PUNXSUTAWNEY — Longtime teammates and Punxsy seniors Devon Luzell and Ian Weaver will be playing football together for at least four more years, and that college connection isn't much more than coincidental.
Luzell and Weaver fell in love with Division II Mercyhurst College in Erie, and that led to both of them becoming part of the Lakers' 2011 recruiting class in February.
"It was just a coincidence that we both liked it up there," Luzell said. "It's nice having Ian come up there with me, but I would have gone up there regardless. They were really the best opportunity."
Both received similar offers — Luzell talked with Division III Waynesburg University, Allegheny College and Thiel College, and Weaver was close to choosing Westminster College while mulling over options at Waynesburg, Division II Lock Haven University and University of Mount Union (Ohio). What swayed both of their decisions came down to more than just football.
"They have a great physical therapy program. The program up there is just amazing," said Luzell, who will study physical therapy. "I just fell in love up there, so why go anywhere else?"
Weaver, picked Mercyhurst over Westminster due to Westminster's lack of a sports medicine program and the challenge of playing Division II football.
"Everything clicked up there. They were really nice and had really good facilities. Everything up there was what I wanted," Weaver said. "I wanted to better myself as much as I could, so Division II would obviously be tougher."
The Chucks went 0-10 while both players were freshmen, but neither played varsity that year. They started during their sophomore seasons, when the Chucks went 4-6. A year later, head coach Alan Nichol arrived, and the team started to take off, winning a district title in 2009 and completing a 10-0 regular season in 2010.
Both credited the team's success for why they had an opportunity to be recruited by a Division II school.
"If we wouldn't have had coach Nichol and all the success we had the past few years, I don't think anyone would have noticed and came down there," Luzell said. "No one wants to come see an 0-10 team. I'm very glad we did so well the past few years."
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Luzell was recruited to play at defensive end. He played as a defensive tackle for the Chucks due to being one of Punxsy's biggest players, but Nichol said he has the agility to move outside.
"I think he can play linebacker and can play a good rush end on that level, and he has the speed to do it," Nichol said. "He has a lot of speed for a guy his size."
At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Weaver was recruited as a linebacker, though he doesn't know if he'll play inside or outside in Mercyhurst's 3-5 scheme. Nichol feels Weaver's ability to read the plays will help him succeed at the collegiate level.
"The thing that makes Ian unique is that he likes to study the game and likes to know everything about what the other teams are doing," Nichol said. "As a coach, we're more physical than technical at times, but Ian would take it upon himself to make sure that he studied up on what the other team was doing."
Neither players have been assured that they will start this season. Weaver said that he'll need to bulk up to 195 pounds before the start of the season to get on the field, while Luzell may be redshirted in 2011, and he's fine with that.