Young athletes dream of the chance to suit up on Sundays and play in the NFL.
How many times have we watched our local high school stars ink their football futures with Pennsylvania's small colleges like IUP, Shippensburg and Bloomsburg?
The path to professional football from these programs may seem unlikely, but a handful of players are proving that it's not where you came from that matters, but rather how hard you're willing to work to fulfill your dream.
Shippensburg graduate John Kuhn scored two touchdowns for Green Bay in the Packers' 48-21 win over Atlanta. Across the field, Brett Grimes was playing cornerback for Atlanta. Shippensburg football coach Mark Maciejewski is proud of these and four other Red Raider players who have made it onto NFL rosters since 2002.
"These are kids who didn't come in [to college] as NFL players," he said, via phone from his Shippensburg office, "they worked to get that spot. "
Kuhn has not only made it to the NFL, he's become a kind of cult hero for Packer fans, who now chant his name every time he gets the ball.
The York native owns a trophy case full of Shippensburg rushing records. After graduation, he got a shot with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent and won a Super Bowl ring as part of the Pittsburgh practice squad. Kuhn made it to the Steelers active roster for part of the 2006 season but was then released and picked up by the Green Bay Packers.
When Ryan Grant was injured in the first game of the season, Kuhn seized the opportunity. He now has six touchdowns this season (four rushing and two receiving), not to mention a million-dollar salary and hundreds of thousands of fans.
"John was a hard worker, one of the hardest workers we've had," Maciejewski said. "He was a great student, very smart, [had] a great work ethic, and [was] a great leader. He put himself in a good position to fulfill his dreams."
Now the Shippensburg staff points to Kuhn and other small-school products as examples of what is possible.
"I tell recruits they can come here and be a big fish in a small pond; NFL scouts know the way to Shippensburg," he said.
And to other PSAC schools: Bloomsburg grad Jahri Evans won a Super Bowl with the Saints, and IUP product Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is a rookie return man in Dallas.
"We [the PSAC] have our special little niche right now," said Maciejewski. "We always have a few guys hanging around the NFL."
Kuhn is doing more than hanging around in Green Bay. He's one win away from the Super Bowl, bringing a campus and community along for the ride.
"We're very proud of him here at Shippensburg, and very excited about it. All of a sudden there are a lot of Packers fans around here,'' Maciejewski said. Hopefully John Kuhn will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, and it will be a great day."
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.