Football Preview: For Haverford School’s Aitken, lacrosse career trumps all

HAVERFORD >> Notre Dame was in touch, asking Dox Aitken to come to its recruiting extravaganza. Syracuse and Boston College prodded his high school coach about his interest. Pitt, too. And he says Villanova, Army and Bryant contacted him on Facebook, just in case.

The messages, consistent, sincere: Come here, play football.

The answer, consistent, sincere: No, thank you … for now.

Aitken is the free safety, wide receiver and punter for Haverford School, the defending Inter-Ac champion. He’s 6-3, 200, can hit, can run and has all the measurables that would appeal to any high-major football recruiter. And so, they have.

“Notre Dame wanted him to come out to their ‘Irish Invasion’ camp,” Fords coach Michael Murphy said, “and that’s my favorite college football team. I was dying. But he handled it well; called them and declined. After that, it cooled down. I guess people figured if he wasn’t going to a Notre Dame camp, then he’s probably not going to play football.”

There will be other issues during the Delaware County football season, from league standings to fascinating players, from rivalries to playoff spots. But Aitken is said to be the most gifted player in the county, a three-way force, a “special, special player,” as Murphy will say. And as long as one of the most complete football players in recent Delaware County history resists the pull of Notre Dame and other noted football programs, that will dominate the conversation.

How? Why? What?

There is no mystery. Aitken is rated as one of the best lacrosse players in the country. And for that, he is committed to the University of Virginia, continuing a family lacrosse tradition. His father, Mark, played at Lafayette. His cousin, Chris Aitken, played at Villanova. Another cousin, Steve Aitken, played for Penn State.

Simply, he enjoys lacrosse, and his family enjoys watching him play lacrosse, and he helps Haverford School succeed in lacrosse, and for that he will receive a free Virginia education.

Something wrong with that?

“I just like being able to have the ball in my hand a lot,” he said. “You have the ball more frequently in lacrosse than football. I just like to be in command and kind of use my field awareness and see what I can do.”

Awareness is critical in lacrosse, in football, in recruiting. And Aitken is anything but unaware of the football interest, muffled but not dead. He likes football. And, insists Murphy, he plays it hard and respectfully, not using it as an alternate after-school activity until lacrosse season.

“Whatever season it is, that’s what I prefer,” Aitken said. “And it’s football season. So I am not going to miss out.”
Aitken stresses that he is not accepting “any football offers.” Murphy, though, hinted the Fords’ senior has “a soft spot” for Penn State, alma mater of his mother, Patrice. So if Nittany Lions recruiters were to come waving a football scholarship sheet and a pen, who knows?

“My parents tell me I can do anything I want,” Aitken said. “But as of now, I am a lacrosse player.”

Aitken’s post-Haverford School agenda is clear. It’s lacrosse, and it’s Virginia. Yet he clearly gives himself an out clause, consistently adding, “as of now.” The compromise, one he plans to discuss with the lacrosse coaches at Virginia, could be for him to punt for the Cavs’ football team. As Murphy raves, “He is good enough to punt on Sundays,” a suggestion that he has an NFL-level leg.

If the Fords have another successful season, and they are big and deep yet relatively inexperienced, that could boost Aitken’s football interest. Either way, football will maintain an interest in him.

“I am committed to the University of Virginia for lacrosse,” he said. “And I am very happy for that. But it’s pretty cool to get interest from a football school. And it’s good to hear what they have to say. But as of now, I am still committed to playing lacrosse in college.”

That remains Dox Aitken’s plan. But as the Delaware County football season begins, remember: There are always some great players and always some upsets. And many times, there are both.

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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