Year to remember: Bolinsky becomes starter at Syracuse
North Schuylkill graduate Bolinsky goes from walk- on to starting long snapper at Syracuse
FRACKVILLE — It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Aaron Bolinsky.
It was exactly one year ago this weekend that the Frackville resident graduated from North Schuylkill a semester early to embark on a journey to play NCAA Division I college football at Syracuse.
What a journey it’s been.
The 5- foot- 10, 220- pound Bolinsky went from being a preferred walkon to a starting specialist, serving as the long snapper for the Orange’s punt, field goal and extrapoint teams.
Along the way, Bolinsky was part of a resurrection of the Syracuse football program, as the Orange finished 10- 3 overall, beat West Virginia 34- 18 in the Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Florida, and finished ranked No. 15 in both the final Associated Press and Amway coaches’ polls.
“It’s great. It’s everything that I dreamed about since I was a little kid going to Penn State games and seeing all the fans and getting to be able to play in front of them,” Bolinsky said last weekend while home on winter break.
“I did not ever think ( this would happen). I went up there with the plan that there would be a kid
ahead of me, and I would push him to be the best he could be and hopefully he would do the same for me. Just continue to get better every day.”
The son of Frank and Allie Bolinsky, Aaron said that since he went to Syracuse one year ago that he’s added 25 pounds of good muscle. When he arrived at Syracuse, Bolinsky went through a “strict, eight- week regimen of lifting four days a week along with two days of running until about the middle of March.” The Orange then held spring practices Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until the end of April, when Syracuse conducted its spring game.
Bolinsky’s summer was filled with nothing but running and lifting, then two- aday practices leading up to the start of the season. A video of Bolinsky doing a longsnapping drill in which he snaps the ball through a tire and knocks a tennis ball off a traffic cone is posted on the Republican- Herald Sports page on Facebook.
In the classroom, the accounting and finance major has a 3.5 GPA.
“It was a big adjustment,” Bolinsky said of leaving early for college. “Definitely class size, the rigor of the classes, and you were on your own. You really didn’t
have any parental help or people that you could go to back home that you were close with. A lot of the things that I did were on my own.”
On the field, Bolinsky figured that the 2018 season would be a learning year, with senior Matt Keller already entrenched as Syracuse’s starting long snapper.
The 5- 11, 225- pound Keller, who hails from Penn Manor High School in Millersville, Lancaster County, suffered a broken collarbone covering a punt during the Orange’s Atlantic Coast Conference showdown at then No. 3- ranked Clemson on Sept. 29.
In front of a packed house of 80,000 screaming, orangeclad Clemson fans, in the middle of a nationallly- televised clash of unbeaten, ranked teams that at the time had Syracuse ahead on the scoreboard, Bolinsky got
thrust into Division I college football game action for the first time.
“Considering we were in front of a full, packed stadium of 84,000 at Clemson, there was a lot of nerves,” said Bolinsky, who wears No. 50 for the Orange. “I didn’t know how to act when I first got told that I had to go in.
“Coach ( Wally) Hall back here at North Schuylkill got me ready for that,” he continued. “Being able to be a starter here in high school, then just transferring it right up there, I was able to lock in, block out all the noise of the outside and just focus on what I had to do when I got out on the field.”
Clemson went on to win the game 27- 23. It was the closest the eventual national champion Tigers came to losing all season.
Syracuse, meanwhile, lost again the following week in overtime to Pittsburgh, then rattled off wins over North Carolina, N. C. State, Wake Forest and Louisville before falling to Notre Dame in a game played at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Orange finished the regular season 9- 3 after beating Boston College on Nov. 24.
It was the first time Syracuse, coached by Dino Babers, posted a winning record since going 7- 6 in 2013 and the first time the Orange won 10 games since 2001.
“It’s incredible. Coach Babers is really turning the program around,” Bolinsky said. “In his third season, he went from 4- 8 and 4- 8 to 10- 3 and winning the Camping World Bowl. I’m really excited to hopefully have him as a coach for the next couple of years and finish my college career with him.”
Bolinsky started the final seven games of the regular season and was credited with two solo tackles on special teams. Keller returned
for the bowl game.
Bolinsky said he received a Fossil watch with a bowl
logo on it, a Best Buy gift card and a backpack with the bowl logo on it for playing in the Camping World Bowl. Since Syracuse won the game, Bolinsky will also receive a custom bowl championship ring at a later date.
Bolinsky said his best memory of the Camping World Bowl came days before the Dec. 28 game.
“One of the best memories I made down there was two days before the game we went to Andretti Raceway, an indoor go- kart track,” he recalled. “A Syracuse player and a West Virginia player got paired up with a kid who had a disability. We got to spend the day with them, answer questions from them like what it takes to succeed in life and anything about football.
“Just being with them, they really appreciated that and it really made me appreciate the game more. It allowed me to realize I’m really grateful to be in this position. There’s a
lot of kids that would dream of being able to play at a Division I level for such an elite program.”
Getting a chance to live that dream of playing Division I college football, Bolinsky takes nothing for granted. He knows he has to continue to put in the work necessary to retain his starting spot.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication,” Bolinsky said. “I have a goal, and I will do anything every single day to achieve that goal, whether it’s getting perfect grades in the classroom, or succeeding and being able to play in front of 82,000 or 84,000 people. Just go out there and be the best you can be every single day.”
North Schuylkill graduate and Syracuse University freshman long snapper Aaron Bolinsky goes through drills before the Orange’s game against Florida State this season. Bolinsky became Syracuse’s starter midway through season due to injury and played in eight games this season.
AARON BOLINSKYSyracuse long snapper
Syracuse freshman long snapper Aaron Bolinsky closes in on a Pittsburgh returner while covering a punt during their Oct. 6 game in Pittsburgh.
North Schuylkill graduate and Syracuse freshman Aaron Bolinsky poses with the Camping World Bowl championship trophy after the Orange defeated West Virginia 34- 18 on Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla.