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Burt, Mansmann sign to Huntingdon

By Cecil Folds and Jonathan Bryant

Two pillars of the Fort Dale Academy Eagles football team signed on the dotted line to attend Huntingdon College Tuesday morning.

Fort Dale seniors Clay Mansmann and Zach Burt inked letters of intent to join the Hawks in front of a crowd of family and friends at the FDA library.

Both students were thankful for the opportunity to continue their education and football careers at the collegiate level, and each were eager to hit the gridiron right away.

“I’m looking forward to getting started with summer workouts and training,” Mansmann said.

“Huntingdon has a good football program, and it’s close to home for me.  I’d love to try a running back position, but we’ll see how things go, and see where they feel I am the best fit.”

“I’m excited to get the chance to play football with a successful team like the Huntingdon Hawks, and to continue playing ball with my classmate, Clay,” Burt said.

“I hope to play defensive tackle and, of course, help the Hawks win a championship during my time there.”

Fort Dale Academy head football coach James “Speed” Sampley said that he would miss the duo dearly… with one caveat.

“First of all, they need to be signing up for their fifth year of eligibility at Fort Dale,” he joked.

“They have been a cornerstone of our football team for a long time.  They started in the tenth grade, so they’re three-year starters.  Zach has anchored our offensive line for a while, and Clay has been the linebacker we lean on to make plays from sideline to sideline. And of course, they both played offense, defense and special teams.”

Sampley added that the two were equally important to the Eagles off the field, as both proved key sources of leadership for their peers.

“We’ve got quite a few kids playing at Huntingdon now, so they’ll have some people to mentor them, and we feel good about that,” Sampley continued. “They’re going to be hard to replace, but it’s what you do, as a high school.  You go on and get the next year’s group ready, and you hope the best for the ones who leave—especially for the ones who go on to try to play at the next level—because it becomes a sort of business there, too. 

“It’s not all fun and games once you get into the real world, and we hope that’s going to work out well for them.  Of course, the most important thing isn’t playing college football; it’s getting an education so they can be a big part of society and take care of their families one day.  And this is an opportunity that we hope they can take advantage of one day.”

Burt and Mansmann endured a number of 100-plus-degree August afternoons alongside their teammates, and woke up before the sun on a number of occasions throughout the past several summers.

It’s those moments off the field, according to Sampley, that will continue to inform their development as men at the collegiate level of play and in the classroom.

“As a coach, we try to tell them that you learn things out there on that football field that you aren’t going to learn in class.  There is a lot of teamwork, hard work, camaraderie, and sacrifice that you can’t get anywhere else.

“If you think about football, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into that for just a very few hours of what’s supposed to be the fun part.  And that’s true in life, too. There’s a lot of hard work that comes before the part when you just get to have fun. And so it teaches you things that they’ve learned, and they’ll carry it on and be successful with it.”