back and special teams standout Travis Sarver was a stellar running back on a district championship team at Slippery Rock High School. He eventually became head football coach at his alma mater and remains on staff as a teacher there.
Andrew Maxwell is a Slippery Rock High graduate and a teammate of Thompson’s with SRU track. Their families are neighbors in Slippery Rock.
Maxwell is a sophomore at The Rock.
“Ryan is one of the guys I know who went there, and I saw the success he was having,” Maxwell said. “There’s a fantastic physical therapy program there, too, that really appealed to me.
“I’m saving a lot of money by living at home while going to school, probably $10,000 a year or so. It’s been great all the way around,” said Maxwell.
Maxwell is carrying a 3.75 grade point average as an exercise science major and made the conference’s all-academic team in cross country last fall. He runs the 3,000, 5.000 and 10,000 meters in track.
“Before I graduate, I want to make the NCAA Championships, finish among the top 15 in conference, maybe win a regional championship,” he said. “It’s cool I can do all that at home.
“Coach Papa is a fantastic coach. Other schools I talked to ... They all know who John Papa is.”
Colten Raabe graduated from SRHS and has three years of football eligibility remaining as an offensive lineman at SRU. He is a marketing major.
Raabe had been living on campus, “but my roommate (Joe LoSchiavo) is graduating, so I’m going to live at home for a while.
“Not being on the meal plan, not having to pay rent will save me about $4,000 a semester for sure,” Raabe said.
Also recruited by Edinboro and Indiana (Pa.) universities, Raabe has the opportunity to experience college life away from home. He chose to stay home.
“I had a good feeling about it,” he said. “I like the coaching staff at SRU, and the players are like a brotherhood, similar to what I had in high school.
“You always ask yourself that question as you graduate high school ... Is it time for me to experience life away from home? It didn’t bother me not going away. It’s nice to have SRU right here.
“I have no regrets with my decision to stay. I’ve loved every minute of it,” Raabe added.
Mihalik said SRU football has always had a flavor of Slippery Rock High School.
“We’ve had two former Slippery Rock head coaches — Joe Walton and Clyde Conti — on our staff here,” he pointed out.
While Kniess and Papley were walk-ons who achieved gridiron success at The Rock, Mihalik described Raabe as “a high-profile recruit. A lot of people were after him.
“Slippery Rock University isn’t just a local option sitting across the road. It’s a quality school with quality athletic programs.”
And it can provide quality memories.
Larry Raisley was a Slippery Rock High graduate who played football at SRU from 1998 through 2001. He had a solid career without much fanfare.
“But he scored a touchdown against Florida Atlantic on a blocked punt in Dolphins Stadium in Miami,” Mihalik recalled. “He scored a touchdown in an NFL stadium. He will never forget that.”
Not bad for a high school football player who moved next door for college.
“You look at our recruiting classes and we’re bringing in kids from Florida and other states,” Lutz said. “But we don’t forget about our backyard.
“I watch these guys as they’re growing up. To see them mature into student-athletes, to set up their lives here ... It’s a special thing.”