Madison Gaffney has come a long way since being a Purple Princess. The 2014 Woodbury High School graduate is heading to the University of Minnesota this fall to play soccer for the Gophers—a long road traveled since playing for the Purple Princesses as a five-year-old.
George Behr has a similar story, although one without princesses. Behr is a 2014 graduate of East Ridge High School and will be attending Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. this fall to play football for the Scarlet Knights.
Behr’s story doesn’t go back quite as far as Gaffney’s, but is equally impressive. He began playing football in middle school, as so many adolescents do. The only difference is Behr was bigger, stronger and faster than all the other kids, and seemed destined to take his skills to the next level.
When he began playing, Behr was a defensive end wreaking havoc on middle school quarterbacks. But once he got to high school, Behr wanted to catch the ball so he switched to tight end. He got his first Raptors varsity action as a sophomore, and cracked the starting lineup as a junior. “My first varsity game I was nervous,” Behr says. “I mean everyone is nervous, but once you’re out there and get hit a little bit it’s a normal routine.”
Playing soccer, Gaffney doesn’t have to worry about being hit, but she’s equally ferocious on the field. She began playing varsity for the Royals as a freshman and had the added bonus of playing with her older sister during her freshman and sophomore years. “The team we had was incredible,” Gaffney says. “We made it to the state tournament, and I'll never forget the nerves and rush I felt that game. And I'll never forget how happy I was to experience it with my sister alongside of me.”
Although neither athlete won a state championship in high school, both experienced great success. Gaffney won All Conference and All State and All Region awards her junior and senior year and All American her senior year. Behr was named All Conference in both his junior and senior years, and awarded most outstanding defensive back for the team his senior year. More importantly, according to East Ridge head football coach Mike Pendino, Behr grew up as a person. “[Behr] really matured this last season and I couldn’t be any more proud of one of our players as I am of [Behr] with the way he took on a leadership role on and off the field,” Pendino says.
After so much success in high school, it’s hard for Behr and Gaffney to transition to college, but it’s a challenge they look forward to. Gaffney has always dreamed of playing soccer in her home state. “I wanted to continue to play at the highest level possible and Minnesota was it. Ever since I was little, I've looked up to the University of Minnesota soccer players.”
Behr, on the other hand, dove into the recruiting process. “It is very different than what people assume,” he says, dispelling the notion that recruiters are constantly knocking down high school athletes doors. “A lot of places want you to come to their camps.”
Now Behr is preparing for his first semester in college with visions of playing professionally. Rutgers has a history of graduating players, especially tight ends, into the NFL and Behr hopes to join this list. “My goal is to make [Rutgers] better, get my degree in four years and get drafted into the NFL,” he says.
Where Behr’s ambitions extend beyond college football, Gaffney would also love to play professional soccer. She hopes to graduate with a degree in kinesiology and become a physical therapist. However, she and Behr are simply taking things one step at a time as they prepare for their first season as Division I athletes.