that really caught my attention,” said Gainer, who will play wide receiver. “They have 10 national championships.”
Getting a chance at college ball seemed unlikely months ago. Gainer saw limited playing time, but got a shot in the Warriors’ final contest against Middleton. He had a team-high 110 rushing yards, his first 100-yard game, with two touchdowns.
“Last year showed me you can get through everything,” Gainer said. “Even through trials and tribulations, if you get that one shot you have to take it.”