By Chris McManes

Emmett Laws makes a significant investment of time to attend and play football at DeMatha Catholic High School. The 170-mile round trip between his northeastern Maryland home and Hyattsville takes more than five hours a day. 

But Laws, an All-American defensive tackle and captain for the Stags, said it has been worth the sacrifice. Particularly since he has earned a full scholarship to Virginia Tech.

“It’s definitely worth it,” Laws said, “because I won’t have to pay for tuition and won’t really have to pay for anything school-wise anymore.”

Laws  has made quite an impression on his head coach, Bill McGregor, who’s now in his 34th year guiding the DeMatha football program.

Emmett Laws
Emmett Laws spends over five hours a day commuting to and from DeMatha. Despite this, he had a 3.5 GPA during the first semester and has earned a football scholarship to Virginia Tech. He hasn’t decided on a major but is considering sports medicine, sports management and mechanical engineering. Photo courtesy of Chris McManes

“He is one of the most unique individuals that I have coached in all the years I’ve been coaching,” McGregor said. “He is an absolutely outstanding and fantastic young man character-wise. He’s just an incredible person.”

Laws has had a tremendous senior year. He was named Washington Catholic  Athletic Conference Capital Division Defensive Player of the Year and will likely be a first team All-Met. He has been selected to play in the Under Armour Next All-American game in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 3, 2024. 

“He’s our go-to guy and a great leader,” McGregor said. “I can’t say enough great things about Emmett.”

Laws’ final game as a Stag will come Tuesday night when DeMatha meets Good Counsel for the WCAC championship.

At Virginia Tech, Laws will find some familiar faces. Running backs coach Elijah Brooks was the Stags’ head coach for eight years (2011-18) and recruited Laws when he worked at Maryland. Hokies freshman defensive back Dante Lovett and Laws were DeMatha teammates for two seasons. 

“I think Emmett will have a great college career,” McGregor said. “He has the heart of a lion. He wants to be good, he trains to be good. Things are important to him. He does everything he should do to be outstanding. 

“And it shows day in and day out in practice. He’s in the trenches. You know he’s banged up, but you’d never know his body is sore. He’s an amazing person.”


The journey to Hyattsville

When Laws was in eighth grade, Stags assistant head coach/defensive line coach Will Weathers saw him play several times and tried to get him to come to Hyattsville. But with it being so far away, Laws opted to attend The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Md. He soon realized he wanted to play at a higher level. 

So, after playing just one game during the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Laws transferred to DeMatha in January 2021. His first Stag athletic experience was as a third baseman on the freshman baseball team. He became a starting defensive lineman as a sophomore. 

Laws said Weathers has helped him improve “dramatically.”

“When I first came to DeMatha, I didn’t even know how to get in a left-hand stance,” he said. “Coach Will has been teaching me from day one, teaching me how to get in my stance, how to use my hands, how to play violently and what to do, how to read my keys. He’s played a big part in my development.”

As a junior, Laws was part of the one of the finest defenses in DeMatha history. In 12 games, the Stags yielded just 65 points and recorded four shutouts. Despite their stellar play, they lost to St. John’s in the championship, 7-3. 

This year, Laws’ regular-season statistics included 12 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss, four tipped passes, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt and two touchdowns. In DeMatha’s 21-3 playoff win over St. John’s, the 270-pounder had a sack and tackled the Cadets’ punter on the their 1-yard line. 

Laws, who posted a 3.5 GPA during the first semester, has never won a title on any level. Tuesday is his next shot.

“That would mean the world to me,” he said. “Everything I’ve worked hard for through the offseasons and throughout my whole football career, I’m like I got to win it. It’s going to have to happen. I’ve been working for so long and so hard. All those days of training and all those late nights working – it’s all gonna pay off.” 

A long commute

Laws lives in Elkton, Md., which is northeast of Baltimore in Cecil County. He wakes up at 4 a.m. to get to DeMatha on school days. He leaves his house about an hour later to drive to the Perryville Station and catch the 5:20 MARC train. He sleeps a little on the scheduled 92-minute trip so that he can “have some energy throughout the day.”

Laws departs from the New Carrollton Station via Lyft and arrives at DeMatha at about 7:15. School starts exactly one hour later. He attends classes until 2:55 p.m. and then catches a ride to football practice at nearby Heurich Field. Practice runs from 4 to 6:30, but Laws leaves at 5:50 so he can ride with assistant coach Steve Mims back to New Carrollton. His northbound train departs at 6:42. 

While riding MARC Train 544, Laws will catch up on his homework before his scheduled arrival back at Perryville at 8:18. He gets home around 8:45, has something to eat and finishes any remaining schoolwork. He goes to sleep between 10 and 11 and does it all again the next day. His round trip train ticket costs $24 a day. Lyft is between $15 and $20 one way. 

“The commitment he has to come to DeMatha every day is above and beyond,” McGregor said. “I don’t know very many kids in the entire country who are doing what he’s doing. He is just a fantastic young man. He’s a great example of a DeMatha guy who has tremendous character and tremendous class.”

Laws fully realized how much McGregor cares for him after breaking a thumb last year during practice and being treated in an emergency room. The next day, McGregor drove from his home in Columbia, Md., to Elkton to give Laws a ride. 

“He came from all the way where he lives to pick me up and bring me back to school to get my finger looked at,” Laws said. “He definitely supports me, and I love and appreciate everything he does for me.”

Laws is confident he’ll play in the NFL.

“Just how hard I work,” he said. “I know a lot of people work hard everywhere else. I just know how hard I’m working and my mindset, my focus and tenacity on what I want. I know I’m going to be there.” 

DeMatha vs. Good Counsel

No. 3 DeMatha and No. 1 Good Counsel will meet for the WCAC Capital Division championship at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Tuesday Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. Heavy rain is expected before and during the game. 

The Stags last title came in 2016. St. Jerome Academy graduate Chase Williams helped the Falcons win it in 2019.

In the 2023 regular season, Good Counsel rallied late and defeated DeMatha 35-28 in overtime on Oct. 13. 

The Falcons have won five league championships, all since 2009. The Stags captured their first three conference crowns (1963, ’66 and ’67) under legendary basketball coach Morgan Wootten and have won 24 overall. 

Ticket & streaming information

Tickets to the championship game are $15 and only available via Ticket Spicket. (No cash sales at the gate.) 1st Amendment Sports will stream the game live. The cost is $11. 

Chris McManes covers DeMatha football for the Hyattsville Life & Times.