In seventh grade, Mark Handel was put at tight end.
In eighth grade, he played running back.
During his junior year at Cardinal Mooney high school, buried on the depth chart at running back, he moved to wide receiver.
Handel is what coaches like to call a football player.
He was raised in a football family where if the television was on during the weekend, chances are a game was on. Handel went from playing in the back yard with his family at home, to playing under the lights with his family at school.
“Looking back and seeing all the memories that we made with each other in the locker room though 15 weeks,” Handel said. “You build a lot of relationships with a lot of guys.”
It was the brotherhood the Cardinals built that led them to a state championship appearance following at 3-6 season.
Handel said it was a Week 7 victory over Erie (Pa.) McDowell when he could feel the attitude shift in the locker room.
“We kind of went on a little winning streak and got the momentum rolling,” Handel said. “That helped us going into the playoffs for sure.”
The season ended in a difficult fashion for Handel and Cardinal Mooney with a loss in the Division IV title game, but he knows in a few years he’ll be able to look back and be proud.
Handel said he recently sat down with his parents and decided he’s not going to play college football.
“It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve made throughout my life,” Handel said. “I’m sure there’s going to be things about it I’ll miss — like the games and play with a bunch of guys — but it’s a decision I made and I just have to stick with it.”
He said he’s looking at Youngstown State and Ohio State as possible options for next year.