RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Feb. 5, 2009 edition of the Hillsdale Daily News
There has not been a Hillsdale College football recruit with comparable hype in recent memory, maybe not ever.
Online message boards, the Grand Rapids Free Press, and recruiting services have been abuzz over East Grand Rapids star halfback Joe Glendening the past few months — and now, officially, he’s a Charger.
He has been dubbed “Joe The Show”, he was named Michigan’s 2008 Gatorade Rise Player of the Year and he ran for 2,598 yards in helping guide his team to a Division 3 state championship. He was even said to be interested in several MAC schools according to scouts on ESPN.com
But if you ask Charger head coach Keith Otterbein or even Glendening himself for that matter, the 5-11, 178 pound stud is a natural fit for how the Hillsdale program goes about its business and what they are looking to accomplish.
“I feel like they’re different because anyone I’ve ever known who knows something about Hillsdale, the first thing they say is the school has good character and I felt that way when I went down there. I liked what I heard when I talked to (Otterbein) and I heard nothing but good from the players and that says a lot when they think as highly as they do about him,” Glendening said, admitting he knew very little about Hillsdale prior to the visit. “I just went down there and it felt right, I liked the people and facilities and I felt like it was a good mix of academics and athletics.”
The feeling is more than mutual from Otterbein who has a little grin and bit of excitement in his voice when talking about Glendening.
“He came in, he visited, he liked our kids, he liked the challenge he was going to have academically and the value of his degree, and a day later he called and said ‘I want to be a Charger’ and off you go. The funny thing about him is his nickname is ‘Joe The Show’ and he’s about the least showy guy you ever want to meet,” he said. “He’s very shy and reserved. Now he can put on a show on the field and he knows how to get in the endzone. He’s just a great character kid, just one of those natural fits that was perfect for us.”
Perfect enough for Glendening to bypass even the thought of checking out GLIAC powerhouse Grand Valley State, which is right in his backyard and good enough for Glendening to say “it doesn’t matter” if he is red-shirted, because he trusts the coaching staff knows best.
Glendening is the kind of athlete who attributes his success to strong family support and a relationship with God, the kind of athlete who has nearly a 3.8 grade-point average and volunteers as a tutor and literacy outreach mentor for younger students. In essence, a Charger prototype if Otterbein and his staff could ever forge one.
On ESPN.com he is ranked the 207th best “athlete” in the 2009 recruiting class and he was given a scouts rating of 65 by Division I standards.
One scout says, “Glendening is (a) well-rounded, instinctive football player who could find a role on either side of the ball at the mid-major level and add quality depth on special teams.”
But another adds, “(He) struggles at times breaking initial contact and with balance. Lacks good pick and dart zone running skills. A bit straight-lined and has difficulty decisively hitting the small cutback creases.”
When asked about those criticisms Glendening said he admittedly has plenty of room to grow and improve.
“I think a weakness is I’m not that big and could be more powerful if I did spend a little more time in the weight room,” he said. “I think for my size though my strength is that I at least try to run pretty hard and throw my weight around.”
Otterbein on the other hand was quick to Glendening’s defense.
“I don’t know what the knock was on him. He’s like a lot of high school tailbacks who are real fast and go outside. I also saw him come down hill and make some guys miss,” he said. “He will get bigger and stronger and he’s going to certainly need to develop his strength to be effective, just like every recruit signing today. He’s got good vision, and good speed and natural instincts from cutting away from off-color.”
For now senior tailback Vinnie Panizzi is in line to get the hefty majority of the carries for Hillsdale after going over 1,000 yards in 2008 and Glendening understands he will have to wait his turn. In the meantime though the all-state football, hockey and lacrosse player will prepare for a bright future both on and off the field.
“It will be interesting to see the difference (between high school and college football). I know it’s going to be a lot tougher and I’m going to have to work a lot harder,” he said. “I’m ready to get after it and work hard on the playing field and in the classroom.”
Glendening said he plans on majoring in either business or education.
Otterbein hopes he minors in finding the endzone and he said the whole recruiting process with Glendening “just felt right”.
“He’s a good player, we got him here so he visited, he liked what he saw and we liked he saw in person, we offered him and he was one of those kids…when a kid knows this is the right place there’s a pretty fast turnaround,” he said. “Sure, he’s not a bowl you over kind of guy right now, but Vinnie Panizzi wasn’t either when he got here.”
During the Pioneer’s 2008 playoff run, Glendening rushed for a school-record 398 yards and seven touchdowns on 13 carries against Mount Pleasant, and he tied Kevin Grady’s (Michigan) state record for most career touchdowns at the state finals with seven.