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Kris Bartels article

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Kris Bartels article

After walking on, Bartels proves he's born to run

By Ted Hutton
Staff Writer
Posted August 28 2005

BOCA RATON ? He is not even supposed to be here. No way. Especially not at No. 1 on the depth chart. Come on. Kris Bartels?

Yeah, OK, he has a big heart, works hard. So what? That fits a lot of kids. But this is Division I college football, and no place for an undersized kid who was a backup in high school.

So he was special teams captain at Chaminade-Madonna. He was still on the bench the rest of the game. Sure, he was behind Jon Beason, now a linebacker at Miami, but he was still a backup.

So what made him think he could play at Florida Atlantic? He would have to walk on; nobody but a couple of out-of-state Division II and III schools even bothered to give him a look.

Too small, at 5 feet 8, 165 pounds coming out of high school. Heart doesn't add inches or pounds. Sorry, kid.

"I called FAU and begged them to let him walk on," said Chaminade-Madonna coach Mark Guandolo. "Hardest-working kid I had. Did whatever he could for his team."

Begging worked. That first year, 2003, nothing special. Redshirt, scout squad. Never even sniffed the travel squad. Just another hard-working wannabe.

"When he got here he wasn't anything outstanding," coach Howard Schnellenberger said.

Spring of 2004, things change a bit. He's a little taller, a little thicker, a lot stronger. Gets a little attention.

"He is a kid that doesn't want to believe he doesn't belong," said FAU defensive backs coach Kirk Hoza. "He is not without ability."

By the middle of the 2004 season, he is on special teams and third string at cornerback.

Spring of 2005. Even bigger, now 5-10, thicker, about 190, faster. Still at corner, but up to second string. Then starting safety Taheem Acevedo tears up his ankle and will be out all of 2005. With three practices left, Bartels is moved to safety.

Early August. Projected starting safety Christian Amaya learns he won't get his sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and whose name is under Amaya's on the depth chart? Introducing the new No. 1 strong safety, redshirt sophomore Kris Bartels.

Joke, right? The high school backup will be on the field when FAU opens at Kansas Sept. 3?

"Just a great, great story of a kid who persevered," Guandolo said.

"It's happening real fast. I went from second-string corner in spring to safety, ended up practically starting right now. It just happened real fast," said Bartels, who lives with his uncle in Boca Raton to cut costs, because he doesn't have a scholarship. Yet.

Schnellenberger has a fondness for walk-ons, especially at FAU, where they have helped build the program from scratch by filling out the roster, and some have developed into key players.

"There are two kinds. The ones that have no clue, and those that are willing to work harder than scholarship athletes, and those are the ones that become very important to the team," Schnellenberger said.

The coach tells his walk-ons that those who rise up to become No. 1 or 2 on the depth chart will get the next available scholarship. Bartels is next in line.

"That is what one of my goals is, to earn a scholarship. To prove to coaches I do deserve one. That's why I work hard every practice," said Bartels, who is thick, a square block of muscle above the waist.

"On paper he shouldn't be the starter. But the other kids will be hard-pressed to uproot him before that opener," Hoza said.

"He's the kind of kid you like to see become successful since he is just a wonderful kid. He has had to learn how to be a Division I football player, and I think he will be a fine one," Schnellenberger said.

Bartels still has two more seasons. He intends to hang onto the starting job, and if he can't do that, he'll do whatever he needs to do to help the team. After that?

"I want to keep playing. Maybe the NFL. Who knows?" Bartels, whose family lives in Pembroke Pines, said with a smile.

He knows he will be told he is too small. "Yeah, but when they see me hit somebody, and my work on the field and off the field, they will understand," he said.

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Kris Bartels article

Doesn't this kid sound a bit reminiscent of Laskowski? I'm pretty sure he had a very similar history; walked-on, was thought to be too small, couldn't play college ball on a higher level?

I like what I hear about this kid and I hope he turns out to be just as great as Chris. Says a lot about his character and what type of player he could be fighting through and overcoming all the obstacles that have been placed before him. I'm gonna keep a close eye on this kid.
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