By Phil Anastasia
Greg Pease figured it was an easy A.
He was a star linebacker on the Paul VI football team. He thought he would skate through some cushy course about performance arts, improve his grade-point average and increase his chances to play his favorite sport in college.
Drama class? How tough could that be?
"It was extremely hard work," Pease said of the course he took in the fall of his junior year. "I had no idea what I was getting into. But I loved it. And I still got the 'A.'"
Pease got more than a good grade. He also discovered a new passion in his life.
The first-team All-South Jersey linebacker recently signed with the University of New Haven, an NCAA Division II football program. He will receive a financial-aid package that reflects the flip sides of his personality: Part sports scholarship, part performance-arts scholarship.
"I've grown to love acting as much as I love football," Pease said. "It's a whole new world that's opened up for me. I never knew how hard it was and I never knew how much fun it was."
The 5-11, 210-pound Pease has a lead role in the school's current production of the musical, "42nd Street." He plays Abner Dillon, a cartoonish character who puts up the money for the play within the play.
"I don't know football," said Courtney Daniels, a Paul VI performance-arts teacher who directs the school play. "But when I think of Greg as an actor I probably think the same thing (football coach) John Doherty thinks when he thinks of him on the football field: Courage. Greg is not afraid to take risks. He makes brave choices."
Doherty says the same kinds of things about Pease as a football player. The Winslow Township resident led the Eagles with 103 tackles as a senior last fall.
"He was a game-changer as a defensive player," Doherty said. "You see that on offense. You don't often see that on defense."
Doherty said Pease recently told him something about play practice: It's sometimes tougher than football practice.
"He said there are times they are out there six or seven hours," Doherty said.
Pease said there are similarities between acting and football.
"The biggest thing is the discipline part," Pease said. "You're part of a team and you have to study and learn your lines and perform, just like in football you have to study and know the defense and limit your mistakes because your teammates are counting on you."
New Haven is the defending champion in the Northeast-10 Conference. The Chargers were 10-1 last season.
Pease also was attracted to the school because of its performance-arts program, and because of the lively theater scene in the Connecticut city that also features Yale University.
He plans to major in theater. He plans to make a few hard hits on the football field. He also plans to hit a few high notes on the stage.
"Coming to Paul VI and getting involved in acting, it's really opened me up," Pease said. "I can be who I really am and not what others want me to be."
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.