BEREA, OHIO -- Former high school best friends and current Baldwin-Wallace College teammates Mitch Tulk (Elyria/Senior) and Sonny Hazelwood (Elyria/Senior) are part of a movement on the current Yellow Jacket football team to restore the program back to its glory days.
The duo hope to add some fuel to that fire this Saturday, November 6 when the Yellow Jackets host No.2-ranked and perfect 8-0 the College of Mount Union at The George Finnie Stadium in Berea at 1:30 p.m. on Seniors' and Parents' Day. A victory against the Purple Raiders would really add to an already promising turnabout from a year ago.
But, back to Tulk and Hazelwood.
In addition, the duo, who were separated following graduation from high school and now back together again, hope to help the Yellow Jackets achieve their 2010 team goals and have future plans of possibly owning and being business partners.
"It's kind of funny how it all transpired," said ninth-year BW Head Coach John Snell.
"Both Mitch and Sonny attended Elyria High School," continued Snell. "Mitch came to B-W and is a legacy. He's supposed to be here. He's the 11th member of his family to attend B-W, between his Mom, who has worked in our College Bookstore for a few years, and his father, who is a 1973 graduate of the College. Sonny didn't originally pick B-W, instead optioning to go to Heidelberg. When that didn't work out for him, he contacted Mitch."
"Sometimes things are just meant to work out," said Snell, "and in this case, it was worked out great. They are both great young men and are both happy to be at B-W, getting a quality education and playing next to each other on a winning football team."
Tulk is having a breakout season after beginning his career as a wide receiver/ tight end, then moving to defense to play at end and now at tackle.
"Mitch is a consumate team player," said Snell. "He will do virtually anything to help this team. We had a few injuries on defense a few years ago, so he moved to DE. Then, in preseason camp, we had some folks who were were counting on to play tackle go down, so he moved inside. It has worked very well, and he's having a fantastic season.
"Sonny would have seen plenty of playing time as a member of the D-line rotation, continued Snell. "Then, when Mitch had to move inside, it gave Sonny a better chance to play more and become even more of a factor."
Snell also knows that when you face a team the caliber of Mt. Union, the line play is critical to the overall success.
"Anytime you play a team the quality of a Mount Union, line play on both sides of the football is critical," said Snell. "I would have to say that up to this point in the season, we have been extremely pleased with the play on our lines. But with that said, we will need to go to the next level to be successful against a Mt. Union."
Heading into this game, Tulk is sixth in total tackles with 34, tied for second with All-OAC middle linebacker Ryan Kish (Amherst/Steele) for second with 11.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback sacks. Not bad for a guy who came into his senior season with nine total tackles in two previous seasons on the varsity.
"I came to B-W because both of his sisters graduated from from this school, I liked the tradition and Coach [Snell] recruited me heavily," said Tulk, who stands 6'3" and 230 pounds. "This was the best decision I ever made. Even though it took me a while to see playing time, the hard work and dedication was worth it, and it's nice to see your mom whenever you want to."
Hazelwood came to B-W in a different way.
Of his Heidelberg experience, he says, "Heidelberg wasn't what I was looking for it to be, so just needed to make a move and it turned out to be a great move for me. I couldn't be happier."
That's also where Tulk came in.
"I just told him that it was a good choice as far as a school to transfer to," said Tulk, who is a business administration and sport management double major who would like to work on a crew for an Indy-car racing team.
"Then I showed him around when he came to visit, and Sonny became very interested."
So what does Hazelwood think now?
"It has been the best decision for me, too," said the rangy 6'5" and 230-pounder who is a business administration and marketing major.
The fact that the duo think alike is not lost on junior DE Derron Hamilton (Euclid).
"They are always together," said Hamilton, who is tied with Tulk for second with 4.5 sacks. "You don't see one without the other."
In eight games, Hazelwood has made 25 tackles, including four for loss and one quarterback sack. He has forced two fumbles and generally caused havoc due to his 6'5" frame, including batting down a pass and then intercepting it against Otterbein University in a key 35-34 victory on Homecoming on Oct. 9.
"We count on each other to make a tackle," said Hazelwood. "From playing alongside him [Tulk] in high school, I know that if we are on the field at the same time, we trust each other to be successful and to make a play".
So, what does Tulk think about the switch from DE to DT?
"It is a hard position to fill," said Tulk. "It was hard at first being in the middle and having two big guys come at you all the time, but I think I've adapted well.
"I miss playing defensive end," said Tulk. "At defensive tackle, you can have a bigger effect on every play because you are always closer to the ball."
And Hazelwood is happy to be at DE.
"I knew that I was going to get an opportunity at some point-in-time and I was happy to prove himself as a starter," said Hazelwood. "It's just that the opportunity has come faster than I anticipated."
The Yellow Jackets are now 7-1. Last year they were 3-7.
"My first year here was a disappointing season, but I knew we were better than that," continued Hazelwood."I am pleased at the way we are playing this season. It's nice to see hard work finally paying off and it is showing up in the win column. We just need to keep the momentum going.
"Our goals are always to have a winning season, win the OAC Championship, earn a berth in the Division III Playoffs and eventually win a national title," said Tulk. "We already have a winning season, can control our own destiny in terms of an OAC Title by winning our last two games, and if we do that, we have a more than legitimate shot at making the Division III Playoffs."
"We know that facing Mt. Union represents a very big challenge," said Tulk. "They are very good on both sides of the ball. The OAC teaches you to play every game because there are lots of great teams in the OAC. We are looking forward to the opportunity to play them."
So, what happens after graduation?
"We plan on being the best of friends after school and want to get a house together after college, and if possible have our own business together," said Hazelwood. "But right now, all any of us can think about is playing Mt. Union. And, when that game is done, we'll begin to focus on the next opponent."
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