Jerrid Marhefka knew when he made the decision to walk on at Ohio University there were going to be some moments of trepidation.
Outside of the actual skill of catching passes, everything was new. Plus, whenever you go from setting state records in the state title game as a senior to scout team and basically start all over, it can be trying.
Again, however, Marhefka braced himself for all of that because he was well aware of the process that's needed before he arrived in Athens. Now, with his freshman season almost in the books, Marfheka is still learning, things are slowing down and above all he's making a name for himself with the coaching staff.
"I am excited to get after it in the spring," Marhefka said during a phone interview prior to the team leaving for the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. "From what I've heard, the spring is the time to really get out and prove yourself, so I am looking forward to that and hopeful of earning a scholarship and playing time."
Marhefka, despite his knack for making big plays during a brilliant prep career for the Red Devils, received nary a Division I scholarship offer. He had a laundry list of Division II opportunities, but opted for the walk-on route because he didn't want to leave any doubts for himself.
"Every day, I think about what might have happened if I went the Division II route," Marhefka admitted. "Could I have started as a freshman? I don't know, but I know I would have been asking myself if I was good enough to play Division I. I am 100 percent happy with my decision and confident that it'll work out for me in the long run."
It takes a special individual to make it to the Division I level of athletics. It takes an even more special athlete to make it in a taxing sport like football as a walk-on.
"It's hard at first, but you get used to it," Marhefka said. "No one is making you do it. You signed up for it, so the people who don't enjoy it will quit."
The adjustment to the high level of football was just one aspect for Marhefka. He also had to work on his time management skills. An average day in the fall semester consisted of classes from 7-11 a.m., lifting at 1 p.m., position meetings and practice until 6:30 p.m. and then study.
"There definitely isn't too much down time, but college is fun though," Marhefka said. "My classes weren't as bad as I was expecting."
That's proven to be true by the 3.6 grade point Marhefka posted.
After returning Monday night from the bowl game, Marfhefka and the Bobcats will have three weeks off before spring semester classes and off-season conditioning begins for 2014.
While the St. Clairsville High product is already thinking about what he'll need to do in the spring, he's spent the last few weeks working on the scout team trying to give his teammates the best look possible to prepare for the bowl game against East Carolina.
"We've watched a lot of film on them and their defense is good and quick," Marhefka said. "I think it's going to be a really good game. If we play how we're capable of playing and to the best of our ability, I think we'll be fine."
The question as to whether or not the Bobcats would get the bowl experience was running rampant after Bowling Green defeated Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game earlier this month.
"Getting to the bowl game is pretty sweet," Marhefka said. "Everyone was upset when Northern Illinois lost, but that feeling changes when we heard about going to Florida."
The Bobcats had an up-and-down season by their standards, finishing 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the MAC. During the course of the season, the Bobcats lost three straight games, but according to Marhefka, head coach Frank Solich did a tremendous job of keeping the ship afloat.
"He kept stressing that we had to get to the next game as soon as possible," Marhefka said. "No one enjoyed losing, especially by four touchdowns or something every week. It was difficult, but Coach Solich made sure everyone kept a positive attitude."
Marhefka caught the eye of the coaches during his work in the summer and into camp. Because of some injuries, Marhefka was on the travel roster for the Bobcats' season opener at Louisville on Labor Day afternoon.
That turned out to be the only time that Marhefka traveled because the travel squad was cut down during conference play.
"The offensive coordinator (Tim Albin) told I got to travel (to Louisville) because I made plays during camp," Marhefka said. "There's no room for error at this level. You have to be perfect every day."
He dressed for all of the home games, but didn't appear in any.
Knowing it's part of the process, Marhefka didn't once become discouraged.
"Obviously, mentally everyone thinks they should be the one, but I know I have to keep going and maintain a positive attitude every day," Marhefka said. "We had a lot of depth at receiver at this year, but three of those guys are graduating, so I am hoping, with a good spring and camp, I can prove myself and get a chance to play."
Marhefka's parents - John and Susan - as well as his sister, Sarah, and his aunt and uncle will be at Tropicana Field on Monday for the game.
For more on Ohio's bowl game against East Carolina, please see Page C8.