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T.J. Sumpter shares team tackle lead in college grid debut - First college pick leads to TD in second game

On September 11 Fallbrook High School senior Caleb Sumpter intercepted a pass during the Warriors’ game against Vista and returned the ball 50 yards for a touchdown.

The following afternoon, his brother T.J. obtained his first college interception.

T.J., a 2008 Fallbrook High School graduate who is now a redshirt freshman for Western New Mexico University, was the recipient of a ball thrown by Colorado School of Mines quarterback David Pesek.

T.J. intercepted the ball at the CSM 20 and returned it nine yards to the Oredigger 11.

Two plays later Western New Mexico quarterback Dennis Havrilla threw a ten-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Crespin for a Mustang score.

“In my head I was saying, ‘Don’t drop it,’” T.J. said. “When that moment came, I didn’t want to freeze up and drop it.”

T.J. signed a letter of intent with Western New Mexico during his senior year at Fallbrook High School. After redshirting during the 2008 season, he made his college football debut September 5 against Sul Ross State University.

Western New Mexico plays its home games at Ben Altamirano Stadium in Silver City, NM, and the stands for the Mustangs’ season opener against Sul Ross State were filled in part by T.J.’s parents, grandparents, a couple of uncles, and an aunt.

Two Sumpter siblings would make their college football debuts against Sul Ross State; while T.J. was one of the Mustangs’ starting defensive backs, the substitutes who saw action included 2009 Fallbrook High School graduate Marquis.

Another 2009 Fallbrook graduate, Kameron Drawhorn, also made his college debut as a substitute against Sul Ross State.

“It was pretty exciting to play with those guys,” T.J. said of playing with his brother and Drawhorn.

Western New Mexico walked off the field with a 48-33 win over the Texas visitors. Four players shared the WNMU team lead with six tackles apiece, and one of those was T.J.

“That was a big stat, to lead the team in tackles,” he said.

Drawhorn had one tackle, which was also the game’s only sack. One of Havrilla’s 11 complete passes against Sul Ross State was to Marquis, whose first college reception gained five yards.

“Kameron got his sack and Marquis got in there. It was pretty exciting,” T.J. said.

The final score also pleased T.J. “It’s always fun when you win,” he said.

T.J.’s interception the following week was also the Mustangs’ first pick of the season. The Sumpter family members weren’t able to return to Silver City for the September 12 game, in which Marquis and Drawhorn did not see action.

In addition to his interception and nine-yard return, T.J. had four tackles against the Orediggers.

Western New Mexico trailed by a 52-23 score entering the fourth quarter. On the play prior to T.J.’s interception, Havrilla had run for eight yards before losing a fumble at the Oredigger 10.

Adam Saur tackled T.J. on the interception return with 13:16 left in the fourth quarter, and a one-yard run by Kevin Breaker preceded the touchdown pass.

Havrilla followed the touchdown by throwing to Bubba Tuinei for a two-point conversion which narrowed the deficit to 52-31. The Orediggers left Silver City with a 52-38 victory.

T.J. cites mental preparation as the key to success at the college level. “It’s more technique,” he said of the comparison to high school football. “It really doesn’t matter what size you are. You play your technique.”

T.J. looks forward to returning a college interception for a touchdown. “My next goal is to match Caleb,” he said.

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