Pedro Estrada had his priorities straight when it came to picking a college.
When the recent Springstead graduate decided to sign with Norwich University, a Division III school in Northfield, Vt., it was all about the program.
"It sets up a lot of things for me going on into life," Estrada said. "I'm going for football, but it's a very prestigious school with an engineering program, which is what I'm going to study.
"I was prepared to not play football because obviously school is more important. I wanted to play. I needed to find somewhere where I could play but make my future really bright."
Estrada has always enjoyed building thing, and wants to parlay that into a career in civil engineering.
In February he was one of the Springstead players to attend a recruiting fair in Lake Wales, and there he met Mark Murnyack, the Norwich head coach.
"He said that in their engineering program, its graduates have 100 percent job placement, which I found really important," Estrada said.
Clearly, Estrada has his sights set on earning a degree. However, the chance to log a few more years on the gridiron was certainly appealing.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I always dreamt of playing at the next level," Estrada said. "It's just really meaningful to be able to play college ball."
???The 5-foot-8, 169-pound Estrada had been a mainstay on the Eagle defense the past three seasons, playing as something of a linebacker/safety hybrid.
Last fall he earned an All-County selection, recording 82 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries on a unit that dominated opposing offenses.
Springstead allowed only 70 points in going 9-1 in the regular season and earning the team's first district championship since 1996.
After Estrada ran 47 times for 218 yards and a touchdown over the final three games in 2011, including a 134-yard effort against Mitchell, he figured to play a key offensive role as a senior.
Yet Estrada only totaled 10 carries for 114 yards and one score, head coach Bill Vonada explaining that "Petey" had too great a value on defense.
Over the course of his varsity run, Estrada was in on 198 tackles, recovered four fumbles and picked off four passes. He helped the Eagles reach the playoffs in 2010 and 2012.
"I'm pretty happy. I always left everything out there, I tried my best, and that's all I could ask for," Estrada said.
"That's just hard work paying off (last season). Long summers, practices, doing everything right and it really paid off. It showed in our season with how we played."
Estrada's final prep campaign featured the Eagles' best-ever start at 9-0. It also ended up being the swan song for Vonada, who stepped down after 15 seasons.
"Coach Vonada is a really influential guy," Estrada said. "It's sad to see him go, but he had a great run at Springstead. I think he's a really special guy and I wish him the best of luck."
???At Norwich, Estrada will play strong safety. He said he has no preference on his position, adding, "I just want to play."
The Cadets went 7-3 in 2012, their third straight winning season. Much as he helped Springstead in recent years, Estrada hopes to contribute to Norwich continuing that winning trend.
"I just want to be known as a guy who gave his best effort," Estrada said, "and that's all anyone can ask for."
By the numbers: Pedro Estrada
PLAYER SOLO ASST TTK TBL SK CF FR PB BLK INT
So 13 38 51 1 0 1 2 0 1 1
Jr 33 32 65 2 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sr 42 40 82 0 0 1 2 2 0 3
TOTALS 88 110 198 3 0 2 4 2 1 4