ROCKINGHAM — Drawing a lot of parallels between his playing days for the Richmond Raiders and Randolph-Macon College’s football program, Gabe Altman has verbally committed to the Yellow Jackets.
Earlier this spring Altman announced his future plans, writing on Twitter that he was “committed” to the D-III school located in Ashland, Va.
A two-year varsity starter for the Raiders at linebacker, Altman will make the switch to defensive line when he suits up for the Yellow Jackets and head coach Pedro Arruza.
“First and foremost, I’m very grateful to get to play football and get a good education,” Altman said. “I’m excited for a change of scenery and to be in a different state and meet new people. My goal is to see that I make a lot of progress and growth on the field and in the classroom.
“I’m excited to make the switch to the defensive line,” he added. “I played d-line a little bit in high school, so I have a good understanding of what’s expected of me. It should be a really good experience.”
Randolph-Macon was the first program to reach out to Altman following his junior season. That was last spring during the COVID-shortened campaign, which saw Altman earn the first of his two consecutive All-Conference selections.
Like many student-athletes in the graduating class of 2022, Altman faced some adversity due to the pandemic. That created a “tough” recruiting experience, but he said he’s glad the way things worked out.
“It was tough because I got robbed of my full junior season, and that’s a big year for recruiting,” Altman explained. “But it was a blessing, too, because I had a lot of free time that was spent working out in the weightroom and on the field.
“Even though I lost game experience, I wouldn’t want to be committed anywhere else. Everything really worked out and I couldn’t be happier.”
Altman said that he had several other college programs show interest in recruitment, but it was the first impression made by the Randolph-Macon coaching staff that stuck with him.
“I really felt like Randolph-Macon wanted me to be a part of their program,” Altman said of why he chose the Yellow Jackets. “Every coach and all of the players were really personable and they made it a priority to get to know me and my family.
“Their football tradition is a lot like the tradition at Richmond,” he continued. “There’s a lot of pride, and that’s something I’m used to. Plus Randolph-Macon is a really good football program, so I’m looking forward to helping them win a lot of games.”
Last season, the Yellow Jackets went 9-1 overall and picked up a 5-1 mark against Old Dominion Athletic Conference opponents. They finished second to Washington and Lee University, their only loss of the season.
Randolph-Macon boasted a defense that held opponents to just 15.6 points per game, and Altman, who stands at 6-1, 240-pounds, is hoping to make an impact in the trenches over the next four years.
Altman attended the Washington and Lee game on Sept. 25, the first of his several visits to Ashland to get a better feel for the campus and program. He added that he also likes the school’s location, which is nestled on the northern outskirts of Richmond and is within 90 minutes of the nation’s capital.
He later returned for an unofficial visit to tour the school and check out the academic side of Randolph-Macon. And then on Jan. 28, Altman made his official football visit, where he spent the day with coaches and players to check out the facilities and experience the day-to-day life on campus.
Following that trip, Altman discussed with his parents, Scott and Tasha Altman, about his desire to play for the Yellow Jackets. After some deliberation, Altman called Arruza to share the good news.
In his two varsity seasons with the Raiders, Altman was a part of a team that won four consecutive conference championships. He helped run the defense his senior season, which allowed just 18.1 points per game and made it to the second round of the state playoffs.
At linebacker, Altman’s 66 tackles (45 solo, 21 assists) were seventh-most in the conference, and he added 4.0 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions, 1.0 sack and one forced and recovered fumble.
Sometimes used in select offensive packages and special teams plays, Altman recorded one receiving touchdown this past season, and assisted on a successful fake punt.
His time spent in kelly green and gold the last four years have done a lot to prepare Altman for the college level, he noted.
“Playing at Richmond gives players such an advantage,” he said. “From all of the workouts and weight lifting we do, to being so well coached by Coach (Bryan) Till. He showed me what it means to be a great leader and Richmond taught me what it means to play for a strong program.”
Other coaches Altman credited for his success were James Johnson, Milton Swinnie and Chris Campolieta. Johnson served as his position coach for three seasons and taught Altman “so much about the game from the player and coaching perspective, like terminology and techniques.”
Swinnine made the switch to linebackers coach during Altman’s senior season and he said working with the former Raider football player as a coach was “everything I imagined.”
“Coach Swinnie is never complacent and he’s always pushing us to get better,” Altman said. “I really clicked with his personality, and he was just one of so many coaches who put their trust in me to help run the defense.”
Campolieta has been coaching and working with Altman since seventh grade, when they both were at Hamlet Middle School. Altman noted that Campolieta “was always there to make me go the extra distance and always had a positive attitude to try and get me to learn the game the right way.”
Altman said that he’s forever grateful for all of his coaches from Richmond and that he wouldn’t have been able to pursue his dream of playing college football without all of their help and guidance.
“I also want to thank my parents, especially my dad,” Altman closed. “They both have supported me for so long, and my dad has always been my biggest fan no matter what. And he always wanted me to be my best on and off the field. I’m very thankful for him.”
When Altman reports to Ashland later this summer for workouts, he plans to major in computer and informational science.