Along a corridor in Tottenville High School there is a shrine to some of the special players and moments in the Huguenot school’s rich football history.
There are game balls from some of the biggest wins and jerseys from men who have gone on to achieve greatness after playing for the Pirates.
The way coach Jimmy Munson sees it, there’s a very good chance Alvin Cornelius’ Syracuse University jersey will be part of that showcase.
The all-city wide receiver’s legacy, though, goes beyond the touchdowns and interceptions.
“He’s leaving here a great student prepared for college, a great person, selfless, a leader and he’s a great football player,” Munson said. “When people remember Alvin, that’s what they’re going to say. He has it all.”
On Wednesday morning, Cornelius signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Doug Marrone’s Orange, the 18th Pirates player to play Division I-A football. It wasn’t a surprise, after all he verbally committed last March, but it was still a special moment for a very special player and his parents, Alvin Cornelius, Sr and Lisa Sayers.
“I knew it was coming, but after signing I still feel excited about it,” Cornelius said.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior will leave Tottenville as the school’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns with 40, but Munson said Cornelius really opened eyes on the other side of the football with 13 interceptions in two years. He was also a menace on special teams.
“That was a gift,” Munson said. “No one knew how good he was going to be on defense. Guys couldn’t throw against him and then you add what he did on special teams on punts and kickoffs, he’s an all-around player.”
This year, Cornelius did a little bit of everything, helping lead the Pirates to the PSAL semifinals. He rushed for five touchdowns, had 27 catches for 404 yards and three scores, six interceptions – one returned for a TD – and returned one kickoff and two punts for touchdowns this year.
And when Brandon Barnes went down with a season-ending injury, Cornelius even threw for a touchdown in the playoffs, earning first team All-Metro honors by MSG Varsity.
When it comes to potential, though, Munson thinks Cornelius is just scratching the surface.
“He can be very good,” Munson said. “His best football is in front of him. I believe with Rob Moore as his [receivers] coach, a 13-year NFL veteran and all-time leading receiver at Syracuse, his potential is off the charts.”
Cornelius verbally committed to Syracuse before even taking an official visit. He finally did that in January, attending a Syracuse-Georgetown game at the Carrier Dome and meeting his future teammates.
Cornelius said he was impressed the Orange coaching staff remained interested even after they had him all but locked up.
“I felt good up there,” Cornelius said. “I was around the team and the other recruits that committed there. I felt like it could be good for me.”
Cornelius said his focus for now is his academics, running track in the spring and getting stronger so he can be ready to go for Syracuse camp.
As for his greatest memories of his high school years, Cornelius said it wasn’t even on the football field.
“Nobody works as hard as Tottenville does,” Cornelius said. “In the weight room is where we go at it. Everybody pushes each other in there to be sure we get better day-by-day. Over four years I saw a lot of that.”
While Cornelius will be sorely missed at Tottenville in the fall, junior running back Augustus Edwards, who already has an offer from Vanderbilt and interest from Syracuse, Rutgers and UConn, will likely be in the same spot next Feb. 1.
“He’s going to have a lot of options,” Munson said. “If he handles himself like Alvin has throughout this whole process, I’m sure he’ll be OK.”
Cornelius will be, that’s for sure.
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