The youngest of four brothers from Fredonia to play football in Athol Springs, David Bartholomew also is the tallest, slimmest, and according to St. Francis High School coach Jerry Smith, most athletic in his family.
Those attributes factored into Bartholomew’s decision last year to hang up his helmet and focus on developing his basketball game.
In retrospect, “probably the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life,” Bartholomew said. “I remember coming to every game and watching all my friends playing and winning a championship. It was really sad not to be a part of it.”
Older and wiser, Bartholomew made a late-summer decision to return to the Red Raiders football team for his senior season.
“The best decision I ever made,” Bartholomew said.
Bulking up from 185 to 230 pounds in the past year, the 6-foot-7-inch Bartholomew has been a steady force at defensive end for the No. 1-ranked large school in Western New York.
Bartholomew has also made up for lost time on the recruiting trail, receiving scholarship offers from Division I FCS Bryant University and Division II Southwest Minnesota State after Smith distributed his highlights from the first few games.
“When coaches see 6-7, 230, they are going to want to see what the scoop is,” Smith said. “The kids have to do the work on the field, but if the film is good enough, they are going to get looked at.”
As Bartholomew continues to get reacclimated to the gridiron, Smith expects him make a greater impact on both sides of the ball in the Red Raiders’ remaining games and further raise his recruiting stock.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Smith said. “Especially with his grades, I’m surprised that the Ivys haven’t jumped on him already.”
Bartholomew didn’t attend football prospect camps over the summer while playing AAU basketball. While still open to being recruiting for basketball, Bartholomew said football is fast becoming his preferred sport.
“Once I started playing football again, I’m loving it,” he said. “I am going to see where it goes in basketball season, but right now, I’m favoring football.”
Bartholomew followed his older brothers, Mark, Anthony and Miles, in the St. Francis football legacy. Anthony walked on the University at Buffalo team in 2010. Miles earned a scholarship to Penn two years later. Both were 6-foot-4-inch linemen pushing 300 pounds.
Training with Anthony throughout the offseason, David fortified his large frame following a program designed by former UB strength and conditioning coach Nate Harvey.
“We’re a football family,” David said. “Everybody was supportive in anything I did but when I made the decision to come back and play football they were much happier.”
Tony Bartholomew, a basketball player and high jumper who graduated from St. Francis in 1980, encouraged his youngest son not to specialize in one sport.
“You never know what can happen, what you can excel in or what opportunities you might have,” Tony Bartholomew said.
As Smith noted, the size and power gains from his football training could help Bartholomew improve his college basketball prospects. As a junior, he averaged 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 11.6 minutes.
“He was really looking to be recruited for a D1 school in basketball. And who knows? That may still happen,” Tony Bartholomew said. “But this year he told me he’s loving playing football, the excitement and camaraderie with the players.”
The Red Raiders are 4-1 following a challenging slate of games against out-of-state programs and a 27-21 win over St. Joe’s in their Monsignor Martin opener Saturday night. Bartholomew has recorded 23 tackles and two sacks.
“In the beginning he was playing with all that fire and brimstone of being new again and wanting to get after it,” Smith said. “Now he’s starting to learn how to play to get even better and I think he’s going to have an even better second half than the first.”
Bartholomew praised Smith for reigniting his passion for football and putting him in position to join more than 200 St. Francis alumni who have played college football.
“Coach Smith is the man when it comes to recruiting,” Bartholomew said. “I give him all the credit. He work so hard and he’ll do whatever he can to get me to go far.”
Along with the scholarship offers, Bartholomew is proud to play his part in the Red Raiders’ pursuit of another championship.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,” Bartholomew said. “ What sticks out is how together we are. Our coach just keeps reminding us that if we are able to say that we truly look out for and rely on each other, we can be the best team in Western New York.”