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Starters in the making

More news about: Bethany | Illinois College
Brady Huber got a little bit of playing time behind record-setting Illinois College quarterback Michael Bates, but not a lot.
Illinois College athletics photo by Randy E. Blue

Waiting is always going to be difficult. Some players sit for two or even three years behind a starter, preparing for their opportunity to lead their team on game day.

There’s nothing easy about college football, and the commitment to practice three months each fall, suit up each weekend, and pour effort into spring drills is physically and mentally exhausting.

Between high school and college, “You go from high man on the totem pole to low man on the totem pole really quickly,” said Brady Huber, the senior quarterback for Illinois College.

Huber spent his first three seasons behind Michael Bates on the depth chart. Bates was a success year after year for the Blueboys -- he holds school records in passing yardage (10,787), passing touchdowns (107) and completions (836). He was also first-team All-MWC for three years and finished his career as Division III’s Capital One Academic All-American of the Year.

That’s a hard legacy to follow, but Huber has patiently waited his turn. In the previous three years, Huber has completed just 24 passes, having filled in during series when Bates was banged up.        

He said spending these years as a backup wasn’t what he wanted when he came to Illinois College as a freshman, but he saw value in it. Bates worked hard to keep Huber engaged, to help him work on recognizing coverages and to know how to watch out for blitzes.

“He always told me before games to be ready because it’s just one play, and you’re in,” Huber said.

Bethany, too, has a senior starting for the first time in his career. Lincon Reyes had the unenviable task of taking the reins of the Bison offense for the first time in the opener against one of the most dominant teams in the nation: Mount Union.

“It was a good challenge. It’s a difficult way to get your feet wet, but I enjoyed the experience. You can only go up from there,” Reyes said, who had never completed a collegiate pass before this season. “The score wasn’t very good and the game wasn’t very good, but it boosted my confidence because I knew we were going to play other teams that weren’t as good as Mount Union.”

And upward he has gone.

“We started off against a really good team, and that was difficult,” Reyes said. “But everything started falling into place, and it feels good.”

The quarterback passed for just 29 yards against the Purple Raiders, but he surged to a 342-yard performance last weekend against Waynesburg. On the season, he has 800 passing yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. Bethany is 2-2.

It was kind of a rough first start for Lincon Reyes, against the No. 2 team in the nation.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com 

As expected, though, the past years playing backup to Matt Grimard and Brian Vales were taxing.

“It was difficult, but I just stuck with it,” Reyes said. “It helped me in the long run to get a handle on everything offensively. I know all the calls because I’ve been around it for so long.”

Unlike Huber at Illinois College, Reyes wasn’t the clear-cut favorite to start coming into camp. He competed with two sophomores to win his spot under center.

Knowing this was his final shot at a starting job, he focused on spring ball and worked harder than ever during the summer to polish his knowledge of the offense. He said his performance in camp was his best ever, and it’s paying off.        

Huber also has benefitted from his experience training with the offense and working with the players who complement him on the field. The Blueboys’ offense was largely intact during Huber’s freshman, sophomore and junior years, so there’s been a lot of consistency in performance.

Getting the call to be the starter “was really exciting, just for the fact that there’s a lot of guys around me that have proven themselves,” Huber said. “Especially the younger guys, they’ve already proven themselves and shown that they can play. They know what they’re doing, and that made it a lot easier on me coming in that I already have trust in them.”

Illinois College is 1-2 this season, but Huber is excelling. He has passed for 842 yards, with 10 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

“By senior year, it was pretty simple to know the offense, know the coverage, know the routes that can beat those coverages,” he said.

That’s been the biggest change from his high school days when he had last served as the team’s starting quarterback. College football is more complex, and particularly the coverages are more intricate. For example, in Illinois College’s opener against Aurora, the Blueboys ran the same play three different times in a series, and each time, Aurora covered it differently.

“Going through that learning curve” has been intense, he said. “This isn’t high school, this is college, and there’s a pretty big difference.”

