By Dan Gardella
Asst. Sports Editor
College sports mark the beginning of a new journey for incoming student-athletes. Some freshmen waste little time making an impact while others take a little more time to progress. One first-year player who made an immediate impact was Julius Chestnut of the Sacred Heart University football team.
Before the season began, Chestnut was determined to not let the transition from high school to collegiate football faze him.
“Training camp was a bit different going from high school to college,” said Chestnut. “From that point, it was like I had to flip a switch and go now.”
Chestnut, a fullback from Bowie, MD, was to split rushing duties this season with seniors Jordan Meachum and Eli Terry.
However, after Terry went down with a knee injury following his first and only carry on Opening Night against Lafayette at Campus Field, Chestnut picked up where Terry left off. He rushed 12 times, the second most on the team, for 57 yards along with two touchdowns to help Sacred Heart defeat Lafayette 35-6. Chestnut’s performance would earn him Northeast Conference (NEC) Rookie of the Week Honors, which recognizes a first-year athlete’s performance in a certain game.
“It was a great feeling,” said Chestnut. “There was just a rush and I said to myself, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it was actually me.’”
Chestnut began his evening by running the ball into the end zone on a fourth-and-one rush in the second quarter for his first collegiate touchdown. That helped the Pioneers extend their lead to 14-3. Chestnut would not be finished.
Just like he started his night, Chestnut would provide the final score of the game for Sacred Heart with a 31-yard run in the fourth quarter, breaking off numerous tackles on his way to the end zone.
“The coaches put me in great spots to be there,” said Chestnut. “The offensive line worked very hard for me and that’s why I was there.”
With the win over Lafayette, the Pioneers claimed their sixth straight opening game victory.
“I knew from the start we were going to come out of there with a bang,” said Chestnut. “We had been preparing all week hard, and all summer hard.”
A week after their opening game victory, the Pioneers traveled to Lewisburg, PA, to take on Bucknell University on Sept. 8. It was the first stop of the team’s ongoing three-game road trip. The Pioneers won that game as well, 30-14.
The other two games of the road trip will be played at Wagner College on Sept. 22, and at Cornell University on Sept. 29, before returning home on Oct. 6, to face the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). The Pioneers will hope to get similar production from Chestnut, especially since Terry will be out six to eight weeks with the knee injury.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and keep trusting everybody,” said Chestnut. “Hopefully the coaches still have trust in me and hopefully I can keep doing it again and again.”