Mike Anthony: Meet Terrence Bogan - one of the best high school athletes in Connecticut with Broadway aspirations and a fallback plan as a brain surgeon

If the focus were on just one of Terrence Bogan’s many pursuits — just theater, just football, just track, just his toward becoming a brain surgeon as “a backup plan” — it would be impossible not to appreciate his ability and potential, impossible also not to have some kind of “Holy Cow!” moment.

That’s what Paige Sperry, choral and music director at Sheehan High in Wallingford, experienced when she first watched Bogan perform in a middle school play about five years ago.

“He came on stage and I said, Holy Cow!” Perry said. “They did The Little Mermaid and he played Sebastian, and he was outstanding. I was like, Oh, my God. It was the whole package, just the way he presented himself on stage, and then he opened his mouth and started to sing and I was like, this kid is unbelievable. Holy Cow!”

You want to experience a similar reaction?

Check out video of Bogan singing and acting. Take a look at his stage accomplishments, most recently the winner (out of 800 competitors) of Broadway World’s Next on Stage high school singing competition. Watch him motor down the track, a two-time 100-meter Class M state champion and a New England champion in 2019. See him dart across a football field, a lightning bolt of running back and arguably the best player in the state over the past few years, with 5,735 career rushing yards and 77 touchdowns.

Or just listen to him speak, mature beyond his years, grateful, joyful, confident, moving through a potentially complicated adolescent experience with such grace, clarity. Bogan, 18, started speaking openly about his sexual orientation more than two years ago and represents the best of being gay and brave and proud in ways that don’t necessarily come easy for many his age, if ever.

“It is a little scary,” he said of hopes to be accepted wherever, whenever, always, in a world that most certainly does include close-minded people, still. “When being recruited, I had a story done on me before, and I asked to not have the part of me being openly gay in it — just in case. [Later] I felt like, why would I want to go to a school that is not going to really accept me for who I am? But it was the scariest part. What if this affects my future? What if it affects me playing football in college? What if it causes an imbalance with the team? That stuff runs through my mind. But at the end of the day, what you have to worry about is you. I’m really just doing whatever I can to make myself happy, then to make sure everyone around me is good.”

Bogan will attend Trinity College as a football player in coach Jeff Devanney’s Division III program, a member of the theater department and a member of the track and field team.

So many wonderful student-athletes come through our public schools every year and every once in a while we’re lucky enough to come across a Holy Cow kid with Holy Cow versatility and Holy Cow gifts. Bogan is remarkable, well-rounded in ways that make you feel good about the direction of the world, smiling and making people smile in the midst of dark times.

“Sometimes what you worry is, if they’re too well rounded, are they going to have what it takes to be competitive as a college football player?” said Devanney, who will enter his 15th year as head coach at his alma mater. “There’s always the football coach who jokes around, like, ‘Well, that kid’s doing a school play; I don’t want him on my team.’ But I think it’s amazing. Some of our best kids at Trinity have been so multi-dimensional. Guys like that, I see them in the professional world and they’re dominating the professional world for the same reason they dominated in high school and in college.”

Bogan had numerous college options, even Ivy League options. His choice, he said, came down to Columbia, Dartmouth and Trinity. While the Ivy League piqued his interest for its prestige — and as much as those institutions obviously value education and overall experience — being a Division I athlete is so consuming that Bogan wondered about being able to keep up with all of his hobbies and passions, unwilling to forsake one for another.

At Trinity, a top Division III regional football program and a five-time NESCAC champion under Devanney, Bogan will have flexibility. And at 5 feet 8, 182 pounds — no matter how fast he is — Bogan is a better fit at Trinity’s level, with potential to be a featured player instead of a bit player.

This is a remarkable time, for all of us, from COVID-19 fear and complications to social justice issues surfacing to create important conversation and action to the degree most of us have never encountered. Bogan has been active in making his voice heard on issues of equal rights for the Black and LGBTQ communities, engaging with peers in Wallingford.

One never knows what to expect from a major life transition until he is fully immersed in the next phase. And a young, Black, gay man moving on from a childhood community where he was always embraced to a community where he’ll have to essentially start over in can be worrisome.

Bogan said he has never been profiled, to his knowledge, and has never heard a derogatory term uttered in regard to his race or orientation. He has always felt accepted, always had many friends, always felt like just another kid in a mostly-white town. For that, he’s grateful. For that, he credits the diversity of his pursuits, and the people he has been surrounded by.

Bogan is a proud big brother to four little sisters, the proud son of his mother, Timeka. He is particularly close to his step-father, Tyrell Knighton, and is working to repair a relationship with his biological father, also Terrence Bogan, who recently returned to Connecticut after several years living in North Carolina. Of his mother, Bogan said, “The main role model in my life. My best friend, really. At a time, it was just me and her. So she was playing both mom and dad, and she really is the reason why I am who I am today.”

The Trinity football team has typically been among the most diverse in the NESCAC, something Devanney is proud of. He has used the past few months to learn and teach and promote discussion about social justice, about being Black in America. On numerous Zoom meetings, Devanney had upperclassmen speak and incoming freshmen listen to get a feel for what type of community they are about to enter.

“Our kids, especially with what’s happening right now with the Black Lives Matter issue, have had some very open and honest discussions,” Devanney said. “I really think the kids that are 18, 19, 20 just care about what you’re like as a person. They don’t care what color you are or what your sexual orientation is. And I think the people of this generation are kind of [fed up] with the [judgmental] part of our society.”

Bogan, who said his sexual orientation was never brought up by any school that recruited him, was paying close attention in those meetings.

“Coach Devanney has done a great job in making sure he’s taking care of us, especially the players of color,” Bogan said. “I remember when the whole social injustice thing got huge, he called me and said, ‘If you need to talk about anything …’ And so did other members of the staff. It was awesome. ... These people really cared to make sure everyone was educated. We hadn’t even gotten to know each other and I was like, these are people I want to know for the rest of my life. It did feel like a family.”

This college choice — and Bogan’s entire life, of course — has never been exclusively about football. Broadway is the primary dream.

For as long as he’s had a memory, Bogan ran around, dancing and singing, loving the arts, even becoming an incredibly talented drawer and painter. His first appearance on stage, as a seventh grader, was to play a frat boy in “Legally Blonde.”

Among his roles since have been as Mufasa in “The Lion King Jr.” and as Conrad Birdie in “Bye Bye Birdie.” He has won two Halo Awards from the Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, essentially the Tony Awards for high school musical theater — one for part of best duo as Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast,” another for best leading actor as the Prince Charming in “Cinderella.”

His worlds sometimes collide. Football prodigy. Renaissance man.

Take May 29, 2019. By day, Bogan defended his 100-meter title at the Class M outdoor track championships in New Britain, posting a time of 11.06 seconds. By night, he was accepting a Halo Award in Waterbury.

Take Dec. 14, 2019. By day, Bogan rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns as Sheehan defeated Bloomfield in the Class S championship game in Trumbull. By night, he was the lead in a school play in Wallingford.

“Mentally, it’s the same thing with musicals and football,” Bogan said. “You have to have your head in the game and practice how you play. You want to rehearse how you perform. The only thing I would say is really different is just the physicality. I’ve never had an injury in the theater, but I’ve definitely had a few injuries because of football.”

The campus, the classrooms, the playing fields and the theaters are about to change. Not the lifestyle, though. Acting, singing, football, track and, yes, the demanding coursework of neuroscience or biology.

“My No. 1 dream is definitely to be on Broadway,” Bogan said. “But you have to have a backup plan.”

A telltale sign that one is in a good place? Talking about becoming a brain surgeon as plan B.


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