SALEM - Two Salem linemen who wreaked havoc for four years at Reilly Stadium are heading up State Route 62 looking to do the same for Division III perennial powerhouse Mount Union.
James Norkus and Steve Manypenny will both continue their academic and athletic careers this fall for the Purple Raiders.
Norkus, a four-year letterwinner, an all-district, area and conference selection said both the school's tradition and location played a factor in his decision to attend.
"They have the best football tradition in the country in Division III," Norkus said. "I didn't want to go too far from home, and I also wanted to get into their engineering program."
Manypenny, a three-year letterwinner and all-district and conference selection, said he chose the school for the same reasons.
"Their history speaks for itself," he said. "It's a great school and a great program. They're really close to Salem and they play for the national championship almost every year." Manypenny is officially undecided on a major but said he's leaning towards criminal justice.
Both Norkus and Manypenny were instrumental in helping the Quakers to their first ever playoff appearance and victory in their sophomore year. They returned to the playoffs again when they were juniors.
"We worked really hard to be the first team to make the playoffs in Salem history," Manypenny said. "That's something I hold dear - the whole experience that year, really."
Norkus also pointed out the team beating rivals West Branch and United the past three seasons.
Both players credited former Salem head coach Mike Kopachy with preparing them for the jump to a national powerhouse.
"He just always taught us to never give up on ourselves," Norkus said. "Just keep going. You don't know how things are going to turn out."
"He taught us to stay aggressive and to always prepare," Manypenny said.
Mount Union is coming off a 14-1 season and a 13-10 loss to Wisconsin-Whitewater in Stagg Bowl XXXIX. That loss is something both Norkus and Manypenny hope to help the Purple Raiders avenge.
"I want a ring before I leave there," Manypenny said. "I want to play and eventually start, but ultimately a national title is the goal."
Both Salem graduates say having a familiar face as a teammate will help them make the transition. Norkus hopes to play offensive line but said he'll do whatever they need him to, as well as whatever gets him on the field faster.
"It's going to make me feel a lot more comfortable," Norkus said. "Hopefully we can keep the good times going."
"I know how to push Jimmy, and Jimmy knows how to push me," Manypenny said. "I think we're going to be good together."
Just like in Salem.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org