Sam Kershaw helped turn around the football program at West Jefferson and he is going to play college football at Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio.
Mount is widely considered the best Division III football program in the country. The Purple Raiders have won a record nine national championships, including the previous two. They were 15-0 last season under head coach Larry Kehres.
Kershaw (6-0, 220) was a four-year starter at West Jefferson at middle linebacker and fullback. He racked up over 100 tackles as a senior in 2006 when the Roughriders went 12-1, captured the No. 1 seed in the Division V, Region 19 playoff bracket, and advanced to the regional finals.
West Jeff is a proud football program with two state championship banners hanging in its gymnasium. But the Roughriders experienced nearly a decade of futility until head coach Shawn Buescher was able to turn things around.
Kershaw and Buescher will participate in the Ohio North-South Classic this Saturday at Crew Stadium in Columbus (7 p.m., ONN). Kershaw will play both ways for the South and Buescher is an assistant coach.
“It’s exciting to play in this game and it’s an honor,” Kershaw said.
Buescher is just glad he has one more chance to coach Kershaw before he goes off to college.
“Sam was obviously a big part of the reason we were able to turn our program around,” Buescher said. “He’s a tremendous leader and he was able to develop that skill over the last four years. His senior year he really stepped up from that standpoint and always made sure we were doing what we were supposed to be doing, both on and off the field.
“The big thing about Sam was that he was a great player for us, but an even better person. I think the kids that we’ve got involved in our program now, some of the decisions that they make are a result of the leadership that he displayed.”
Kershaw had several smaller schools after him, but once Mount came calling, it was a somewhat easy choice.
“Yeah, he was sitting in a situation where he had a lot of opportunities,” Buescher said. “He could have went to a lot of different places. But he wanted the opportunity to go to that program and have a chance to play for a national championship. I know that’s one of his goals. We think it’s a great program, so we’re excited about him being there.”
Kershaw knows his college career is just a couple months away and he’s very anxious to get started.
“Yes sir,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity for me and I’m happy to go. I’m looking forward to getting started. Can’t wait, really.”
So, does the former Roughrider think he might redshirt his first year, or does he hope to go in and play right away?
“Playing right away would be nice,” he said. “I’m going to go in there with the best hopes and work hard and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ll get there eventually.”
Kershaw could be moved around a little bit on the Purple Raiders’ unique defense.
“They run a 4-2-5, so right now I’m a true linebacker,” Kershaw said. “I could also be a linebacker/safety, but I don’t know yet. We’ll have to see when I get up there.”
Kershaw also talked about his West Jefferson career and how he saw a little bit of everything.
“It was rough my freshman year, but our coaches got us in a mentality of working hard and it paid off for us because each year we got better and better,” he said. “This past year, we excelled.”
Kershaw explained his strengths and weaknesses on the football field as he prepares for his final high school game and his college career.
“I think I’m a good leader,” he said. “I can get a good group of guys to play well together. And if you play well together, you’ll have success.
“For weaknesses, I just want to work on everything. Most of all speed. You can always get faster.”
* Former West Jefferson RB/DB Dustin Blake was a two-year starter at Mount Union in the secondary.