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Poole delivers on Christmas

The red-shirt freshman on the Boston College football team had one interception in the end zone, as the Eagles defeated Arizona State, 31-17, in the Aloha Bowl in Honolulu on Christmas Day. The game was nationally televised on ABC.

"My mom called me in the locker room after the game," Poole said. "She said she watched the game and was real proud of me. I didn't have a regular Christmas, but my mom said my gift to her was being able to watch me on TV."

The first-quarter interception in the Aloha Bowl capped a very successful freshman campaign for the former Christ the King two-sport standout. The cornerback played in all 12 Eagles games, starting one. He finished second on the team in tackles with 75, had two interceptions, one sack and eight pass deflections for BC, which finished 7-5.

"That's what I was recruited for," Poole said. "I just wanted to step in and play. Not too many from the city can showcase their talent on that level. I'm happy with the year, but I'm not satisfied."

Poole also takes tremendous pride in making a name for New York City high school football.

"It's not that we don't have the athletes, it's just that the city is overlooked," he said. "I try and get respect for the city because a lot of people think the city is just about basketball. I'm trying to show we have football here as well."

Poole thought he could contribute right away last fall, but BC head coach Tom O'Brien instead opted to red-shirt him.

"At the beginning it was real tough, but after a couple of games, I just did the best I could do," Poole said. "I worked on getting bigger, faster and stronger."

After entering BC at 170 pounds, Poole has added about 25 pounds of muscle which was crucial, especially in the cover zone defense the Eagles play, where Poole is involved in just about every play.

Poole got off to a slow start, making 14 tackles in Boston College's first three games. He admitted his head wasn't totally in the game at that point.

"At first I was overwhelmed out there because I used to watch them on TV every week, but as the season progressed, I got in tune and got better," he said.

After a tentative opening three games, Poole came into his own in the middle of the season for BC. He had eight or more tackles in the next five games. In a 48-34 loss to No. 6 Virginia Tech on Sept. 30, Poole twice rushed Hookie quarterback Michael Vick. In his first collegiate start at Pittsburgh on Oct. 21, Poole had nine tackles and sacked Panthers quarterback John Turman in a 42-26 loss.

After wins over Rutgers and Temple, Poole experienced the highlight of the regular season as he had nine tackles in front of 80,653 rabid fans in South Bend, Ind. in a tough 28-16 loss to the arch rival Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

"To get a chance to play at that stadium was a great experience," Poole said. "I'll probably remember that for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, we weren't victorious. The electricity of the crowd and the tradition and the rivalry - it was a great experience playing in South Bend."

After the loss at Notre Dame, Poole and the Eagles struggled in the season finale at No. 2 Miami. He had a season low three tackles in a 52-6 loss to the Hurricanes. Poole used that game as his inspiration to play well in the Aloha Bowl.

"I played well all year, but the biggest game was the last game," he said. "Against Miami, I didn't play to the best of my ability and they always say you're as good as your last game so I wanted to go out with a bang."

And he did just that. With BC leading 10-7 in the first quarter, Arizona State drove to the Eagles 19. Sun Devils quarterback Jeff Kromm went back to pass and lobbed the ball towards the end zone. Poole read the play from the beginning and jumped in front of Arizona State receiver Donnie O'Neil to make the pick off. He also had eight tackles, two for losses.

"It felt real good to make a play like that, especially at that point in the game," Poole said. "I figured it was my ball as much as his. I just had the mindset like I was the receiver and came down with it."

When he committed to Boston College, Poole said he wanted to try and play both football and basketball, like he did at Christ the King.

However, with a full season on the gridiron behind him, Poole is unsure if he will join fellow Queens native Uka Agbai on the undefeated BC hoops team.

"I'm still debating that," he said. "Now, after playing a full season of football there are a lot of bumps and bruises. I'll probably decide in about a week and a half."

But even if he doesn't return to the hardwood, Poole knows he has a lot to look forward to in the next three years on a young Boston College football team.

"We have a lot of young players, especially on defense," he said. "We had a pretty successful year, with a winning record and a bowl victory. We have a lot of freshmen and red-shirt freshmen next year. We know what it's about and when we all play up to our potential, I think we can win the Big East."

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