Three years ago, a friend “tricked” Will Pitchford into grabbing him some footballs at a long-distance camp.
As it turned out, Pitchford wasn’t bad at it. It soon became a position for him on the Houston Academy football team.
Now, after three years of long grabbing, he’s gotten good enough at it to earn a college scholarship to play football at Division III’s Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Pitchford, who also played tight end and linebacker at the Houston Academy last year, signed in front of family and friends at the Houston Academy’s Grand Hall facility on Wednesday afternoon to play for the Fightin’ Engineers.
“It’s a dream come true,” Pitchford said. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve thought about throwing the ball to myself in the yard and shooting at imaginary opponents. It’s really surreal. I am truly blessed to be in this position.”
Pitchford said he plans to snap long at Rose-Hulman for sure, but also hopes to play tight end and linebacker at the school, which is an hour west of Indianapolis near the Indiana-Illinois border. The school is a 10 hour drive from Dothan.
“They have different personalities and they remind me of certain people that I have here,” Pitchford said of players and coaches at Rose-Hulman. “It’s moving to the next level, but it’s still close to home (with the kind of people). It helped me feel like the transition wasn’t going to be that bad.”
Pitchford came to Houston Academy prior to his sophomore season after playing in the seventh through ninth grades at Headland. It was that summer before he turned 10th Year of class when a friend, Judson Lisenby, invited him to a local soccer camp.
He soon realized he was snapping at Lisenby for a long time, and a career was born.
“He kind of set me up,” Pitchford recalled. “He said, ‘Come with me to this soccer camp.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’ So he picked me up because obviously I couldn’t drive yet. We went out there and he started kicking and he said, ‘You’re going to snap for me.’ The rest is history.”
In fact, Pitchford said he now owes Lisenby a lot for starting something that got him a college opportunity.
“A big thank you to him for reaching out to the new kid for a new position on the new team,” Pitchford said. “I ended up being pretty good at it, and this is where we go to college for that.”
Houston Academy head coach Eddie Brundidge said Pitchford has been masterful in his long stints with the Raiders.
“He’s very adept at snapping long,” Brundidge said. “I will tell you that one of the biggest momentum changers in a football game can have trouble punting, not being able to back it up to the punter or snapping. You can get into trouble pretty quickly. So what he does and how he does it is just phenomenal. It’s a very valuable position, not just for high school, but for the higher levels as you progress to college and the professional world.”
However, the 5-foot-11, 191-pound Pitchford wasn’t just valuable to the Raiders for snatching long, Brundidge said.
“He’s one of those guys who can do a lot of stuff,” Brundidge said. “He’s also a tough guy. Sometimes (as a tight end) he leaned into the C gap (gap outside of defensive tackle) and it didn’t bother him. He even lined up on nose guard and tackle on defense and there was never a crossed word or he never muttered about it. He just walked in and did it.
“His versatility has made him an important part of our team. He has played a large part in our success in recent years.”
Pitchford admitted he had never heard of Rose-Hulman, one of the top engineering schools in the country, until the football program contacted him last summer when he was at a snap with local kicking guru, who coaches at -Camp went to Houston Academy.
“I was on my way to a camp with Brian Jackson, a snapping camp, and I just posted an ACT score on Twitter, and they contacted me and said, ‘Do you happen to want to be an engineer?'” Pitchford called. “I said, ‘In fact, ‘I do.’ They invited to a camp over the summer and after the camp we had a good chat and they sent me an offer on Monday when I came back. The rest is history.”
Pitchford said he enjoyed visiting the Indiana campus.
“When I went on an official visit, I got to stay with a couple of the players and seeing them able to do it gave me confidence that I could do it,” Pitchford said. “When I pulled up and saw the whole site, it was just another farm up north and it reminded me of home, so it won’t be that bad.”