A-K seniors hoping to parlay talent into college scholarships
Adam Mitcheson's highlight videos are on YouTube, so a simple Google search gives football recruiters the chance to witness his abilities.
Mitcheson's phone rings on a weekly basis because coaches from Old Dominion, Temple and Marshall want what they've seen — though to what degree they desire the standout still isn't clear.
Like several Alle-Kiski Valley football players this fall, Kiski Area's Mitcheson is a senior with Division I potential. The problem he and a few others face is that their potential has not yet equated to plentiful scholarship offers.
For the other Division I prospects, hopes hinge on how many touchdowns and tackles they accumulate. Mitcheson's circumstances differ: His world revolves around uprights, downed punts and touchbacks.
“They all have me No. 1 on their (recruiting) boards,” Mitcheson, a kicker and punter since eighth grade, said of his top suitors. “They're waiting to see what happens at their camps, like with walk-ons.”
Mitcheson knows offering scholarships to special teamers isn't at the top of most colleges' to-do lists. But he believes ODU, Temple and Marshall eventually will present him incentives beyond the basic opportunity to play. He believes in the value of his right leg and what it can do to tilt field position.
His strategic value is not lost on Kiski Area coach Dave Heavner, whose roster this fall also includes Division I hopefuls Shane Kuhn and Joey Brungo. Kuhn, a tight end and linebacker, has an offer from Youngstown State and serious interest from Pitt, West Virginia and several MAC programs. Brungo, a wide receiver and defensive back, has received interest from Wake Forest and several Ivy League programs.
“He's probably going to have more of an impact on the football game than all of those other guys I mentioned,” Heavner said of Mitcheson after he listed several returning starters.
Mitcheson's importance to the team became particularly apparent last season when an injury ended his year early. A partially torn right hip flexor muscle caused him to miss Week 3-5.
An MRI later revealed Mitcheson also had a cyst in his right femur. Surgery removed the cyst, but Mitcheson spent three months recovering.
Mitcheson, though frustrated to miss seven of 10 games in his junior season, considered himself fortunate after the cyst's removal.
“It made me mad,” he said, “but at the same time, if they didn't find it, they told me it would've made the bone weaker, and I might've broken it and never would've been able to play again. So it was a blessing in disguise.”
A healthy Mitcheson, Kuhn and Brungo means a happy Heavner.
“My main goal as a coach this year is to maximize our talent,” the second-year coach said. “I understand the players that I have on the team. I understand the gifts that they have. I know that they're not going to be here next year. So between now and then, I want to make sure that we maximize all of their talents and make sure that they get on the field and do what God has given them the ability to do. I don't want to waste a rep and put a Division I player somewhere that he shouldn't be.”
At Fox Chapel, there's a comparable concentration of Division I potential.
Senior linebacker/tight end Quintin Wirginis committed to Pitt during the summer. He suffered a season-ending foot injury in late July, though.
Senior Brandon Mitchell has an offer from Fordham, which wants him as a quarterback. Pitt, Toledo and Temple have shown interest in the 6-foot-6 speedster as a wide receiver.
And shifty senior twins Chad and Nigel Garnett have garnered interest from Virginia Military Institute, Youngstown State, Lafayette and Pitt.
“I think it's better because it attracts more attention,” Mitchell said of the Foxes' multi-recruit situation.
Meanwhile, at Knoch and Highlands, recruiters' eyes will follow two players this season. Knights two-way lineman Connor Shinsky already has scholarship offers from Kent State, UTEP and St. Francis. And Golden Rams star linebacker Allan Cratsenberg has offers from VMI and St. Francis.
“It just makes me feel like I have to play better because I don't know who (else) will offer me,” said Cratsenberg, who added that Penn State and Pitt remain interested in him. “It ups the pressure, but it's manageable.”
Said Shinsky: “It's a relief to just play games now. This summer, going to all the combines and showcase camps, I had enough of that.”