Cloak of support
Wearing a black-hooded sweatshirt and khaki shorts on a night in which the temperature did not climb above 40 degrees, Reade Seligmann paced the sideline, yelling out instructions and nervously watching the action in front of him.
Three days earlier, all charges were dropped against him and two of his Duke teammates in a rape case that polarized the nation. But here he was, an assistant lacrosse coach at his alma mater, the Delbarton School (Morristown, N.J.), as the Green Wave battled St. Anthony's (Huntington, N.Y.). With the Friars on the attack and the Green Wave getting back to defend, Seligmann looked on as Delbarton fought off a last minute comeback. After the whaling siren signaled the end to a 9-7 Delbarton victory, Seligmann threw his arms in the air and allowed himself a smile.
"This was an unbelievable way to end a week, much less a year, with so much emotion," Seligmann said after watching his twin 18-year-old brothers, Max and Cameron, combine for two goals and four assists in the win. "With everything going on at Duke and my family, I've been able to call these guys my team. They're all my little brothers really."
Back in the New York metropolitan area after being declared innocent in Durham, N.C. last Wednesday, Seligmann was no longer an accused rapist facing 30 years in prison. When a cameraman approached him before Saturday's game, it was not to snap his photo, but to shake his hand. Following the national anthem, the Delbarton roster was announced and the name Reade Seligmann was the last to be read, an afterthought as an assistant coach for the nation's No. 4-ranked team.
"The first place that I came to when I returned to New Jersey after being indicted was Delbarton," says Seligmann, of the all boys Catholic school located in the rolling hills of Morris County, from which he graduated in 2004 as the school's all-time leading scorer in football.
Knowing that he would not be attending Duke again after being suspended from the school last May, Seligmann served as an assistant on Delbarton's middle school football team in the fall and then as an assistant for the lacrosse team, which has won five consecutive New Jersey state titles as well as seven of the last eight under hall of fame coach Chuck Ruebling. "Delbarton has been like a mother wrapping Reade and our whole family in its arms," says Seligmann's mother, Kathy.
Even as Seligmann's name was getting dragged through the media, Delbarton embraced Reade. When reporters came to campus last April, school headmaster Rev. Luke Travers, O.S.B. issued a strong statement standing behind Seligmann and his family. Alumni, current students, and faculty penned letters to congressmen, attorneys general, senators, and the President of the United States on behalf of Reade. "It was an outpouring of support," says Kathy Seligmann. "That school is like a second home for all of our children, and they provided their best shows of support when we needed it most."
Reade appreciated the support and got a tattoo of Delbarton's motto, "Succisa Virescit", which literally means "cut down to grow back stronger" over his left shoulder in July. "It was a symbolic measure that I never wanted to forget," Reade says.
Three months later on Oct. 18, when his twin brothers turned 18, they got the same tattoo. "It was a sign of solidarity that we had his back, literally," says Cameron. Duke's lacrosse program also embraced the saying, and when the team was reinstated last summer, the phrase was adopted in Durham.
Last Wednesday, when Seligmann was cleared of all charges in North Carolina, the Delbarton administration allowed the Seligmann brothers, who did not make the trip, to watch the press conference. "We walked into the library to watch and by the end our lacrosse team was behind us," Max said. "It was a moment I'll never forget. Everyone was there for us, from the teammates to the faculty and above."
When the news conference concluded, another statement was released by the headmaster, "[The Seligmann family's] actions provide a shining example of Delbarton's motto Succisa Virescit, cut down to grow back stronger. We are pleased that this fine young man has been vindicated and is now free to enjoy the bright future that he well deserves."
Before Reade was charged with rape, both his brothers were being heavily recruited by Duke and their dream was to play alongside their older brother. But that dream quickly died. Now, Max has signed to play at Georgetown and Cameron will play at Bucknell. "To be able to see my brothers grow as players and high school students has been amazing, a blessing," says Reade, who will not return to Duke even though his suspension has been lifted, and has applications out to several schools after taking classes at a local college this year.
An hour and a half drive from their school in Morris County, N.J., Seligmann was again reminded of one of his Duke teammates when he saw several players from Chaminade High (Mineola, N.Y.) wearing their school's sweatshirts and windbreakers in the stands. Collin Finnerty, who was charged with Seligmann, is also coaching at his alma mater. On May 19, Chaminade will play Delbarton. "[The Chaminade players] were asking us which names were which on Delbarton," said Reade's father, Phil Seligmann. "I was thinking to myself, well, the assistant coaches sure know each other's names."
After Saturday's game, the first person to attend to the fans was a smiling Reade. No cameras dogged him as he shook hands with St. Anthony players and coaches. Instead, St. Anthony coach Keith Wieczorek embraced him when their paths crossed. "We know as Delbarton students there is a bull's eye on us, on and off the field because of our success," Cameron says. "This year our name was a target, too. But tonight we received attention for the right reasons."
Finally able to enjoy his first winning streak in more than a year, Reade left his brothers to pack up their gear. "If it's okay, I have to leave, my girlfriend has been waiting awhile, and I have to go," Seligmann said.
With that, Seligmann ran across the field, stopping several times to shake hands with Delbarton and St. Anthony's fans. "Being with this team has kept him in the game," says Kathy Seligmann. "It's been a great day, a great week."