McFetridge honored 'I thought about packing it in'
Mike McFetridge remembers participating in a football practice for the first time at Millersville University and experiencing a myriad of emotions and feelings.
McFetridge knew his chances were slim as a walk-on, but he was determined to take the chance, something he had never been afraid of doing.
"When I first got there, I noticed the difference in size and speed of the game," recalled the former Whitehall graduate. "I really didn't know what to expect. I was nervous and anxious, but I knew I could play. It took a while, but it worked out."
Four years later, it easily can be an understatement.
After catching two passes as a freshman, McFetridge quickly developed his game and blossomed into the school's all-time leading receiver among other categories, and he also gained All-American status along the way.
Last month, McFetridge was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame. It was a complete transformation and an honor he won't soon forget.
"It definitely exciting," stated McFetridge upon hearing the news. "It (nomination) puts a completion to a career. I knew how much hard work it took to accomplish what I did there."
For the record, McFetridge caught 222 receptions for 2,783 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns, all of the marks being school records. He shattered the old receiving mark by 58 receptions and remains the lone player in school history to have 70 catches in three different seasons and has three of the top 10 single-season performances in receiving yards including one of just five 1,000-yard seasons. His efforts secure shim the nickname, "Mr. Mc-Go-To."
In addition, McFetridge is still one of only two Marauders to be named PSAC East Offensive Player of the Year. He also gained All-PSAC East First Team Honors twice and Second Team Honors twice. McFetridge was named an All-American following his senior season.
When he graduated from Whitehall in 1993, however, the future may not have been that bright and took an unconventional route. He also played quarterback while at Whitehall.
"We really didn't have a god team my senior year," noted McFetridge. "John Bendekovits was the coach and Tony Cocca took over a year later. I decided to go to (Lehigh County) community college to work on my grades.
"After that, I was looking at a few schools, and I knew I would be older than incoming freshmen. But in the back of mind, I had a goal. They (coaches) first tried to recruit me as a quarterback, but then they thought of me as either a defensive back or receiver. I decided to red-shirt for the first year and it helped. I was learning and working on my game."
McFetridge plowed through a rather uneventful freshman year, but then he began to quickly surface the following year.
"I was playing behind an All-American my freshman year and knew it would be a learning process," he said. "I remember one of the seniors pulling me aside and really giving me some encouragement. There were plenty of times I thought about packing it in, but I knew I had to stick it out."
McFetridge soon began to make the Millersville faithful forget the heroics of former All-American Kevin Cannon, who played in front of him, when he caught 72 passes for 860 yards and eight touchdowns his sophomore year, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in six games.
Two years later after a rewriting the record books, McFetridge decided to take another gamble when he received a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles. He also signed a contract with the now-defunct XFL football league.
"I really didn't know what was going to happen with the (Eagles) tryout," said McFetridge. "But it was an experience. I ended up signing a contract for the XFL draft and I went down to Augusta (Georgia) for a few days. Once I was there, I really discovered I wasn't ready for pro football. I knew I had to make a change."
At age 27, McFetridge decided to pursue a master's degree at East Stroudsburg University in health and physical education, a complement to his bachelor's degree in sociology and criminology from Millersville in 1999.
"I knew I wasn't in the football mix anymore," he said. "The game had taken a toll on my body and I needed a change."
McFetridge began his career as a teacher and was an assistant football coach for three seasons at Quakertown High School. He still is an avid fan of college football, but his coaching stint led to a temporary burnout.
"Coaching today is very demanding," he said. "I quickly realized it when I was coaching. Maybe someday I'll go back, but I needed to step away. Football has been great to me and I realized many things from the game."
McFetridge had been a health and physical teacher at Catasauqua High School, but recent budget cuts affected his job. He and wife Angela and 14-month-old son Wyatt will now prepare for another career move.
"I'm ready to make another career change," said McFetridge. "It is probably a blessing and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Based on his prior experiences, he shouldn't have too much trouble.