By Cary Shuman
Former Everett High football star Lukas Denis is now officially in the stratosphere of college athletics.
Saturday night at a spectacular, gala awards dinner at historic Yale University, Denis accepted one of college football’s most prestigious honors: Walter Camp All-American.
It was a star-studded event as Denis, a junior at Boston College, joined the most outstanding players in the nation in receiving his award for being named to the 2017 Walter Camp Foundation All-America Team, the nation’s oldest All-America team named for former player and coach Walter Camp, whom many consider the father of American football.
Denis and the other award recipients had an unforgettable weekend in which they participated in a Stay-in-School rally for 2,000 middle school students, various hospital visits, a welcoming dinner, Alumni Brunch, and All-American Experience youth clinic, culminating with the awards dinner.
Denis obliged numerous fans with autographs before and after the dinner. He walked the red carpet procession as photographers snapped photos in Hollywood-style. After the individual introductions, Denis took his seat at the Head Table with his fellow All-Americans, including Heisman Trophy winner and Walter Camp Player of the Year Baker Mayfield of the University of Oklahoma.
Joe Tessitore of ESPN, a BC Class of 1993 graduate, served as master of ceremonies while former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (Man of the Year), former Tennesse Titans running back Eddie George (Alumni Award), ESPN analyst Lee Corso (Distinguished American), and University of Miami head coach Mark Richt (Coach of the Year) were honored by the Walter Camp Foundation.
Lukas’s mother, Ketlie Denis, who has not missed a game in her son’s football career dating back to Pop Warner, and his older brother, Dimitris Denis, traveled from Everett to attend the banquet.
Denis, who was among the nation’s leaders with seven interceptions this season as a 5-foot-11-inch, 185-pound defensive back for the Eagles, said he was honored to receive the award.
“I just think this has been a really great experience and it really shows what, with all the hard work, I have been able to accomplish with my parents, my coaches, and my friends that support me every day,” said Denis. “I’m really honored to be here with the great people and college football players that I’ve met. It’s been wonderful.”
Denis said he has been motivated by a comment made by one of his friends.
“One of my best friends once told me that making it to the NFL is so hard that you better also think about other options,” said Denis. “That day I was the most motivated I’ve ever been and since that day I’ve worked so hard and I’m really thankful to be here.”
Denis thanked Everett High football coach John DiBiaso and Supt. of School Frederick Foresteire for their wisdom and guidance and the city of Everett for its support.
“I just want to say thank you so much and I love you,” said Denis. “They gave me the greatest experience that I was ever given. To have the support of those guys behind me, I can’t thank them enough. Mr. Foresteire always came in and gave those fiery speeches. He really loved us. And coach DiBiaso, I think he is one of the greatest of all time and his career says it all.”
Denis said his years at Boston College have been a positive experience.
“One hundred percent I picked the right school and I say to the high school players, definitely keep BC as one of your options. You not only play some of the best competition in football, but you receive a degree that actually means something. I’m really happy that [Everett senior] Jason Maitre decided to come to BC. I’m going to try to make him the smartest DB as soon as he gets here. I’m going to teach him his work ethic. He’s going to be great. ”
He had special words of warmth for his mother, who was born in Haiti and came to the United States 25 years ago.
“My mother has always been so supportive. “She used to come to my high school practices. I really love my mom and the support she has been able to give me throughout the years – it’s unbelievable.”
Everett High assistant football coach Mike Ruth, a 1985 All-American while at Boston College, was in attendance, praising Denis for his achievement.
“It’s such a pleasure to be here and see Lukas being named an All-American,” said Ruth. “Everybody wants their kid to grow up to be manly, good, polite, and smart. Lukas is probably one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. He is the complete package, the picture of what football’s about, what it’s supposed to do – how it’s supposed to build boys in to men. Lukas Denis is a snapshot of that.”
Also honored at the dinner were Noah Aldrich (American Hero Award), a fifth grader at St. Ignatius Catholic School who has been a tremendous role model to his disabled brother, Lucas, Darien High School football coach Rob Trifone (Joseph W. Kelly Award), who led his team to the Connecticut state championship, and Ervin Phillips (Connecticut Player of the Year), a wide receiver for the Syracuse football team.
Ketlie Denis said she was “speechless” after witnessing her son take his rightful place among the greatest players of all time.
“I’m speechless,” she said. “I have to thank God and the people of Everett, coach DiBiaso, Mr. Foresteire, and the mayor, Carlo DeMaria. There’s no way Lukas could have done all this by himself. He had great people, great coaches, great teachers at Everett High supporting him. It’s been a long journey and it’s not the end of the journey. We have a lot of work still to do.”