Year to re­mem­ber: Bolin­sky be­comes starter at Syra­cuse

North Schuylkill grad­u­ate Bolin­sky goes from walk- on to start­ing long snap­per at Syra­cuse

The Republican Herald - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEROY BOYER SPORTS EDI­TOR

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.”

SYRA­CUSE UNI­VER­SITY ATH­LET­ICS

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

CHARLES WAIN­WRIGHT / SPE­CIAL PHOTO

Syra­cuse fresh­man long snap­per Aaron Bolin­sky closes in on a Pitts­burgh re­turner while covering a punt dur­ing their Oct. 6 game in Pitts­burgh.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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