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Published: Thursday, 8/12/2004

Freshmen get chance to catch their dreams

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Finally, this week, the dream has become reality.

Kronbach, all 5-8 and 140 pounds of him, is one of approximately 50 freshman taking part in the late-summer ritual of football two-a-day practices that began on Monday.

A decade in the making and following a legacy that includes his father, uncles, and cousins, Tim Kronbach finally is a Knight.

Kronbach found it difficult to even fall asleep the night before the Knights' first practices. The reality of finally fulfilling his dream kept the former St. Francis ballboy awake past midnight.

"Usually I get to sleep during the first 10 minutes. It took me awhile."

Kronbach not only represents the latest member of his family to play football at St. Francis, he also represents the Knights' graduating class of 2008. Furthermore, he is representative of thousands of high school freshman across the country who are taking their first steps toward playing high school football.

"I've been looking forward to this since I was 4," Kronbach said. "This is huge for me, just knowing that eventually I'm going to be able to play on the field in front of a bunch of people.

"Football really gets me going."

In that regard, Kronbach definitely is not alone. High school football draws the largest student athlete turnout of any prep sport annually across the nation. More than a million athletes participated in football during the 2002-03 school year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. In comparison, just over 550,000 boys played basketball nationally during the same year, the latest for which figures are

available.

In Ohio, nearly 44,000 played football during the same school year; Texas had the most with 157,000.

Kronbach, who served as a ballboy for the Knights a year ago and was on the sidelines when they won the state championship in 2001, said the grind of two-a-day practices was a shock to his system. The all-day workout sessions typically include an hour break for lunch before returning to the field for an afternoon workout. Film sessions, exercising, stretching, and the fundamental drills that come with two-a-days can take their toll on even the most enthusiastic freshmen.

"It's been tough, but it hasn't been overwhelming," Kronbach said of his first couple of days of practice. "It's been a good experience."

St. Francis freshman coach Richard Uram said it's not surprising that it takes time for freshmen to adjust to the rigors of playing in high school.

"It is a lot of time and it is all football, and I don't think a lot of them are really ready for that."

The St. Francis freshmen team opens its season Aug. 26 at Perrysburg. Kronbach, who played middle guard for his middle school team the last two years, is working out as a wide receiver and defensive back.

His father, Tim Sr., a 1975 St. Francis graduate, was a defensive back. Making a position switch from lineman to defensive back hasn't hampered the younger Kronbach's confidence so far.

"I want to get out there and prove to myself that I'm a good player," he said. "I feel like I should at least start on the freshman team. That's what I expect of myself, because I think I can."

Part of Kronbach's desire to play for St. Francis is to play against longtime City League rivals St. John's Jesuit and Central Catholic."I know everybody gets up for those games and everyone wants to go out and give 200 percent. The adrenaline is flowing."

Kronbach and the rest of the freshman already have broken off into their own group workouts away from the varsity and junior varsity. Their first crack at significant contact during practice comes today when everyone is allowed to dress in full uniform, according to Ohio High School Athletic Association regulations.

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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