Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hillsdale's Mark Nicolet signs with Detroit Lions

Hillsdale quarterback Mark Nicolet didn't get drafted this past weekend, but the phone was ringing as soon as things wrapped up in New York City.

Nicolet will be in mini-camp this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as a Detroit Lion.

"They called after the draft was over. I am very excited about the opportunity," Nicolet said late Sunday.

The 6'1" 220 lb. gunner from Zionsville, IN had the most prolific season a Hillsdale quarterback has ever had, shattering record after record his senior season.

From Nicolet led the GLIAC in passing yards per game (303) and passing touchdowns (31) in the regular season. He attained those marks with some of the most prolific games ever recorded in Hillsdale's 116-year history of college football.

Nicolet set single-game school records for completions (34) against Michigan Tech, and in passing yards (426) vs. playoff-bound Ashland. Nicolet threw for five touchdowns in three separate games this season, the only GLIAC quarterback to pull off such a feat.

Nicolet also shattered the GLIAC record for passing yards in conference games in one season with 3,145. His overall passing yardage of 3,335 set a new single-season school record, as did his mark of 240 completions. He also led the GLIAC in total offense and has served as team captain each of the past two seasons.

He was Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year as well as the offensive MVP of the Division II all star game The Cactus Bowl.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hillsdale Quarterback Eager to Return from Injury

Hillsdale quarterback eager to return from injury
Friday, April 25, 2008
By Howie Beardsley
The Grand Rapids Press

Troy Weatherhead was not about to watch his 2008 football season at Hillsdale College flash before his eyes before it even had a chance to begin.

Not without a second opinion.

Weatherhead is the gun-slinging quarterback and redshirt freshman from Comstock Park. He spent Hillsdale's spring sessions as the Chargers' No. 1 quarterback and, consequently, as the heir apparent to NCAA Division II All-American Mark Nicolet.

On April 8, a defensive lineman was blocked into Weatherhead's knee during a scrimmage. An MRI shows he damaged the anterior cruciate ligament and, worse yet, the medial collateral ligament.

"It was originally thought, from the first MRI readings, that I partially tore the ACL and totally tore the MCL, meaning I was done," said the 6-foot-3, 208-pound Weatherhead.

"I was pretty down. It was like the opportunity I've waited two years for was taken away from me before it was given to me. I was pretty disappointed, because I thought I was done."

Weatherhead and his family decided last week to get a second opinion from James Bakeman, a Grand Rapids knee specialist who revived Weatherhead's upcoming season.

"We found out I had a little tear in my MCL, and that the ACL was fine," Weatherhead said. "The MCL will heal without surgery, so now it's up to me to put in the rehab and hard work to strengthen it, and hopefully be ready by July."

Weatherhead passed for 2,700 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior at Comstock Park, which earned him all-state honors.

He was redshirted as a freshman at Hillsdale, and was 11-for-17 passing for 107 yards and a touchdown last fall as a little-used backup.

Hillsdale coach Keith Otterbein said Weatherhead's story about being given a second chance to compete is a common one.

"Initially, the news wasn't promising. But, thankfully, that's also why you get second opinions," said Otterbein, who led his alma mater to an 8-3 record last season, including a 7-3 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

"Troy is a football player who got hurt. He's going to be fine, but he also knows he has to do a lot of rehabbing to get the knee stronger before the fall,"

Full Story

Friday, April 18, 2008

Collegian: Logo Change Aims for 'Consistency' and 'Strength'

Logo change aims for 'consistency' and 'strength'
By: Liz Klimas
Posted: 4/17/08
Today the Hillsdale College athletic department changes identity but not tradition. The department announced replacing the H and lightning bolt logo and a new identity and accent color. Welcome the stallion alongside a plain, serif block H, and refreshed Charger blue and white with a new gray accent.

"Before now, the athletic logo has never been clearly defined," said Angela Lashaway, college art director. "We tried to find a happy marriage of the history of what's been used and what a Charger is."

Athletic morale runs high this year with the programs' success making it ready for change, Athletic Director Mike Kovalchik said. Last fall the department began development of a new, modern image evoking strength and consistency.

"We wanted to maintain our colors and logo to some extent," Kovalchik said. "This change can be looked at as a strength change."

Kovalchik said President Larry Arnn and the administration first began coming up with ideas to change the athletic logos. By the 2009 to 2010 athletic season, uniforms will be replaced and the football field and basketball court centerpieces changed, Kovalchik said while financial logistics are still being worked out.

"This year coming up is a transition year," Kovalchik said. "It still may be two to three years of process because the volume of things being changed."

