"30 Features in 30 Days". New Milford’s John Krafick a Leader for WNE Football Team. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
New Milford’s John Krafick and his Western New England University teammates knew it was going to be tough sledding heading into the 2013 season.
After appearances in the NCAA Division III playoffs three straight years from 2010 to 2012, the schedule maker toughened up the competition and it has taken a bit of a toll, as the Golden Bears, who play in the New England Football Conference, were 3-6 heading into a contest with Nichols this Saturday in Dudley, Ma.
Said the senior signal caller, “This year was by far the toughest strength of schedule in school history. We have faced six teams with who have top 10 defenses in the country. Our defense consists of nine freshman and sophomores at the field at a time for many of the games. With any inexperience comes struggles, but we have also done some really good things as well. As the year has gone on our growth has been evident. We have a top 25 offense in the country. We have had our ups and downs throughout the year but the effort has always been there which is something we pride ourselves on.”
Krafick is the young man who leads that top 25 offense. Through nine games he has thrown for 1,845 yards and 10 touchdowns, connecting on 154-of-260 passes. He has also rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, as the Golden Bears have averaged around 30 points a game.
“My goals were high coming into this season with the hope to compete for another conference championship, coming off winning a championship my sophomore year and last year going 6-4 with three close games decided by time-expiring field goals and even a Hail Mary pass. Another main goal for me this season was being the best leader I could be. As a captain for the second year in a row I knew that by setting the right examples, whether it be on or off the field, I wanted to do my best to lead 130 men day in and day out.”
Krafick has been a leader since his days at New Milford High School, where he was an all-around athlete. He was a South-West Conference and an All-Colonial Division pick in football, throwing for 1,718 yards and 18 touchdowns his senior year. He played shooting guard for the basketball team and was a key member of the Green Wave golf team.
He played sparingly as a freshman at Western, located in Springfield, Ma. completing one of two passes for six yards. He also punted 17 times for a 30.4 average.
His playing time increased at quarterback as a sophomore, completing 27-of-42 passes for 289 yards and one touchdown and rushing for 28 yards.
He took over the starting duties as a junior, completing 176-of-306 passes for 2,046 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 205 yards and scored five touchdowns.
He explained his reasoning for attending Western New England.
“When it came time to look at colleges I looked at Salve Regina, Endicott, Plymouth State, Pace, Western New England and Western Connecticut. The three that really become the top choices were Salve, WNE and Endicott. After looking and carefully deciding, I chose WNE. I knew for me that the small school would be beneficial for my academic achievements and the focus granted by the teachers would help me do well. The football program also intrigued me. I was able to see myself playing for the coaches I met and playing with the teammates I met. I could tell that this program and the school overall was a close knit community.”
Krafick believes he is a much changed football player now than when he first walked onto campus, gaining a high level of maturity.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to run the same offense for four years and in that time really developed in many different areas, the most significant being my ability to read defenses and coverage’s in order to set us up with the best play in order to succeed, whether its checking us out of a bad situation of seeing something out there and calling an audible to something better. I excelled in anticipating different throwing windows and even as a runner with five rushing touchdowns as a junior.”
There have been a lot of highlight moments for Krafick, like being a two-time captain and a part of two championship teams. He has also broken or tied school records in over a half dozen passing and offensive categories, and led two offenses that statistically have been the most successful in school history.
But it took time and hard work for the 6-foot, 195-pounder to get to where he is today.
“There is a huge difference between high school and college football. The strength and speed of college football doesn’t compare to high school. Defenses are way more complex and the speed of the game is on another level. As well as the time and effort that goes into practices and preparing for games.”
He said as a freshman he was looking to learn the offense and simply get on the field.
“I just so happened to get on the field but not as much as a quarterback but as a punter and kicker. The starter broke his leg half way through the year and we didn’t have a backup, so I took advantage of the opportunity and earned the starting spot. It was a surprise because I never really kicked before, but it was rewarding getting time on the field.”
He recalled the adjustments has had to make as a first-year member of the Golden Bears.
“Freshman year was the real adjustment for me in all facets of the game. I really focused on my playbook and getting acclimated with the speed of the game and understanding a new offense. The long meetings, watching a ton of film and studying your playbook was also a huge adjustment and taught me dedication and time management. By the end of my freshman year, I felt like I had a good grasp on the offense and really had my feet on the ground ready to go.”
The son of John and Donna Krafick is a Sports Management major in Western’s School of Business and will graduate with a Bachelor’s degree this May.
“The business program I am enrolled in is AACSB certified, which fewer than five percent of schools in the world have. My professors and classes are great and I am fortunate to be a part of a program with so many resources and ties to sports management organizations.” He hopes to get a master in either Sports Management or Sports Administration.
He remains in touch with his New Milford buddies.
“I still stay in touch with some of my high school teammates and coaches. I have continued to work out with my high school receiver Brian Kirwan Welsh every offseason for the last four years. I also keep in contact with my head coach, coach (Chuck) Lynch who I always get a `good luck’ or `congratulations’ after or before a big game. I could also depend on coach (Travis) Swim to shoot me a text or tweet at me. Those are people who have had a big influence on my success and football career and I will forever cherish those relationships.”
With his career winding down, Krafick looked back and said it has all been a blast.
“The best moment at Western would definitely be winning a conference championship as well as being a part of winning a bowl game. The second would be this year against Union College when I threw the game winning touchdown the first play of overtime for a walk-off win was pretty special.”
He added, “It has been a ton of fun. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to play four more years of football after high school, which I know a lot of people don’t get to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to be playing with.”
And we’re sure those guys feel the same about John Krafick.