Detroit News::Characters building for careers

Hillsdale football: Characters building for careers
By Terry Foster / The Detroit News
November 9, 2005

HILLSDALE, Mich. — Cody Senkyr will remember the laughs … and be remembered for the laughter he spread.

For instance, there was the night Senkyr and a couple of buddies stood in the dark of teammate Jesse Hoskins’ living room, BB guns in hand and wearing monster masks. Their clothes were piled in a corner out of sight.
Hoskins walked in, flipped on the lights and saw three naked monsters with BB guns pointed at him. Hoskins did not hear the howls of laughter. He was too busy running away.

“Yeah, that was my best prank,” Senkyr said. “It was unbelievable.”
Senkyr told the story as he stood outside the Hillsdale dressing room Saturday afternoon, moments after slipping out of his blue football uniform for the final time.

It should be no surprise that Senkyr’s last act as a senior free safety was to grab water bottles and douse defensive coordinator Craig Blanchard.

And it should be no surprise that when seniors gave emotional speeches before their final game that Senkyr broke the ice with laughter.

The seniors’ careers concluded with the Chargers’ 28-14 victory over Wayne State on Saturday at Muddy Waters Field.

While 18 senior teammates celebrated their final game by visiting with friends and family and smoking cigars, Senkyr was wrestled to the turf by buddies Andy Etter and Adam Gebus.

“We always pick on each other,” said Senkyr, a Clarkston High grad. It was a time of reflection for the seniors.

Matt Menchinger will remember playing last season at Ford Field against Wayne State.
Keith Recker will remember the bonfire and pep rally before beating Ferris State, 34-14.
Chris Clay will remember a four-overtime victory over Indianapolis last season and a mention on ESPN.

Faded football power
The Chargers’ 5-6 record might not seem like much, but it ended a streak of four seasons of four victories or fewer.
Hillsdale used to be a football power under Muddy Waters (138-47-5) and Dick Lowry (134-54-2). But it is tougher to win in the GLIAC now. Grand Valley, Saginaw Valley and Northwood draw from larger talent pools. They have better athletes.
Hillsdale is the smallest school in the league with an enrollment of 1,700 and it has some of the strictest academic requirements of any college in the state. It is also out of the way, sitting west of the Irish Hills about 30 minutes outside of Jackson.

“We have closed the gap from athleticism,” Chargers coach [Keith] Otterbein said. “But we have to get hard-working kids who want to play disciplined football who fit into our scheme.”

Otterbein said so long to his first recruiting class during a Sunday football banquet. He will miss the class because it set the stage for what he hopes are title runs.

“The senior class did everything we asked of them from day one,” Otterbein said.

“There were times and programs around the country where guys would throw their arms up in the air and quit. But the character of these kids was great and they stuck with it.”

Resumes instead of tryouts
No one on Hillsdale’s team will be calling an agent this week. No one will get a NFL tryout or be listed in any of the scouting books.

Instead they are flooding the market with resumes. They’ll become teachers or business executives. Others will go on to graduate school.

“I had a good time here and I am happy for that,” defensive back Chad Gurica said. But in a week or two I know I am going to miss it. … I know it is going to dawn on me and I am going to be sad because I have had some good times out here.”
Gurica went out on a high note. He got the biggest honor an athlete can receive. Wayne State refused to kick deep to him because of his 4.34 speed in the 40-yard dash and three kickoff returns for touchdowns this season.

Passing on to new generation
Often athletes in Division I programs do not find closure in their careers and dream of continuing to play. Hillsdale players seem ready to move on.

“I think they are realistic,” Otterbein said. “So it is easier to move on.”

Gurica said his football career is likely over. He said he might try out for an arena team if he gets bored, but he’s looking forward to life beyond sports. He wants to become a financial advisor.

While Senkyr talked to his buddies near the goal line, Gurica offered a piece of advice to his younger brother, sophomore wide receiver Nick Gurica.

“Just do what you love,” Chad said. “I am selling to him to be responsible and know what you want to do. As soon as football is over you have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. It comes quick. Be ready.”

And be warned. Football season is over, but Senkyr still has months before school’s out in which to play pranks.

You can reach Terry Foster at (313) 222-1494 or terry.foster@detnews.com.

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