Terence Folkes’ football career nearly ended before he even arrived at Belleville High School.
A basketball player growing up, Folkes’ first foray into football as an eighth-grader ended after just a handful of weeks due to a knee injury.
Now, in his final days as a student at Belleville, he got the chance to be on the field with some of the best players in the state.
Folkes, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive end, concluded his high school career in the Phil Simms NJ North/South High School All-Star Football Classic, Sunday, June 12, at Kean University.
Folkes is one of two local players who competed for the North squad, joining Bloomfield linebacker Jaden Adkins.
“Basketball was my first love and in eighth-grade, I decided to try (football) out. I ended up not playing a full season due to a knee injury,” Folkes said. “But I spoke to Coach (Jermain) Johnson and he told me to give it another shot. I did, and it eventually became something I fell in love with. I enjoyed being out there all four years with my teammates, my staff and everyone.”
“Four years ago we saw him as a freshman and we really knew that he could be a really special player,” new Belleville head coach Brian Antab, who was the defensive coordinator the past four years, said. “He put in the work to make sure that came true.”
Despite his relative inexperience, Folkes quickly made his mark on the Buccaneers team, getting on the field at tight end as a freshman and becoming a starter at the position as a sophomore.
Folkes became a starter on both ends of the ball his junior season, but truly blossomed as one of the most versatile players in the Super Football Conference as a senior.
This fall, he had 68 tackles, 10 for loss, and four sacks on defense while seeing time at defensive end, tackle and middle linebacker. That versatility carried over to the offensive side of the ball, where he lined up at tight end, receiver, running back and even one game at tackle due to an injury on the line.
Overall, he ran for 156 yards and four touchdowns while also catching seven passes for 146 yards and two more TDs.
“He was a guy who did it all for us,” Antab said. “He did everything that we asked of him on both sides of the ball — offense and defense. He would line up wherever we asked him to, he was very versatile.”
Folkes will continue his playing career at Lackawanna, a junior college located in Scranton, Pennsylvania, that produces several Division I football players each year. While Folkes said his position won’t be determined until he arrives on campus, his future is most likely at defensive end, the position he has worked the most at prospect camps and showcases.
“I think he has put out some really great film of what he can do at the defensive end position. He’s really pretty well developed as a pass rusher and with his hand in the dirt,” Antab said. “Once he gets more opportunities of people seeing him play at that position and doing it full time, you’ll really see him grow and his statistics will explode off the page.”
Folkes also said he feels that he’s only starting to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of as a player. But at the same time, he’s equally amazed at all the progress he’s made in four years.
“It amazes me every time I sit down and think about it, going from playing basketball to trying out a new sport and not really being able to enjoy my first year because of injury,” Folkes said. “But then to be able to fight through that for four years and just help build a program, that’s something I really took pride in — to be remembered as one of those guys who helped bring back that program to its winning ways.
“It means a lot to be able to represent my city, my coaching staff, my family and also my teammates and all of the people behind the scenes who helped me out.”
Adkins, meanwhile, also was a two-sport standout at Bloomfield. The Saint Anselm commit rushed for a team-high 465 yards and seven touchdowns on 71 carries, while also catching seven passes for 113 yards. On defense, Adkins had 80 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Several local standouts played in Thursday night’s Robeson All-Star Classic in East Orange. Belleville standouts Al Horne, Brian Dessources and Chris Vitale as well as Jimmy Rodriguez of Bloomfield were a part of the East team, composed of players from Essex and Hudson counties.
Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)