Short, Slater hoping to raise Heidelberg to new heights

Yaneek Smith

Branden Short and Scott Slater hardly knew each other in high school.
        The two star football players had crossed paths a few times and played against each other in the Lake-Northwood Lemoyne Road rivalry, but that was the extent of their relationship.
        Today, the two are best friends and play football together at Heidelberg University.
        Short graduated from Lake and Slater from Northwood the same year, 2016. Slater played cornerback, wide receiver and running back for the Rangers while Short was a standout running back for the Flyers. Now, both are entering their junior seasons for the Student Princes. Short is one of the team's top running backs while Slater plays safety.
        Both played as freshmen in 2016, took a year off from attending Heidelberg in 2017 and returned to play last year. Short made an impact as a freshman, carrying the ball 86 times for 461 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he worked to earn a starting spot at running back and carried the ball 68 times for 325 yards and scored two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury and missed the rest of the season shortly after becoming a starter. Now, Short and Slater are primed to help Heidelberg compete for an Ohio Athletic Conference championship.
        In the last three seasons, the Student Princes have gone a combined 17-13 and finished in the middle of the conference.
        "It's a tough conference. The main thing is getting a bunch of grown men on the same page. Every team is talented, but who can put it together? We have a good group of seniors leading us. I think we were predicted to finish sixth in the OAC. No one is on our side, and that's fine with us," said Short. "We're talented. We've got the right players, and the right coaching staff. That's why I believe this is the year it all pays off."
        Slater says the players invest plenty of time and work during the offseason.
        "Over the summer, we're on our own. In spring football, we're working out as a group. It's a really good atmosphere," he said. "Over the summer, we have 7-on-7s, we bring up incoming freshmen, and it's a great chance to meet the new guys and create relationships with them.
        “I just wanted to say that I think we have the best coaches in the OAC. Our coaches really care about the guys, not just as football players, but as people — molding us into really good men,” Slater continued. "I'm pretty excited. I haven't been this driven about something for a long time. I think this is going to be a big year for us."
        As for Short, to stay in shape for football, he ran for the track team in the spring, competing in the 100 meters, the 200 and was part of the 4x100 relay team that finished third at the league tournament. In the classroom, he is majoring in criminology. This fall, Short will be interning with the Seneca County drug task force unit.
        He says Heidelberg is unique — a small school that is home to 1,300 students.
        "The place is a real good community. You couldn't walk to a class without saying hi to someone you've never talked to," Short said. "There's a lot of positive energy, and I just soak it all in."
        Slater, who previously attended the University of Toledo, also has a special appreciation for Heidelberg.
        "Since I had the experience of a larger school, I prefer Heidelberg over the bigger atmosphere," he said. "You see the same people everyday, you see your professors. I like that tight-knit feel (of campus)."
        Slater is majoring in exercise science and would like to get into the strength and conditioning field and work at a university. In high school, he played for the dean of area coaches, Ken James, and learned some valuable lessons.
        "I learned to just keep grinding. Ken James is old school — he doesn't care about how much talent you have, it's about the work ethic," Slater said. "Stay on the same track and you'll get on the field eventually."
        Like Slater, Short appreciated the lessons he learned in high school playing at Lake.
        "What I learned at Lake that I've taken to Heidelberg is hard work doesn't go unnoticed," Short said. "I played defensive line as a freshman. During my sophomore year, I shared carries. In my junior year, the spotlight was on (quarterback) Jared Rettig and that class — we went 8-2 and then (my senior year) we had an offensive line coming up that hadn't touched the field, but they worked their butts off. Our class worked their butts off and that's why we were successful."
        Short is the most decorated running back in Lake history. He holds the school record for career rushing yards (4,181); single-season rushing yards (2,011); career rushing touchdowns (66); and single-season rushing touchdowns (34).


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