Vendemia overcomes adversity to lead Mercyhurst football team
Mercyhurst quarterback Anthony Vendemia experienced what he called his most enjoyable training camp this summer.
That may have had more to do with the limited opportunities left than because of any specific camp activity.
Vendemia, a 2009 Franklin Regional graduate, began his final collegiate season at Mercyhurst last week in a 17-16 loss to Bentley University. That air of finality has the redshirt senior enjoying the little things.
Like training camp, for example.
“I'm excited (for the season), but I'm also trying to make it go as slow as possible because I enjoy playing football for Mercyhurst,” Vendemia said.
Vendemia's career at Mercyhurst took some unexpected turns early on, but he's now entering his second season as the Lakers' starter. As a junior, he completed 54.5 percent of his passes, tossing 17 touchdowns against seven interceptions in leading Mercyhurst to a 9-2 record.
Against Bentley, Vendemia completed 20 of 34 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.
“He's grown a lot as a person (over the last four years),” Mercyhurst coach Marty Schaetzle said. “He's an extremely hard worker, and he's gone through some adversity on the field. It wasn't an easy road for him to become a starting quarterback ... but just like any other challenge, he takes it on and works really hard at it.”
After Vendemia redshirted during his freshman season of 2009, he played sparingly during the 2010 season as the backup to star quarterback Travis Rearick.
With Rearick returning for the 2011 season, Vendemia saw the writing on the wall and decided to swap positions from quarterback to wide receiver/tight end.
Those plans changed when Rearick suffered an injury during the Lakers' sixth game in 2011. Vendemia took over as starting quarterback and finished the season with 1,515 yards passing, to go along with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
While he's glad to be back at his original position now, Vendemia said the position switch ultimately helped him.
“Playing that tight end position and having to block and put my hand in the dirt kind of gained a lot of respect for my teammates,” he said. “There were positive aspects, but all in all it was adversity I had to overcome because I'm sure every kid coming out of high school hears the same thing — that they'll play right away. That's not always the case. You have to pay your dues, and you have to wait a little bit for your chance. Once you get your chance, it's probably even more special.”
Schaetzle said Vendemia is respected by his teammates, who named him a captain for this season.
“His rapport with other players on the team has grown,” Schaetzle said. “His friendships and his team relationships have grown. He's got some close friends on the team. Not everybody can be your best friend because there's just too many guys on the team, but he's got a good rapport with guys on defense (and) guys on offense.
“Everything he says he does — that old walk-the-walk deal.”
Vendemia said he and his teammates were inspired this offseason after missing out on the NCAA Division II playoffs.
The Lakers tied for first place in the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference West Division last season, but they missed out on the PSAC Championship Game after losing a tiebreaker to IUP and were then denied an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs.
“We came up short of our goals (last season), and 9-2 doesn't mean much if you don't do anything with it postseason-wise,” Vendemia said. “We were disappointed. That was a chip on our shoulder the whole offseason when we were working out and preparing for this season. We understand the goal, and that's not to have a good season — it's to make the playoffs and make a run.”
While Mercyhurst's chief rivals are Gannon and Edinboro, thanks to the schools' proximity to each other, Vendemia said he's targeting the Lakers' game against IUP on Oct. 26.
“They won it head-to-head against us for the conference title,” he said. “And for me personally, (being) a Pittsburgh guy, I want to beat IUP every time along with (California University of Pennsylvania).
“But No. 1 for me with IUP is (that) I'm 0-2 against IUP, and that is the only PSAC team I don't have a win against. That's the one I've got circled, for sure.”
Vendemia spent his offseason slimming down from 215 pounds to around 207 or 208 in order to lead a more run-focused offense this season.
While he said he had grown in his ability to read defenses in his first four seasons at Mercyhurst, this year he's targeting better accuracy in order to help the offense be more efficient.
“We're very, very young (at wide receiver),” he said. “We've got brand new starters in the system. That just means I have to step my game up. So if I can improve my accuracy and improve my decision-making skills, then I can put up (better) numbers this year.”