Kmic makes his mark at Mt. Union


Looking at it in retrospect, this should make you chuckle.

When Nate Kmic came out of Delta High School, the running back wanted to play college football at Bowling Green so badly he could taste it. No, that's not the funny part.

For whatever reason, perhaps his 5-foot-9 stature and far less than his current 193 pounds, the Falcons weren't interested. That's at least a little funny, but don't laugh yet.

"You know how it is with high school kids," Kmic said last week. "If you don't go Division I it's almost like you don't matter. And I had my heart set on Bowling Green. It didn't work out. Then I started hearing from Mount Union and I figured, if you're going to end up in Division III you might as well try to play for the best in the country.

"But, to tell you the truth, I got here and I saw so many great athletes lined up side by side, I wasn't even sure I could make it at Mount Union."

OK, go ahead, chuckle. In retrospect, that's pretty funny.

Yesterday, in a 49-20 victory over previously unbeaten Otterbein, Nate Kmic became the leading scorer, both in touchdowns and in points, among all college football players in all divisions in the history of the NCAA. Also, in rushing for 166 yards to eclipse the 100-yard mark for the 31st time in 50 career games, he moved into second place on the Division III career rushing list.

There is no valid or fair way to compare performances in the various divisions of college football. But one thing is certain - Nate Kmic is the most productive running back ever. Period.

"For somebody to say that is truly an honor," Kmic said.

Well, it's also the truth.

The Mount Union senior has 1,015 career carries for 6,723 yards, an average of 6.6 yards

per carry. Three touchdowns yesterday gave him a record 111 career scores, 106 of them on the ground. He has now scored 666 points, 10 more than the previous mark.

"I try not to look too much at all of that," Kmic said. "I'll be able to look back after I graduate and move on to the next stage of my life and maybe I'll say, 'Wow.' Maybe I'll look back at it all with a little awe. But records don't mean much now. We all have only one goal in mind and that's to get the team back to the [Division III] championship game."

Ah, yes, the team. Mount Union has played in the championship game every year since Kmic arrived, winning it twice. He ran for 185 yards and scored three touchdowns in the title game as a freshman and added 111 yards in a winning effort as a sophomore. The Purple Raiders lost to Wisconsin-Whitewater a year ago despite three touchdowns by Kmic, which sort of sticks in his craw.

After all, Mount Union doesn't often lose. The Raiders are 52-2 since Kmic arrived in Alliance, Ohio. And that's just recent history for the Raiders. Larry Kehres is in his 23rd season as Mount's head coach and his record is a rather astonishing 269-21-3. Yesterday's win wrapped up a 19th Ohio Athletic Conference championship in those 23 years.

Kehres agrees that recruiting is an inexact science, but he had a pretty good feeling about Kmic after sliding the kid's highlight tape into the VCR a few years back.

"I can still remember that tape," Kehres said. "Nate did all the things you'd ever want to see from a running back. He was quick and explosive and showed a tremendous energy. What you do, you project what you see on a tape against what we do in our offense. I thought he'd be a darned good player and he's proved to be every bit of that and more. Of course, you can't predict the kind of success he has had."

It all started with one game on Mount Union's junior varsity team. Come playoff time, he was the varsity starter and ended his freshman year with 202 carries for 1,219 yards, a mere precursor to a sophomore season that saw his number called 336 times for 2,365 yards and 26 touchdowns. He added a whopping 38 touchdowns a year ago.

Kmic is as humble as he is good.

"I'm not the biggest or the fastest guy," he said. "I guess if I had to point at one thing it would be my attitude, my work ethic. I take every day for what it is and work my butt off."

Kehres uses one word - energy - over and over again when talking about Kmic.

"He might be selling himself a little short when he says he's not the fastest guy, because he is very, very quick and explosive," Kehres said. "He gets the football, makes a cut and gets north-and-south awfully fast. He just goes. A lot of defenders get half tackles, and you can't bring him down with half a tackle. He's always moving and elusive.

"It's all about energy. That's what makes it all happen. He's still the first guy out there every day. He's our tempo-setter in practice. When a real good player sets the tone it catches everyone's attention. He dictates the energy. So what Nate does for us in games is only half the story."

But what he does in games for the unbeaten, No. 1-ranked Purple Raiders is impossible to ignore.

And thoughts of having done anything remotely similar on the Division I level don't even enter Kmic's consciousness anymore.

"I never think about what could have been," he said. "It is a great honor to be part of this program and its history. I feel blessed to have ended up here. It's the perfect fit for me. I have no regrets at all. I mean, I might have been lost in the numbers at Division I."

Instead, he's lost in some of the finest numbers, including the highest scoring numbers, ever compiled by a college football player.

Call it the last laugh.