On a bright Saturday afternoon in 2014, West Ottawa Varsity Football participated in a rematch against Grand Ledge. The WO offense got the ball on the 48 yard line. WO Alumni, then senior, Caleb McNitt calls “hut” and receives the ball. He drops back for a pass and scans the field for open receivers. Quickly, with no open receivers, McNitt tucks the ball away and runs up the middle. McNitt cuts right then easily stiff arms another defender, McNitt runs for another 10 yards and is finally pushed out of bounds at the 36 yard line. McNitt rushes the ball for 18 yards that play. This is just one of the many plays where McNitt showed off his athleticism at WO. McNitt, like many other WO athletes, continued his athletic career in college. At Hillsdale, he learned to make large adjustments from high school.
McNitt did not realize the amount of time that goes into college athletics and had to make quick adjustments. McNitt’s practices at Hillsdale are tough; during the offseason he has morning practices Monday through Friday. Four of those practices are in the weight room, and the other is for speed training. In the actual season, McNitt and his teammates have to make sure their classes are done by two in order to be on time to their meeting at 2:30. The meetings lead up to the start of the 3:30 practice. That practice ends at 5:30 and the players then receive time to eat dinner but will have to be back at seven in order to watch film.
McNitt also had to develop a completely different mindset to prepare for the physicality at the collegiate level. The difference between high school and college football is how much bigger everyone is; there are 300 pound lineman that can get up to speed very quickly with lots of power. The strength and conditioning program is put in place to help you physically and mentally. “The summer workouts at WO have helped me a lot to prepare for the collegiate level,” McNitt said.
The college workload is also much heavier than that in high school. “I didn’t realize how much harder I had to work until midway through my first semester,” McNitt said, “It is also heavier athletically, due to the amount of time spent training, conditioning, and lots of film spent outside of practice.”
Although the college workload and time commitment is much greater, McNitt believes the environment during high school Friday nights was much greater. Surprisingly, the crowd at WO is much bigger than the crowd at Hillsdale. At WO you get people from the whole school and also people from all over the town to come and cheer on the Panther football team. With only 1,000 more people, WO’s crowd is bigger, and the environment is much more exciting. Although Hillsdale is smaller, McNitt and his teammates still get a lot of support from the student body and the community in Hillsdale, MI.
Outside of football McNitt spends his free time with his teammates. “You would think we would get sick of each other with all the time we spend together for football, but somehow we don’t” says McNitt. He lives in a house with five other of his teammates, they spend a lot of their time playing video games and watching movies together. McNitt also like to go to other sporting events with his friends like basketball and volleyball games.
“I miss playing with the boys I [grew] up with,” said McNitt. He remembers his senior year after the WO upset East Kentwood on homecoming night, the joy of hugging all of his best friends. This is something that he will never forget, and something that reminds him of why Friday night games were so great.“We have been through so much with each other over the years, it was really something special, ”McNitt said. McNitt enjoyed sharing that moment with his teammates out on the field.
McNitt has been working harder than ever now that he is in college, but he still is extremely happy with his decision in going to Hillsdale. “I love it here. It’s challenging for sure, both football-wise and academically, but I’ve found a great group of friends in my teammates, and I’m extremely happy with the choice I made to come here.”