Elyria’s Connor Kamczyc is going to a place where he will definitely be needed.
The two-time first-team Division I All-Ohio linebacker has decided to continue his football career at Marist, a Division I Football Championship Subdivision program that finished tied with Butler atop the Pioneer Conference regular-season standings last season at 7-1.
The Red Foxes were 8-3 overal, winning their last five games. Kamczyc will be joining a team that finished 25th in the nation in total defense last year, surrendering just 366.6 yards per game, 11th in rush defense (112.2 yards) and 13th in scoring defense (20.5 points).
It also lost its top five tacklers to graduation.
Making tackles is how Kamczyc, a 6-foot, 215-pounder, made his reputation under Pioneers coach Kevin Fell. He led the state with 161 tackles as a junior before shattering the school record with 211 tackles as a senior. In his final two varsity seasons, Kamczyc also posted 14 sacks, two interceptions and 34 tackles for losses.
Following his senior season he was named Northeast Lakes District defensive player of the year.
With Kamczyc’s gaudy tackling numbers, conventional wisdom would dictate some of the top football programs in the nation would be beating down his door.
However, he does not fit the prototypical physical features of a big-school linebacker … something that doesn’t bother him.
“They obviously saw something they didn’t like in me, but I don’t carry a chip on my shoulder because of that,” Kamczyc said.
“I’ve been playing with something to prove my whole career, so this won’t be any different. That’s how I approached things my senior year … played every game like it’s my last game. That’s all I have to do. I play every play as hard as I can.”
Fell thinks Kamczyc, who has a 3.4 grade-point average, focused on academics when he chose Marist.
One thing Fell is sure of: Marist got a great football player.
“Connor is one of the best linebackers I’ve ever coached, but for the big boys he must not have met the physical qualifications, which is a shame because he’s a fantastic football player,” he said. “We always told him he had to prove himself, and he did. He must have decided he wanted the best deal and education instead of trying to walk on at a bigger school. I think this is going to work out fine for him.”
Fell said that even though Kamczyc might be missing some of the physical attributes big-time colleges look for in a linebacker, there is more to a great football player than raw height, weight and 40-yard dash times.
“What made Connor a good football player wasn’t his physical ability,” Fell said. “He was not the biggest guy on the field and not the fastest guy on the field, but he was a football player. He has that sixth sense that linebackers sometimes have that make them great. He can smell out a play and be at the right place at the right time. That’s not something that translates well on film. If you watch him play live you can see that better.
“That’s what made him a great player for us, and I think that ability will really carry over for him in college. He’s got the potential to be a really, really good college football player.”
At Marist, Kamczyc plans to major in sports communications.
“It has a very good program for what I want to major in — sports communication,” he said. “They have a lot of opportunities there, internships with ESPN and things like that. That was one of the things that helped in my decision. I like it a lot up there. It’s beautiful and right on the Hudson River, and it’s also only an hour away from New York City, so I kind of like all that.”
As for the legacy he leaves at Elyria High School, Kamczyc hopes people remember him for more than what he was able to accomplish on the football field.
“I hope people don’t just remember me as a football player,” he said. “I want them to remember me as a good kid and a well-rounded person.”