The current royal blue will be changed to what Kovalchik called a "strong" blue and, in addition to white, gray will serve as an accent color. Kovalchik said the new blue will be easier to match, a change that "needed to be made from a business standpoint."

"Now we have a logo and colors that are across the board," Sports Information Director Brad Monastiere said, emphasizing the importance of consistency in the athletic program. "Right now different teams are using different things."

Baseball, softball and volleyball already use gray in their uniforms, and men's basketball and baseball have even used black. Kovalchik said he wanted to make gray an official color and eliminate use of black all together.

"It's a challenge, but it's a fun challenge," Kovalchik said. "Now [teams] have to focus on consistency."

Red as an accent color was also discussed during the process but ultimately turned down.

The profile of the stallion accented with the new blue, gray and white replaces the H-lightening bolt. The design team integrated the lightning bolt motif into the stallion's mane. While Kovalchik felt the H lightning bolt was a successful logo, he said the strength emanating from the stallion transcends the H lightning bolt.

"Logos have to mean something to a college or university," Kovalchik said. "When you lose that logo, that tradition, that pride, you lose a lot. We all look to something that motivates us ... Something strong, we can identify with. We need to focus on this logo's strength, on its identity."

Monastiere said he will incorporate the new logo and colors into all schedules and publications to spread the news and excitement about new logos.

"We want to portray that this is our identity today and this is our identity going forward," he said. "This is who we are and this is who we are going to be. This is an opportunity for students to grow with the logo."

Lashaway, who coordinated the process between the department and the designer, said the two symbols officially work to make one logo, though they occasionally have single uses.

The department will officially announce changes on Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Football Media day on Aug. 5. Though Kovalchik said he looks fondly back on the H lightning bolt, he, Lashaway and Monastiere are positive about the change.

"We'll never forget the H with the lightning bolt," Kovalchik said. "We hope that everyone will take part and welcome it in a good way. We are going to keep this a positive thing, and we are going to go with it full-go 100 percent."

© Copyright 2008 The Collegian

Hillsdale Nail it! New Logo Rocks!

The Hillsdale College athletic logo has been unveiled and it is awesome! It conveys strength. It is identifiable and pays homage to the Charger traditions of both 'bolts' and 'colts'.

No longer do will look at a logo and say, "That lightning bolt is upside down." This is exactly the change that was needed and I salute all involved. Not only were new logos created, but an official shade of Charger Blue was identified.

Well done Hillsdale! Well done.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring Game Wraps up Spring Session on Sunday

The Chargers will scrimmage one last time this Spring at 1:00 PM on Sunday, April 20. The annual post-game picnic will follow.

I talked with Keith Otterbein this afternoon and he is pretty positive about the overall Spring session despite as he put it, "We are not the most healthy football team right now."

Projected quarterback Troy Weatherhead suffered a knee injury last week and is currently seeking follow up and second opinions from Grand Rapids area specialists. Freshman Matt Bryan and sophomore Brad Otterbein are both healthy and have been getting all of the same reps in the competition to be the Chargers' next full time signal caller.

Fundamentals were a big thing the Chargers stressed this Spring and Otter said the practices gave him and his staff a chance to see a lot of what the younger kids on the squad can do in the context of the Chargers' system. "We know what these young guys can do physically, as we have seen them on scout team...but now you get a chance to really coach them and see what they can do in certain situations schematically.

The Charger Head Coach has really been impressed with the progress of the defense. "Those guys are playing with a lot of confidence. They have worked extremely hard in the weight room and on their speed. Now we are seeing them apply it football-wise," Otterbein shared. "We think they are going to be pretty good and that is going to help us hugely offensively. We can go back to playing some old-fashioned field position football and not have to worry so much about putting up tons of yards."

This will be the Chargers' last chance to work together before camp opens on August 7th.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Veldeer, Yassay, Stempien Lead the way at Lift-A-Thon

Hillsdale College offensive tackle Jared Veldheer, DT Mark Yassay, and LB Joe Stempien took the Charger Football lift-a-thon into uncharted territory earlier this Spring.

Veldheer's hang clean of 405 pounds is the most ever lifted in the event, a 41 pound jump for the sophomore from his 364 pound winning lift a year ago. Mark Yassay was right on Veldheer's heels as he cleaned 400 pounds, become the second athlete ever to eclipse the 400 pound mark.

Linebacker Joe Stempien set a new record in the 200-224 pound weight class with a clean of 370 pounds.

RB Brian Thompson won the 199 and below class with a 315 pound effort. LB Tom Korte's 335 pound clean won the 225-249 class. DL Jordan Knudsen also lifted 335 pounds enroute to winning the 250-274 pound class.

