BRANFORD — Three gifted Branford High student-athletes will be making the journey to play college sports a long way from home.
CJ Pepper, Aaron McQuay and Billy Procko signed during a ceremony on Wednesday at BHS.
McQuay is headed to the west coast to play football at Monterey Peninsula College (California). Pepper will join the Lees-McRae (North Carolina) College track team and compete in hurdles and pole vault. Procko will run cross country at Maine Maritime Academy.
A two-year starter for the Buccaneers at running back, McQuay helped transform Branford into a winner in 2017 and then a playoff team in 2018. He rushed for 2,355 yards and 28 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards a carry.
Signing day was an important moment for McQuay.
“It was my best offer. It’s a life-changing thing,” McQuay said of signing.
There were a lot of ups and downs for McQuay, who experienced injuries and discipline issues during his high school career. But he will get the opportunity he always wanted to play in college.
“On the bad days, I just kept my head up, kept pushing,” he said. “I made it now.”
Pepper was also an incredible athlete on the gridiron as a wide receiver and defensive back. He said the body control he developed from playing football helped with track and field.
The results showed as Pepper was a two-time state qualifier in pole vault.
He took a trip to Lees-McRae recently and liked what he saw.
“The scenery was nice and everyone welcomed me and my family with open arms,” Pepper said.
Procko also took a visit to see his school, spending some time in Maine during spring break.
“There’s only a few maritime schools in the United States. I liked the culture up there. I like that it's a small college,” Procko said.
He started running in middle school and enjoyed it because of the relaxing nature and not the competition. Then in high school, he joined the track team and started to develop his skills and passion.