By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Feb. 5, 2009 edition of the Hillsdale Daily News
Hard work is not just a meaningless cliché to Hillsdale senior Buddy Poljan.
In fact it is a way of life and the means by which the Hornet lineman was able to sign his name to a letter of intent to play Division II football at Michigan Tech University Wednesday morning.
Poljan transferred to Hillsdale from Owosso for his senior year so he could learn from the highly respected Hornets coaching staff and also dual-enroll at Hillsdale College and the transition has been nearly seamless.
Poljan was an all-state honorable mention lineman by the Detroit Free Press this season and a Jackson Citizen Patriot all-area selection. With his dedication to go along with his 6-4, 245 pound frame a lifelong dream has now been realized.
“I’ve always planned on playing college football, ever since I was little, I’ve dreamed of that. It’s always kind of been my goal and I just kind of made it come true,” he said around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, after he faxed his letter of intent up to the coaching staff in Houghton.
Without hesitation Poljan said the reason his dream has become reality is because he has always understood that nothing beats practice and repetition.
“Hard work. And it’s just not hard work, it’s every day. It’s not something you can accomplish in a day, month or even a year, it’s something that starts when you’re a freshman, doing things like the footwork and it starts even before then, when you’re playing on the playground and trying to compete in game,” he said. “You might not think so, but all those little things add up over time.”
Hornets head coach Marc Lemerand said Poljam has an outstanding work ethic in “both the classroom and on the field and in his training” and those traits will pay huge dividends in college.
What is also sure to aid in his transition is the fact he has already learned what it’s like to leave home and live amidst a whole new community of people. His parents still live in Owosso, while he has been living with Jeff and Kelly Lantis, whose son Scott is a three-sport star for the Hornets. Jeff Lantis and Poljan’s father Rick have been friends since high school, so the entire transfer process and living arrangement was almost ideal.
Rick, who was actually an offensive lineman at Central Michigan whenever current Michigan Tech head coach Tom Kearly was a Chippewas assistant, said Buddy’s senior year has fully prepared him to move on to the next level.
“I definitely think the coaching staff and the people at Hillsdale High are very committed to their athletics and I think he’s learned how to work hard and how to schedule working hard on his own time,” he said. “The administration and coaches here were very good for Bud, teaching him work ethic and how to do that and take responsibility on his own.”
Lemerand admits his staff has worked diligently with Poljan, but says it all comes down to the fact Poljam is a tremendous individual.
“He fit right in, the kids felt great about him being here and he was friends with Scott (Lantis) before he came here and it just worked out great,” he said.
While Hillsdale has been a great home for one year, Poljan is confident Michigan Tech is the place for him to grow as a person and player. He admits he wasn’t sure what to expect before he took his first visit to campus, but he’s not afraid to say he experienced love at first sight.
“I wanted to go be an engineer and Michigan Tech has a great engineering program. I went up there for a campus visit in December and I just fell in love with it,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a little community college type thing in the middle of nowhere, but there’s actually a town and a university there and I really liked that and it felt right for me.”
The Huskies have put together four consecutive winning seasons in a row, including a 9-2 mark in 2004 and Poljan’s love for the outdoors coupled with his excitement about playing in the GLIAC made MTU a natural fit.
All the excitement aside, a lot is still to be determined about Poljan’s football career. He said he has been told that they’ll likely use him as on offensive linemen, but that could change, especially over the next four or five years. He also said he is indifferent to the idea of red-shirting, saying he’ll let the coaches decide what is best for him.
Whatever position it is and whatever the time frame may be Poljan said he can’t wait to play a home game in the middle of an Upper Peninsula winter.
“I love playing in the snow and the mud. Linemen, we love that stuff,” he said. It’s better to play in snow and the mud than just a regular field I think.” Rick Poljam said he likes Tech because as a D-II institution he knows there will be an equal focus on athletics and academics.
Poljan also had a little advice for his son when asked about the main difference between high school and college football from his own experience.
“The big difference is it goes from being a game to being a business. It’s going to be a lot more serious as far as the coaches livelihood and occupation depends on the performance of the kids,” he said. “ Some of the fun leaves the game at this point, it becomes a job and you’re there to work and they’re paying you to do it.”