By Greg Gulas
As a senior at Delta High School in the northwest corner of Ohio, Nate Kmic was named the Division IV offensive player of the year after starting for three years at running back and linebacker for the Panthers.
Failing to win a state title his final two seasons, however, left a noticeable void on his resume and he vowed to not repeat that when making his college selection.
Speaking to the Curbstone Coaches at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center during Monday’s weekly luncheon meeting, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher said he chose Mount Union College for its strong academic curriculum and excellent football tradition.
Surviving his freshman year might have been his biggest obstacle.
“It was the summer of 2005 and I was just one of over 100 players hoping to secure a position on the team. I must admit that it was rather overwhelming,” he said.
A few weeks into camp, a phone call to his mother, Mary, gave him the motivation.
“I told my mother that I didn’t know if I had made the right choice. She told me that I was not a quitter so just try to stick it out, at least until the end of the year.
“It was just the advice and reassurance that I was looking for,” he said.
As luck would have it he got a chance to show his stuff. After performing well in a junior varsity game, he moved up the depth chart.
“I was on the bubble; no longer on the JV squad but not quite yet a member of the varsity team either,” Kmic said.
He didn’t play during the regular season but at playoff time he replaced the starting tailback because of his ability to read a blitz.
That responded by rushing for more than 1,000 yards in the postseason, helping the Purple Raiders to a 14-1 mark and the national championship.
He would go on to rush for an NCAA all-divisions record 8,074 yards and earn three All-America honors. He won the 2008 Melberger Award, given to the top player in Division III.
With an NCAA record 130 touchdowns and 780 total points scored, Kmic helped Mount Union to a 58-2 overall mark, three national championships and a runner-up finish during his four seasons in Alliance.
Playing for coach Larry Kehres, he said, was the ultimate experience.
“In addition to being an excellent X’s and O’s person, Coach Kehres is great with the mental preparation of the game,” said Kmic. “He always gets the most out of his players, knows when to pull back on the reins and when to give that extra shove to a player. He’s simply a great teacher.”
Kmic earning his degree in business administration (he minored in sports management) and will enter his third season as a member of the Mount Union coaching staff where he is in charge of the running backs.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after graduation so when [Kehres’] son, Vince, asked me to come back as a staff member, I jumped at the opportunity,” Kmic said.
Next week, Mike Cefalde, area boxing promoter and coach, will be the featured speaker.