By Keith Gary
on September 16, 2011 at 3:00 PM, updated September 16, 2011 at 3:05 PM
Among the 112 players, give or take, that University of Pennsylvania head coach Al Bagnoli says will suit up for Saturday's game against Lafayette College will be three names that should be familiar to Lehigh Valley football fans.Whitehall products Matt Hamscher and Eric Fiore will be in uniform at Franklin Field as the Quakers play their opening game of the 2011 season. But perhaps the individual most anxious to play meaningful football is 2010 Nazareth graduate,Dan Wilk.
Wilk hasn't played in a football game since the Blue Eagles 28-0 loss to Easton on Nov. 13, 2009 in the District 2-4-11 subregional playoffs. After helping to lead Nazareth to an LVC basketball championship the following winter, Wilk tore his left ACL in June 2010 while practicing to prepare for the McDonald's All-Star Football Classic.
"I really went through the lowest of lows," Wilk recalled of the dark days after the injury. "But Dr. (Arthur) Bartolozzi did a great job and once I got in to the rehab I realized things were going to be cool."
The timing of the injury allowed Wilk to focus on the rigorous academics at the Ivy League school, and learn the Penn system, while attending team meetings and working with strength and conditioning coach Jim Steel.
"It's a whole new ballgame and is intimidating at the beginning,"Wilk said. "You don't realize how good guys are at the next level. The playbook is like a whole different language and there is a lot of focus on technique.
An All-Conference performer who played wide receiver and defensive back under Rob Melosky at Nazareth, Wilk is listed as a sophomore defensive back on the Quakers roster.
Given the lost 2010 campaign, Wilk plans to use a medical redshirt down the line and feels more like an experienced freshman than a sophomore.
"The knee feels great and the coaches have weaned me off the brace," said Wilk, who expects to see the field on special teams against the Leopards. "The agility, the side-to-side movement, is coming back. It is almost like it never happened."
Wilk and Fiore, a freshman running back, will likely be relegated to special teams. Hamscher, however, is a veteran on the Quakers squad -- a three year letterman who made the switch from offense to defense in 2010.
Hamscher is listed as the starting nickle back for Penn and was a second team All-League performer during the 2010 Ivy League championship season.
"Matt is a dynamic playmaker -- we also have him returning kicks," Bagnoli said. "He has had a terrific career here and, hopefully, he will have a terrific senior year."