To his coach, the most impressive thing about Nick Kargman’s junior season wasn’t the 2,072 passing yards.
It wasn’t the 28 passing touchdowns.
It wasn’t even the championship-game performance of 305 yards and three touchdowns that helped Woodrow Wilson push heavily favored Delsea to the limit in a 29-28 loss in the South Jersey Group 3 final last December at Rowan University.
It was the grit and determination the quarterback showed by returning to the lineup ahead of schedule and playing the season’s final six games despite the effects of a still-broken left collarbone.
“One of the toughest kids I’ve ever been around,” Woodrow Wilson coach Preston Brown said of Kargman.
Considering that Brown, a former Woodrow Wilson star who played at Tulane University, has spent much of his life around steely-eyed athletes from the gritty streets of Camden, that’s saying something.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Kargman admits that he never was fully healed from the collarbone injury that sent him to the sideline in the first quarter of the Tigers’ Sept. 23 game vs. Bishop Eustace.
He sat out the rest of that game and the next three games as well. When he returned, wearing a special brace and new set of pads, he was far from 100 percent.
“Maybe February,” Kargman said of when he felt he was fully recovered from the injury.
Brown felt Kargman’s willingness to play through pain, to stand in the pocket and deliver the football despite the constant threat of additional injury, was a rallying point for the Tigers.
“Guys saw that, they knew how much he cared about the team,” Brown said. “That meant a lot.”
Woodrow Wilson senior wide receiver/defensive back Stanley King, a Louisville recruit, said Kargman’s toughness inspired the team.
“He showed how tough he was, how much he was willing to do for his guys,” King said.
Kargman’s performance as a junior carried extra weight since he still was new to his teammates. He had transferred to Woodrow Wilson after spending his first two seasons at Pitman.
Playing well helped Kargman earn respect from his new teammates. But playing with pain might have made even more of an impression.
“After I came back, in practice and games I would be hurting and after that first hit, my collarbone and shoulder, I would be in so much pain I would fight through it,” Kargman said. “A lot of guys saw that and they knew if they had some injuries, had things that had to fight through, they pushed through it, too.”
Kargman said he is a lot more comfortable and confident entering his second season at Woodrow Wilson. At this time last season, he still was the new guy on the East Camden block.
“That year helped,” Kargman said. “It wasn’t that it was that hard. But everything was new.
“A year of experience makes things go around a lot easier. Everything is smooth now. No pressure or anything.”
Kargman said his time on the sideline reminded him of the value of each football game.
“It was frustrating,” Kargman said. “I hate not being able to play. Football is so short. Twelve games if make you the championship.
“I want to be out there every single game, so it definitely was hard to not be able to play.”
Kargman is the trigger man of a potent Woodrow Wilson passing game that features the 6-5 King as well as 6-5 junior tight end Fadil Diggs, who has more than 25 scholarship offers, and senior Naiem Simmons, a transfer from Cherry Hill West who caught 12 touchdown passes for the Lions last season.
Junior running back Muheem McCargo, another projected FBS athlete, is another top weapon for the Tigers.
In addition, Kargman believes the Tigers gained confidence from a playoff run that culminated with a big-time battle in the title game with Delsea, which has won five sectional titles in the last six seasons.
Kargman rallied Woodrow Wilson from a 15-0 deficit that afternoon, firing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Travon King, Stanley’s older brother, for a 28-22 lead in the third quarter.
“It helped a lot,” Kargman said of the playoff run. “At the beginning of the season last year, a lot of people knew we would be good, but I don’t think people put us in the conversation to almost winning Group 3. It showed we can compete with anybody.”
Kargman has a scholarship offer from Rutgers but has yet to make a college decision. He said he is focused on playing his best in his final high school season.
“I just want to help my team win,” Kargman said. “If I do that, everything else will take care of itself.”
South Jersey quarterbacks to watch:
Chris Allen, St. Augustine senior: He passed for 1,211 yards and 6 TDs last season.
Louie Barrios, Cedar Creek junior: He is a dual threat who was a second-team all-United Division choice as a sophomore.
Brian Cooey, Highland: He’s a three-year starter for the Tartans and a top kicker as well.
Prince-dru Bey, Winslow Township senior: He passed for 2,416 yards and 24 TDs and also ran for 543 yards and six TDs.
J.C. Collins, Williamstown senior: He’s a pass-run threat and a UMass recruit.
Jay Foley, Haddonfield senior: He passed for 1,729 yards and 14 TDs for the S.J. 2 champions.
Dan Grozozski, Burlington Township senior: He passed for 1,460 yards and 11 TDs for the Falcons.
Sahmir Jones, Pleasantville senior: He’s a track star who is a run-pass threat for the Greyhounds.
Nick Kargman, Woodrow Wilson senior: He threw 28 TD passes despite missing three full games and most of another with a collarbone injury.
Kavon Lewis, Penns Grove junior: He passed for school-record totals of 2,949 yards and a 34 TD last season.
Bryce Mangene, Rancocas Valley senior: He’s a three-year starter for the S.J. 5 finalists.
Brian McMonagle, Moorestown senior: He’s a three-year starter who passed for 1,518 yards and 16 TDs for the Quakers.
Andre Parker, Woodbury junior: He’s a dynamic dual threat.
Monte Williams, Camden senior: He’s a transfer from Cherry Hill West who started as a sophomore and junior for the Lions.