RJ Walters Gets it. He Really Gets it!

I just read a great column by Hillsdale Daily News sports editor RJ Walters. In the piece, he describes how impressed he is with the people who make up the Hillsdale College athletic department. It is mainly about a recent interaction he had with track coack Bill Lundberg, but Otter makes a guest appearance at the end.

Give it a read:

Big blue championship hearts

Track and field coach Lundberg epitomizes everything good about Charger sports

In a sports world that so many see as tainted by performance enhancing substances and two-ton egos I find Hillsdale College athletics to be refreshingly different.

They are starting to compete at the top of the GLIAC in many of the sports they offer and three GLIAC Player of the Year awards in major sports in one season blows my mind when I look at the Grand Valley's and Wayne State's the Chargers are up against.

It is not those well-deserved accolades or rising win percentages that truly separate Hillsdale College athletics from programs at other institutions I've covered though. It is the fun-loving, seriously committed individuals behind the scenes who define success in ways that create not only better athletes, but truly amazing people.

My half year of working with those associated with the Hillsdale College athletic department, including coaches and players, has lead me to believe that the town's welcoming sign that reads, "It's about the people," holds especially true for those holding down the fort in Charger-land

Let me give you a small peek into just one of my so-called experiences, going back two Fridays.

I went into Charger track and field head coach Bill Lundberg's office. All I really wanted was enough fodder to write an outdoor track and field preview and a little background information on the program. I got that-and a whole lot more, more than I could've ever imagined to be quite honest.

I got a glimpse into the heart of a passionate man with a winning attitude that is certainly not reserved just for athletics.

Lundberg told me a story about how he fatefully ran into legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden in the late 1970s while working at a running camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Lundberg said Wooden had a basketball camp going on nearby and the hoops icon just happened to be on a morning walk while Lundberg took his daily jog.

Lundberg said the two men chatted it up for several minutes and Wooden was a kind man, full of wisdom.

As I was taking in the idea of meeting the man best known as the "Westwood Wizard" Lundberg started reciting a Wooden quote from the book "Call Me Coach."

"Tomorrow there will be more to do and failure awaits those who stay with some success made yesterday; tomorrow you must try once more, even harder than before. I think that's from chapter 12 or 13," Lundberg said, admitting at the same time that he tried to copy great coaches like Wooden in his own teaching techniques.

Some coaches like to take the credit for any success their team has, but Lundberg and his Hillsdale counterparts just aren't those kinds of people.

They are the kind of people that get choked up in the middle of interviews because of tragic moments they remember vividly or intimate relationships they've had in the past.

Lundberg slowly and gracefully told me the story behind the naming of the Gina Relays held at the college each year, describing the Relays namesake Gina Van Laar Lanser as a "beautiful and vibrant human being." He went onto to detail how current Hillsdale players and coaches help officiate the relays each year, which shows me the family like atmosphere that exists within the department.

Then he collected himself and went on to tell me of his first run in with Jack McAvoy, the former Charger athlete, coach and athletic director whose legacy will live on forever at the college. His eyes even welled up a bit when he talked about how he would look out the window and see current athletic director Mike Kovalchik and McAvoy walking the football field together near the end of McAvoy's career.

It took me back to earlier this year when McAvoy was honored in a ceremony at the Dow Center, only a few days after tragically losing his daughter. Former Charger athletes flew in from as far as Texas for that event and there was not a dry eye in attendance, including my own, as hundreds of people embraced and grieved with a man they loved so much.

Hillsdale athletics is so much more than wins and losses and the individuals who are the faces of the program prove that to me time and again.

Head football coach Keith Otterbein spent half an hour sharing his faith with me during an interview late last year, women's basketball coach Claudette Charney gladly called me all the way from Missouri even though her team had just lost in the NCAA tournament and on April 2, men's basketball coach John Tharp and the men's and women's basketball teams put on a free clinic for 86 area youth. Maybe I'm missing something, but I fail to understand why every single parent around here isn't dying to take their children to Charger games and events with these types of role models, along with the exciting sports action they help orchestrate.

And to end on a little less serious note, the Charger athletic family definitely knows how to have fun too.

After a little over an hour of one-on-one with Lundberg, we were inter-rupted by a feisty, grinning Otterbein at Lundberg's office door.

"How in God's green Earth can you make him do an hour and a half interview just to say run fast and turn left, Bill?"

Not only do they burn with passion for the blue-and-white tradition and have hearts that beat for others needs ahead of their own, they make you feel welcome and truly make me wonder what in God's green Earth possibly keeps people away from the local college sports scene and in many cases leaves too many empty seats at Charger athletic events.



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