North: Pine-Richland grad a leader for Clarion
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Jay Foster believes leaders are hard to find in today's landscape.
"It's so difficult because of Twitter and Facebook and all the social media," said Foster, Clarion University's football coach. "If somebody is mad at you, then it's out there in social media. It used to be if you were mad at somebody, you said something to that person and that was it.
"Now you have kids who are afraid of saying anything for fear of starting a rift and having it become public. It's tough to be a leader because if you tick off the wrong person, it creates a scandal."
Clarion junior offensive tackle Mike Felker, like most college students, has a Twitter account. Felker, however, wasn't afraid to accept the challenge last spring when Foster asked him to be one of the Golden Eagles' tri-captains for the 2012 season.
Instead, Felker, a Pine-Richland High School graduate, gathered his offensive line mates together and strongly suggested they stay on campus over the summer and prepare for the upcoming season. They all agreed to his idea.
"That was tremendous," Foster said. "The O-line is a different breed. As long as there is a picnic, they're going to be there. They had a picnic all summer, being at our stadium every day running and working out.
"Getting them on the same page is so important. When you have a good line, your quarterback has an extra half-second to throw the football and holes open up for the running backs that might not usually be there."
Felker is not only a leader but Clarion's most-talented offensive lineman. He is already on the radar of some NFL scouts despite having two more years of college remaining.
Felker was a second-team All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference selection as a freshman two years ago and likely would have repeated last season if the Golden Eagles hadn't struggled to a 3-8 finish.
That 3-8 record left a bad taste in Felker's mouth. Thus, he decided to see if history could repeat itself.
Clarion's offensive linemen all stayed on campus prior to the 2009 season and the Golden Eagles went 8-3 that fall.
"Hopefully, we can do the same thing," said Felker, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior. "I think it's really important for the guys on the line to be close. When you spend the amount of hours we spent working out, we built camaraderie and that's something that can really carry over into the season and into games. We know we have each other's backs and that makes us a lot closer."
That is why Felker, a Pine Township resident, feels he and his teammates have a greater anticipation for this season than his first two. Clarion opens with a home game against Fairmont State on Aug. 30.
"We've been chomping at the bit for three months now," Felker said earlier this month at the PSAC media day. "I wish we could play right now."
Clarion was picked to finish seventh in the eight-team PSAC West in the coaches' preseason poll. Felker would be highly disappointed if the Golden Eagles finished that low, though.
"The thing about our conference is that there a lot of good teams and it's really deep, so anybody is capable of beating anybody," Felker said. "I think we're going to win our share of games this year. I think you're going to see us move up those rankings this year."
First Published August 30, 2012 12:00 am