Albion, Mich. – Mike Czarnecki wants one more MIAA championship and NCAA Division III playoff appearance before graduating from Albion College.
Czarnecki, a 5-foot-7, 180-pound senior running back with 4.5 speed, played a key role in Albion's conference championship his sophomore year, then ran for a MIAA-high 1,119 yards last season, including six 100-yard rushing games.
"I think injuries hurt us last year and in few of the big games we came out slow and weren't able to overcome the deficits," said Czarnecki of Albion's 6-4 record (4-2 MIAA). "We worked hard in (spring) camp and some of us stayed here to work out this summer. We have a lot back, the entire offensive line, our quarterback, both of our running backs. We lost some receivers, but we have substantial contributors who are coming back."
Czarnecki, who played his high school ball in Trenton, remained in Albion this summer to work in a chemical engineering/process engineering internship, along with working out with several teammates.
"We've been out there throwing every day, lift three days a week," noted Czarnecki who joined senior quarterback Dominic Bona, receiver Mikal McKoy, cornerback Anthony Waite and others in workouts. "We were out there, running, throwing and doing footwork almost every day."
Albion hosts Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the season opener Saturday at 6.
So, what is Czarnecki's strength as a back? He's strong, benching 225 pounds 25 times.
"I think I am good pass protector," said Czarnecki who played his high school ball for his father, Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame Coach Bob Czarnecki. "I like to block, which is kind of weird for my size (5-7, 180). In our offense our running back is just more than just your old school pound it up the middle back. You have to run routes, you have to be more of an athlete. It's nice to have Colin Parks (5-9, 200), who is a big downhill runner, then me who is more of a speedy kind of guy.
"I think that between myself and Colin our goal is to have a combined 2,000 yards rushing and we were close last year. I feel we have a lot of weapons and if you try and stop the run, we can beat you with our passing game. Our biggest goal is to win the conference championship and we'd like to win a few non-conference games so we could host a playoff game."
Parks (Southfield Lathrup) rushed for 822 yards, averaging 6.2 yards with 14 rushing TDs.
Bona (Pinckney) threw for 2,674 yards and 29 TDs last season, including 348 yards in a 75-22 win over Kalamazoo College and a school-record tying 6 TD passes in the season-ending 62-13 rout of Aurora.
Bona has high praise for Czarnecki.
"He's a leader and he has a lot of experience," said Bona, who has been Czarnecki's roommate the last four years, and now his best friend. "Two years ago when we won the conference championship, he scored two touchdowns in the championship game against Hope, both more than 40-yard runs and one was on the game's final drive. He's going to be a big leader for us. He works his tail off and he really brings everyone together."
Czarnecki hopes to have a few more games like the 210-yard performance (10 carries) in the win over Kalamazoo.
Czarnecki has been outstanding as well in the classroom, majoring in Biochemistry with a 3.4 GPA.
"I'm in the Health Institute at Albion College, so I have fulfilled all of my requirements to possibly go to med school," Czarnecki said. "I am going to do a little bit of orthopedic surgeon shadowing after football and just keep going after my major so I have a few options."
Sounds like Mike Czarnecki has a plan all worked out and plan No. 1 is to unseat Adrian as conference champ. Albion plays host to Adrian Oct. 17.
"The home field advantage is big in our league," Czarnecki said. "I feel we have a good opportunity to win the league championship."