But that’s also the fun of it, he said. As the starter, Huber can show off his arm strength, and he’s been around the game at this level long enough to understand what he’s doing right and what needs improvement.

“You have to learn to fine tune it and make it more of a positive than a negative,” he said.

D-III takes part in Coach to Cure MD

For the third season in a row, the Gettysburg-Susquehanna game was a Coach to Cure MD game.
Gettysburg athletics photo

Across all levels of college football last weekend, coaches were sporting sleeve patches promoting the Coach to Cure MD event.

The weekend helps to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a fatal genetic disorder that causes loss of muscle function and independence. Duchenne affects about one out of every 3,500 boys and is diagnosed during childhood.

Division III programs -- from Albright to Worcester State -- were among the hundreds of college institutions that took part. Several schools highlighted the game in their media materials.

“Bullets Host Susquehanna for Coach to Cure MD Game” and “Simpson football coaches to take part in Coach to Cure MD” were the kinds of headlines that were common leading into the weekend.

Hope’s coaching staff was part of the national effort toward awareness and fundraising.

“My staff and I are honored to be part of the national campaign ‘Coach to Cure MD,’” Hope coach Dean Kreps said in a news release ahead of the game against Illinois Wesleyan. “There is a unique connection between Duchenne, a disorder that robs young men of precious muscle strength and college football, a game where young men are at the peak of their muscle strength. We are proud to help raise national awareness of this disorder and we hope to help raise money to fund research for a cure.”

The annual Coach to Cure MD is a partnership between the American Football Coaches Association and Parent Project Dystrophy, the largest national charity devoted exclusively to Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

There is a full list of schools who participated last weekend on coachtocuremd.org.

Awards season will soon be gaining hype

In major-college football, commentators, fans and institutions start talking about awards even before the season starts -- and that goes doubly for the Heisman Trophy.

But in Division III, we’re more apt to savor the start of the season, get swallowed by the excitement of our teams and push talk of awards at least until we’re a few weeks in.

Guess what? It’s now October.

But don’t think of me as being a part of the jib jab of potential winners this fall. In reality, it’s not important right now. What I do hope to achieve is to let you know a couple of honors that are out there so that when the names come up, they’ll at least be a little familiar.

First and foremost in Division III is the Gagliardi Trophy, the premiere award for student-athletes at our level. Winners are accomplished both on the football field and in the classroom. The trophy is named in honor of longtime St. John’s coach John Gagliardi, whose 489 career wins are the most in college football history. It is given out by Jostens and the Saint John's University J-Club annually just before the Stagg Bowl in Salem.

Each year, several Division III players are nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which recognizes college players who are committed to making a difference in their communities. In football, the 11-person teams are split between Division I-FBS players and a separate team for players from all other divisions. So the competition to make the final cut is tight. This is an early-bird award, usually being announced in September. Making the team from Division III this year are Billy Baker, Aurora;

Matt Mehlhorn, Bethel; Jacob Wassenaar, Central; Vincent Beltrano, Chicago; Lucas Romick, Denison; and David Porter, John Carroll.

The National Football Foundation gives out the William V. Campbell Trophy annually -- and Division III has once played the role of spoiler to this award usually given to Division I athletes. The foundation website says that the trophy recognizes “an individual as the absolute best in the country for his academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership.” So it’s basically a philosophical cousin to the Gagliardi Trophy. In 2002, Brandon Roberts of Washington U. became the only player outside of what is now called Division I-FBS to win the award. Of this year’s 125 total nominations, 27 come from Division III. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for another D-III player winning it, but it is an award that you’ll hear school communication departments talking about.

One Division III athlete in the trenches is honored each year with the Rimington Award. It is given to the top center, and versions of the Rimington are given to a player at each level of college football, including NAIA. Division III athletes have received the award since 2003, and one player, Josh Ostrue of St. Thomas, won the award twice -- in 2008 and 2010.

Just to round out this list for individual athletes, there’s D3football.com’s All-Region and All-America teams. Don’t be fooled by imitations.

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his third season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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