Wittenberg University football coaches don’t have a special pitch for recruits they visit in Florida every year. No one would believe them anyway if they told players, “It’s not that cold in Springfield, and the beach at the reservoir is open year round.”
Coach Joe Fincham said his coaches sell Florida players on Wittenberg the same way they do Ohio recruits.
“Great academics, great football tradition,” Fincham said. “That’s it.”
The lack of Division III schools in the Sunshine State combined with the abundance of talent have made it a recruiting hot spot for Wittenberg in recent years. There are 21 players from Florida on the 2018 roster. Two years ago, the recruiting class included 17 players from Florida.
One member of the 2016 recruiting class was linebacker Jonathan Seay, of Miramar, Fla. He played special teams as a freshman, earned a starting job and a first-team All-North Coast Athletic Conference honor as a sophomore and is leading the team in tackles through three games as a junior.
Leaving Florida was a small price to pay for a chance to play for a championship-level program.
“I think it’s just the tradition here,” Seay said. “A lot of Florida guys come from programs that win a lot. Football is really big in Florida. They want to be great here. That’s what a lot of Florida guys want. That’s all we know.”
Seay first heard about Wittenberg when co-defensive coordinator Nathaniel Wilson visited his high school. That led to Seay visiting Wittenberg. He saw snow for the first when he traveled to Ohio but still felt it was the place for him.
“I really didn’t know much about D-III, to be honest,” Seay said, “but there was an opportunity, and I took it, and it turned out to be a great opportunity.”
Seay ranked second on the team with 91 tackles last season and second with 9½ tackles for a loss. He praised fellow linebackers Terrance Crowe and Dustin Holmes for taking him under his wing in past seasons and showing him the ropes.
This season, Seay leads the No. 11 Tigers (3-0, 2-0), who play at 7 p.m. Saturday at Denison, with 20 tackles in three games. Fincham said he’s grown up a bunch from last season.
“He was a good player last season,” Fincham said. “He was an all-league guy, and I thought he had a very good sophomore year. He took this summer and lost a little weight, and wow he’s a lot faster. He’s got a year under his belt and some experience, and it’s shown. He’s been one of our better tacklers this year, where last year sometimes he tried to knock you off his feet, and sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t.”