By Joe Scalzo
Like most college football players, Youngstown State senior tight end Carson Sharbaugh had to go straight from Tuesday’s practice to his engineering classes.
(Pause for laughter.)
“It’s kind of rough right now,” he said. “The earliest class is at 5.”
Like many college football players (for real this time), Sharbaugh was initially undecided on his major, but he grew up helping his father build additions on their house in New Wilmington, Pa., and decided to give engineering a shot “and now I love it.”
Like a lot of future engineers, Sharbaugh grew up playing with Legos and Lincoln Logs. Like those toys, he sees himself as a building block.
“I’ve never really thought about me, individually,” he said. “Overall, I’m hoping this season we just kind of produce as a unit.”
Sharbaugh has played in 31 of YSU’s 33 games the past three years, with eight starts, but you can be forgiven if you don’t know his name. While tight ends like Will Shaw (last year) and Nate Adams (this year) play the flashier pass-catching role, Sharbaugh is a throwback, a block-first tight end who sometimes lines up at fullback and often plays hurt.
After helping New Wilmington (Pa.) High to the PIAA Class AA state championship as a tight end and a linebacker — he said he never got hurt in three years of high school football — Sharbaugh tore a ligament while playing in the Big 33 game. He’s also shattered his thumb and suffered high ankle sprains at YSU.
“The key with Carson is staying healthy,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “He wants to be good. He works hard.”
He expects his teammates to work hard, too. As one of Jon Heacock’s last recruits, he’s older and more experienced than almost everyone on the roster. He embraces his leadership role — “I just try to make sure everyone’s accountable,” he said — but he’s more than a glorified tackle.
Although Sharbaugh has caught just 21 passes for 223 yards in his career, 16 have gone for first downs while two others have gone for TDs, including YSU’s only score against North Dakota State last season.
That NDSU game was the start of an 0-for-October stretch that cost YSU a playoff berth, something that still nags at him.
“I think we got ahead of ourselves last year after [starting] 4-0,” he said. “That’s why we need to start one day at a time, right now, really improving every day.
“I think it’s in the back of everybody’s mind about how close we actually were.”
Sharbaugh interned last summer with MS Consultants, Inc., a Columbus-based engineering/architecture/planning firm that built YSU’s WATTS and has offices in five states, including one in downtown Youngstown. He’ll intern there again this summer and “hopefully after that, I’ll get hired.”
Before that, he’d like to do something only one YSU team has done in the last dozen years.
“I definitely want to make the playoffs this year,” he said. “I want to go out strong. I’ve put in too much time to come up short.”