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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: ATHENS SENIOR KERRICK SIGNS TO PLAY AT HARTWICK COLLEGE (2017-04-19)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — When Athens senior Mitch Kerrick walked off the football field last fall after his final high school game, he assumed his playing days were over.

Wednesday, Kerrick signed a letter-of-intent to play collegiately at Hartwick College.

What makes Kerrick story even more amazing is he was recruited to punt at Hartwick, a special teams chore he handled for just seven games during his senior season.

“I’m very surprised,” said Kerrick. “I never expected to be playing college football, especially as a punter — maybe as a receiver or defensive back, but definitely not as a punter.

“It’s going to be challenging,” he added.

There’s also a good chance Kerrick steps into a starting role as a freshman as the Hawks don’t have a punter returning from last season.

“The coach told me I’d have to work for it, but I think I’m in a pretty good position to punt this fall,” said Kerrick.

While he didn’t punt for the team until early in his senior season, Kerrick said it’s something he’s been doing at practice for years.

“Starting my freshman year, I would go out with special teams and punt. I just kept learning and working on it,” he said.

“When Cory Stivason got hurt, I asked coach Young if I could punt and he gave me an opportunity,” noted Kerrick. “I won the job, and here I am possibly about to play college football.”

As for academics, Kerrick said Hartwick fit perfectly with his plans for the future.

“It has a brand new criminal justice program and I want to be a Pennsylvania State Trooper.”

Kerrick also said he felt right at home once he stepped on campus.

“It’s a beautiful campus,” he said. “The sun hits it perfect, it felt just like home; that’s what I want college to be — just like home.”

Athens football coach Jack Young couldn’t be happier for Kerrick.

“He’s just a kid who wanted an opportunity, and he’s going to get that opportunity at Hartwick.

“He’s still a young kid,” noted Young. “With the punting, and possibly playing a little wide receiver, you never know what might happen.

“He’s looking for a good education, and Hartwick offers exactly what he’s looking for,” added Young. “He has an opportunity to go there and be part of something, and that’s huge.”

Young believes Kerrick has the tools to be successful at the next level.

“He definitely has the ability,” said Young. “Without pressure, he would boom the ball. As he gained experience against pressure, he got better and better for us as the year went on.

“He’s going to work throughout the summer; work on his timing and work on his extensions … work on getting the ball off, up in the air and down the field,” added Young. “I think it’s an awesome opportunity and I think he’ll do just fine.”

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IN PHOTO 1: Athens senior Mitch Kerrick. IN PHOTO 2: Athens senior Mitch Kerrick is flanked by parents Tina Kerrick and Jim Kerrick. In back row, from left: Athens AD Denny Thomas, Athens football coach Jack Young, assistant football coach Dan Kelleher, and Athens high school principal Cory Mosher. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY

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