PITSBURG – Franklin Monroe senior Jacob Shellabarger committed to the Bluffton University men’s soccer team on Thursday afternoon.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity,” Shellabarger said. “I think (Franklin Monroe boys soccer coach) Danny (Diceanu) coached me well and raised me for this opportunity to play at the collegiate level. He raised me with the right mindset. I’m excited for the opportunity to get to grow as a player more.”
Shellabarger, the son of Gene and Nicole Shellabarger, was drawn to Bluffton because he felt comfortable both academically and athletically at the university.
“I liked the coaching staff,” he said. “They were really welcoming and made me feel like I was going to be able to influence the team starting as a freshman. I also liked the size of the school, the class size and stuff like that. It’s what I’m used. It’s my comfort zone.”
Bluffton is a member of the NCAA Division III Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. This past fall the Beavers finished 3-15 overall and 0-9 in the conference.
Diceanu expects Shellabarger to immediately contribute for Bluffton.
“I love it,” the Franklin Monroe coach said. “I think it’s fantastic. Great opportunity for him. Anytime you get a player, especially one of his caliber, went through this program and decides to play at the next level it’s a plus, it’s a win-win for the program, for the player. It’s fantastic.
“I think he’s definitely got the skills for it, got the tools, has the drive. As long as he goes in there with a good attitude and doesn’t expect a lot, just puts his best foot forward and does the best he can, I don’t think there’s any doubt that he can play.”
Shellabarger will play an attacking position for Bluffton, possibly winger or striker.
This past season Shellabarger had seven goals and nine assists for Franklin Monroe despite being slowed by injuries. He was named first team all-Cross Country Conference by the league and second team all-Ohio by the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association.
As a junior he was named the CCC boys soccer player of the year and second team all-Ohio. He had 13 goals and 10 assists.
“His desire to compete,” Diceanu said of Shellabarger’s greatest assets as a soccer player. “His tirelessness, doesn’t get tired. He’s a workhorse. He’s just going to have to get stronger for the college game. He’s good size. He’ll be alright. Just got to get used to the physical tendencies of the college game and the speed of the game, but he likes to play fast so it won’t be a hard transition for him. Pretty easy transition I think overall for him.”
At Bluffton Shellabarger will study marketing and photography.
“I’d like to maintain good grades and be one of the academic and athletic stars, not just on one side or the other,” he said. “I’d like be successful in both, being able to accomplish things in soccer as well as actually keeping my grades up and working toward my degree.”
He plans to continue working hard in the offseason so he’ll be ready to contribute to the Beavers as soon as he gets to Bluffton.
“I’ll definitely be working all summer, putting in effort out of season so that I do have the chance to play as soon as the season starts this upcoming fall,” he said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.