By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE — Kris Wingerd joined an exclusive club recently, adding his name to a short list of Whiteford High School football players who went on to compete for four years of college football.
Wingerd graduated from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, this past spring with a degree in finance and insurance. He’s now working at Skylight Financial Group, which was one of the lead sponsors of the Whiteford Boosters annual golf outing held last month.
“It was tough but very rewarding,” Wingerd said of playing college football for four years. “It’s a tough transition. There were nearly 100 freshmen that I came in with and by the end there were only 22 of us still playing.”
Wingerd graduated from Whiteford in 2014. He spent a year at Monroe County Community College before choosing Heidelberg, which was one of the schools that recruited him while he played at Whiteford.
“I had some options,” Wingerd said. “I was contacted by Albion, Olivet and Adrian and some others, but I liked Heidelberg. I liked the campus. It reminded me of the University of Toledo campus in that there are a lot of older, historical, brick buildings.“I’m happy with my decision.”
Wingerd played mainly offensive line his junior and senior seasons at Whiteford, where he was an all-Tri-County Conference center. After two seasons at Heidelberg, he was asked if he wanted to shift to defensive line.
“We had a lot of returning offensive lineman but almost no defensive lineman,” he said. “I figured why not? I hadn’t played defense since my sophomore year at Whiteford, but I made the switch.”
Wingerd was a star in the Heidelberg weight room.
“Between my junior and senior years. I was benching more than any player on our team,” he said. “But what’s tough is to translate that strength onto the field.”
He switched back to offensive line before his senior year.
“I probably would have played more if I had stayed on defense, but I just preferred offense,” he said.
Wingerd said he watched a lot of athletes come and go during his four years with the ‘Berg.
“Athletes come in who were stars at their high schools and when they aren’t playing, they get frustrated,” he said. “Some transfer to play at another school, but some just don’t come back to the team.
“Your freshman year is really hard because you don’t really know anyone, you have to learn a whole new playbook and practices are long and you also have school. By your sophomore year, you know the playbook and start getting acclimated to things. By your junior and senior year, you understand what you have to do, and you know the process.”
Wingerd, the son of Steve and Angie Wingerd, said Whiteford prepared him for college football, especially his commitment in the weight room.
Heidelberg went 24-16 during Wingerd’s four years.
“I had a good experience,” he said. “I’m happy I went there and with my choice to play.”
Wingerd joined a small list of Whiteford graduates to play a full career of college football. The only known Bobcat grads to play four seasons of college football are Rick Bowman at Defiance College in the 1970s and Dalton Nagle, who played four years at Albion from 2012-2016.
Ken Crots played at Whiteford in the mid-1960s and was a record-setting All-American placekicker for three seasons at the University of Toledo, but rules at the time didn’t allow him to play for the Rockets as a freshman.
According to research , other Whiteford products played one or more seasons of college football, but not four full years. There have also been several athletes to play one or more seasons at Whiteford, but transfer and finish at another high school before going on to compete for four years in college.
If you know of an Whiteford graduate to play four years of college football not on the above list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.