SLIPPERY ROCK — From Mars to Slippery Rock, with a bit of a detour in between.
Austin Miele and Seth Geyer took the long road, but the former Planet football standouts are wearing the Green and White of Slippery Rock University this fall nonetheless.
“We were on both of them out of high school,” SRU coach George Mihalik said. “At the time, they wanted to try Division I. If it didn’t work out, we were hoping they’d pick up the phone and call us.
“That’s exactly what they did.”
And their timing could not have been better.
SRU has only eight seniors on the roster and is thin in experience at linebacker and safety.
Miele played free safety for St. Francis University in Loretto last fall. As a true freshman, he was third on the team with 70-plus tackles and led the squad with three interceptions.
St. Francis finished 2-9, but Miele didn’t transfer because of the won-loss record.
“It had nothing to do with the football program, the coaches or the players,” Miele said. “It was a small school in an isolated area ... It just wasn’t for me.
“Coach (SRU defensive coordinator Shawn) Lutz and I developed a good relationship when he recruited me. It’s a solid program here and I want to contribute.”
Outside linebacker Geyer red-shirted last year at Div. I-AA New Hampshire. He didn’t figure to see the field there this season, either.
“I was stuck behind an All-America player,” Geyer said. “I followed him around and learned a lot, but I wasn’t going to play much.
“The culture is different in New England. Football isn’t quite as important as it is in Western Pennsylvania. I wasn’t getting the feeling for the game I got back home and I missed that.
“When I decided to transfer, I contacted Slippery Rock. I didn’t even look at another school,” Geyer added.
Miele is joining a Rock secondary that graduated two multi-year starters at safety in Brandon Watters and Jayson Nickson. Miele is No. 2 on the depth chart at safety behind Brandon Burley, but Burley could be shifted to cornerback.
At the very least, Miele will be involved in nickel and dime packages defensively and will see special teams action for SRU.
“A kid with his kind of speed and athleticism, we’ll find a way to use,” Lutz said. “We lost a ton of experience in the secondary. The timing couldn’t be better to add on a player with Miele’s kind of ability.”
Quindell Dean is the lone returning starting linebacker for SRU. Geyer is vying for playing time at outside linebacker with junior Bob Westerlund.
“That kid hits so hard,” Lutz said of Geyer. “I loved watching him in high school. I’m thrilled that he’s with us now.”
Geyer and Miele both stand 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. Geyer has four years of eligibility with The Rock, Miele has three.
Mihalik said how much playing time they get this year depends on how quickly they pick up the system.
“Talent-wise, both of those guys have what it takes,” the coach said. “I’m elated to have them. They’re two guys very high in character, they’re good football players and they’re local.”
Their personal goals are modest. Their team goals are to win.
“I know I’m only a freshman here and the juniors and seniors have way more experience,” Geyer said. “Eventually, I’m hoping to start here and do my part in contributing to successful teams.”
Miele was a standout running back at Mars and could wind up on the offensive side of the ball at The Rock.
“They told me that may happen and I’d be open to it,” he said. “For now, I’m on defense and I like to initiate contact, so I hope things work out for me there.
“Get my share of tackles and help the team. Those are my goals. There are plenty of ways to make an impact and that’s what I want to do.”