Three years ago, Charger fans were lamenting the departure of quarterback Mark Nicolet after a breakout football season by #15 and the Hillsdale College program. If only he could have completed the redshirt year Hillsdale tried twice to give him before forcing him into service, then maybe that run could continue for one more year. The looking back turned to worry as fans looked forward. "How in the world would....or even could...the heir apparent Troy Weatherhead pick up Nicolet's reign?" they asked themselves.
Then a funny thing happened that fall, maybe not so funny, but that was the only lame cliché that came to mind. All of the worries went away as Weatherhead had a sophomore debut season that was statistically the second best ever for any Hillsdale quarterback in history. He followed that up with a 2009 that will be remembered as one of the best Charger seasons ever. Last year Weatherhead would throw for more yards (3348) than Nicolet did in 2007 (3335) and lead Hillsdale to a signature win over Grand Valley State in the regular season, a 10-3 record, the school's first ever NCAA Division II playoff berth, and the school's first ever Division II playoff victory. Entering 2010, Weatherhead is 732 yards shy of passing Hillsdale's all-time passing leader Bill Skelton. With the GLIAC's most experienced and prolific passing game unit returning to Hillsdale, that mark should fall early in the coming season.
Troy Weatherhead has evolved not only as a statistical leader but also a team leader. His teammates recently elected him co-captain and most anyone who has been around the program since his arrival as a hot shot from Comstock Park High School has seen a huge maturation process take place. In no way do I mean to imply that Weatherhead was a bad kid or an extra-immature kid, but the young man I spoke to last Thursday night wearing full business attire at a Hillsdale function in Grand Rapids bore little resemblance to the kid I met while he watched the 2006 Charger Spring Game.
Weatherhead will tell you that he learned a lot from Nicolet the two-years he served as understudy and that transitioning to starter wasn't that difficult thanks to the mentoring his predecessor provided. That predecessor is now leading the L'Hospitalet Pioners (Spain) into the European Federation of American Football Cup after winning the 2010 Spanish National League title, but returns in the fall to become Hillsdale and Weatherhead's quarterback coach.
The current Hillsdale quarterback isn't waiting on the former one though and is demonstrating that leadership right now on campus, though most Hillsdale students left weeks ago. He told me Thursday, "It is great. A lot of our receivers stayed to take a summer term so we have had 3 weeks together, working out and throwing."
Hillsdale returns arguably two of the best GLIAC wideouts in seniors Andre Holmes and Mike Blanchard but will have to break in a new tight end. Cam White will be in the mix after the broken hand he suffered during Spring Ball heals. Prized quarterback recruit Anthony Mifsud will finally get a chance to see the field as he spends time at wideout. Initial reports are that he has a great set of hands. Another player expected to emerge at WR is RS-Freshman Lou Cangelosi.
The 2009 Hillsdale Chargers graduated a lot of great players, as evidenced by 4 players getting mini camp invites this Spring, but the leadership Troy Weatherhead has developed should go a long way toward making the rebuilding process a smooth one.
Friday, May 21, 2010
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