Next Level

Eisenhower seniors Aaron Lundmark and Nathan O’Brien will soon graduate from high school.

While that big event remains in front of them, the pair have already graduated from Fridays to Saturdays.

On Wednesday – National Signing Day for college football recruits – Lundmark and O’Brien chose their Pennsylvania schools and plan to play football this fall. According to Lundmark, he has not committed, but is likely to attend Division III Grove City College where he is expected to play quarterback. O’Brien has signed on to play for the Division II Lock Haven Bald Eagles, competing for time at wide receiver and tight end as well as a possible defensive role.

Eisenhower head football coach Jim Penley saw first hand the special talents of each player this season as the Knights completed a two-year turnaround from an 0-10 season in 2010 to a Region 2 championship and District 10 Class A playoff appearance in 2012.

“Both guys are hard workers who transformed from younger guys who maybe didn’t know if they’d be out there, to guys who are just tremendous players,” said Penley. “Aaron became one of the best leaders I’ve ever had at the quarterback position. He’s just a tough minded kid who never let the game get too big.

“With Nathan, he’s just everything you could want from a big wide receiver. He is physical, blocks hard and really goes after the ball. These two guys were an example of guys who worked hard, played hard and did everything we ever asked of them and more.”

Lundmark was the starting quarterback for the Knights for the past three seasons after taking over for Cody Crosby – currently punting for Division II Gannon – after the 2009 season. Lundmark increased his completions, yardage and touchdown passes in each of his three seasons as the starter and had his best season to date during 2012.

As a senior, Lundmark completed 61 of 127 passes for 1,161 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. After his senior season, Lundmark was named a second-team Region 2 all-star at the quarterback position.

For his career, Lundmark completed 131 passes for 2,133 yards with 24 touchdown strikes.

“My Dad went to Grove City and played baseball there so it kind of felt like a natural choice for me,” said Lundmark. “I know the quarterback spot is very important and I also know I have a lot to learn. From the very start, it will be important for me to pay attention to every detail and dive into the playbook. I feel like if I can get there I will be in a good spot.”

O’Brien’s rise from role player to Lock Haven was meteoric. During his senior season in 2012, O’Brien put together what is arguably the greatest single season receiving year in Eisenhower High School history. O’Brien hauled in 28 passes – all from fellow college player Lundmark – for 667 yards and a school single season record nine touchdowns. All that came after a junior season that saw him catch 17 passes for 242 yards and two more scores.

All told, O’Brien caught 49 passes while competing for the Blue and Gold for 965 yards and 11 scores.

His name was all over the postseason awards listings after the 2012 season where he was a Region 2 first-team all-star at wide receiver, kicker and punter for the Region 2 champion Knights. O’Brien was no slouch defensively as well, earning second-team honors at defensive back in 2012 after earning first-team honors after the 2011 season.

While Lock Haven hasn’t had much success recently – the Bald Eagles snapped a Division II record 52-game losing streak in November of last season – O’Brien was intrigued about being part of the program.

“The football program hasn’t been very good down there lately, but I want to be part of helping to turn that around,” said O’Brien. “In a lot of ways it would kind of go along with my high school career. We were pretty good my freshman year before going 0-10 in my sophomore season. By the time my senior year ended, we were region champions. I’d love to be part of a similar turnaround at Lock Haven.”

O’Brien was also attracted to the size and proximity of the campus.

“It’s not a huge city and the campus isn’t small, but it’s not overly big either,” he said. “I visited twice and loved it each time. I’ve also had friends that graduated from Lock Haven and they loved it as well. I think it’s a perfect fit for me.”

After coaching each player for each of the last four seasons, Penley thinks his guys are ready to perform at the next level.

“I treated these guys the same way I would’ve treated players back when I was a college coach,” said Penley. “They were never coddled. There were always expectations. At one time, these guys were 14 or 15 years old playing against 18 year-olds. Now they will be 18 or 19 playing against guys who are 21 or 22. They’ve been here before and I think they’re ready for the challenge.”