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Cotners Crawford's first college football players

January 19, 2011
When Nick Cotner, as a member of the Crawford County Wolfpack football team, told people he wanted to play in college, he didn't receive quite the response he expected. Most of the people he talked to told him he didn't have what it takes to play at the college level.

"I was told that I was too small," Nick remembered while working out in the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School weight room recently. "Too slow, and nobody would ever want me to play college football for them, and, if I did make a team, I would never play, never see the field."

The Cotner brothers, Cody, left, and Nick, became the Crawford County Junior-Senior High School football programís first players to play at the college level when they received scholarships at Concordia University in Ann Harbor, Mich.
Not only did Nick play college football this past fall, but both he and his brother, Cody, became Crawford County's first players to play for Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Mich.

"There, at the last game of the year, I had worked my way into the starting lineup," Nick said, flashing a smile.

Cody was the first to be noticed by the Cardinals through a website called "Be Recruited," which helps coaches and potential players get connected with each other.

"(Concordia) contacted me and then they asked my dad if there were any other players around our area that could go up there and see what they could do, and he told him about Nick," said Cody, a wide receiver for the Cardinals who wears No. 83. "That's kind of how that started. One day, we took college visits up there. Then, we sent them our game film, and then they recruited us and gave us scholarships to play."

Besides making history as the first Wolfpack players to play at the college level, the Cotners became part of history at Concordia, where they became members of the school's inaugural football team.

Concordia, part of the Hoosier Wolverine Athletic Conference in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, has about 600 students, and is located only about four miles from football powerhouse University of Michigan.

"You can't get around town during Michigan home games," said Nick, who wears No. 84 and is a slot receiver. "The place is packed."

The Cardinals had a successful first season with a 5-2 record. Concordia's first win came against the Defiance junior varsity team, 37-14. Following that, Concordia defeated the University of Michigan club team (31-2) and Ohio State-Newark (43-35). The Cotners, both freshmen, said it was a good feeling to help the team get off on the right foot.

"It was incredible," Cody said. "(Defiance's) first punt, the guy dropped the ball, and one of our guys picked it up for a touchdown on the very first series. We just killed them the rest of the game. It was an incredible feeling, because that was the first game I've won in football since my junior year in high school."

"Personally, I was happy with the fact I got a quite a few reps in the first game," said Nick, who sat out a year after graduating from Crawford County in 2009.

"I was glad we were able to get that first win right of the bat. When we were here in high school at Crawford, I didn't get a single win my junior win. My senior year is when we started ripping off wins. We got four of them. It was good to get it right off the bat and not have to wait."

"We exceeded all expectations," Cody said. "In the two losses we had, they were competitive games. It wasn't like we got blown out in those two losses."

Both Cotners said they face the usual stresses of being a college student-athlete, including time management and being away from home. But there is an upside, as well.

"It's fun," Nick said. "It's easy to have fun. If you don't have to go dreading it, you can have fun."

"I can deal with it to know I'm living my dream of playing college football that I've had for years," he said. "Like Cody said, time is hard. You've got to balance out your studies. You're a student-athlete, and the student comes first."

Both Cotners said they knew about the Wolfpack struggles this past season with the school's sparse roster. (The team started with 23 players and finished with 17.) Both said more students at the school should get involved in the game and reap the same benefits that they have been able to.

"They can play college ball and go to school and get money to help them pay for college," said Cody, who also has a track scholarship at Concordia. "It's just as simple as that. There's no reason why kids shouldn't be playing football. It's the greatest sport in the entire world. When you do good at it, it's the best feeling of any sport. That's exactly why I feel like more kids should try out for it."

"I would mainly say, 'Don't be scared of hard work'," Nick said. "With the low numbers, it might be the kids like football, but it might be a lot of hard work, and they don't want to put in that work. Don't be scared of hard work. It's worth it, especially when you win ballgames."

Both Cotners are already looking forward to next season and getting ready for fall, when the Cardinals have almost 70 new recruits coming in to bolster the program.

"I expect our team to go out every Saturday and compete and have a chance to win each ballgame and get to the postseason," Cody said. "See how much damage we can do."

"I'm expecting, before I graduate, a national championship," Nick said. "It's going to be a long road, but it's what we're shooting for. If we don't get there next year, we've got the year after. Why try if you're not going to go for it all? That's how I look at it."

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