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Ex-Kiski Area lineman Bertovich overcomes adversity, lands at Youngstown State

| Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Lineman Jim Bertovich is getting a second chance to make a first impression.

And his dream of playing Division I college football flickers on.

A 2011 Kiski Area graduate, Bertovich had academic issues that slowed the recruiting process, but he enrolled at Division I-FCS Youngstown State, where he seems to be turning a corner.

Keeping coaches aware that he still was on campus and intent on doing whatever it takes to play for the Penguins, he finally got his chance when he was offered a preferred walk-on opportunity to play and earn a scholarship next season.

“Their coach recruited me in high school, and I kept his (business) card,” Bertovich said. “I had a lot of Division IIs looking at me, but I wanted to play D-I. I just didn't have the grades or motivation. I want them to know I can still play.”

Bertovich also overcame back surgery to repair two herniated discs, which cost him his sophomore year at Kiski Area. He gained weight, reaching 400 pounds before dropping to 315 and contributing as a junior and senior.

The realization that grades and football go hand-in-hand has given the 6-foot-4, 330-pound freshman a new outlook on life and football.

“His mom has really pushed him to have success,” said Troy Wilson, who coached Bertovich at Kiski Area. “He has worked his butt off. He's up there representing Kiski Area. It's nice to see him doing well.”

His grades are improved, he's been working out on his own and, in a year, could be contributing on Youngstown's line.

He was told his best shot would be on defense, but he could end up on offense.

“I feel like I am very fortunate to have this opportunity,” Bertovich said. “Now I plan to do something great with it. To go from back surgery and being ineligible to get to where I am; I overcame obstacles.”

The National Athletic Recruiting Network put together a recruiting profile for Bertovich and helped keep colleges aware of his whereabouts.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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