28 September 2006

What ever happened to...

Ethan Kilmer? From the CDT:

PITTSBURGH - If you are a young athlete who thinks you have to play four years of high school football and four more years at the collegiate level to make it to the National Football League, all you have to do is talk to former Penn State student-athlete and current Cincinnati Bengal safety Ethan Kilmer.

As a young athlete at Wyalusing Valley High School, Kilmer didn't even play football. As a matter of fact, when he was at Shippensburg University in 2001-02, you once again couldn't find him on the gridiron.

"I was just involved in so many other things, including basketball and track and field, that I really didn't have time for football,'' explained Kilmer. "Sometimes it was such a struggle trying to keep up, and it seemed like an impossible task for me to get the grasp for the game that most guys have had since they were a little kid.''

After spending a year or so at Shippensburg, Kilmer decided to make his way to Happy Valley and Penn State University. While obviously not one of the Lions' top recruits or for that matter a recruit of any stature, Kilmer decided to try out for the team as a walk-on.

"My initial reason for going to Penn State was because of my major,'' explained Kilmer. "They didn't have a lot in the health field down at Shippensburg and that is really what I wanted to get into. But I have always been a Penn State football fan and I wanted to try something new so I gave it a shot and things worked out for me.''

Following what turned out to be a solid career at PSU, Kilmer was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Not only did Kilmer hang around through mini-camp and training camp, he must have shown the Bengals something because when the final cut to the 53-man squad was made, his name was on the list.

"I hope they (Bengals) saw something in me that they liked,'' said Kilmer. "The learning curve at this level is so steep and in depth that it seems like a real struggle for the coaches because I am always running around like a chicken with my head cut off sometimes, trying to figure things out. They (Bengal coaches) have been very patient with me and I have to give them a lot of credit for believing in me and sticking with me.''

Bengal head coach Marvin Lewis liked what he saw in Kilmer.

"We saw a lot of speed and tackling ability in Ethan,'' said Lewis. "When you watch him on tape, he blows you away on fourth down (with his special teams play). He's going to give us the chance to upgrade our efforts on special teams.''

Not only did Kilmer make the Bengals squad, he has also made some contributions in Cincinnati's first three games that has seen the Bengals get off to a 3-0 start.

"We have a great group of guys on this team and it is just a good feeling to be able to contribute to the team effort,'' said Kilmer. "It just feels that everybody pulls together as a team to be successful and now we are off to a good start.''

Looking back at the past 10 years of his life, Kilmer was quick to point out that given the opportunity, he wouldn't change anything.

"If given the chance, I don't think I would have done anything differently,'' Kilmer said. "Maybe if I would have played football when I was younger, I might have gotten hurt and that could have led to my being discouraged and I wouldn't have tried to shoot for the stars. I am glad I did things the way I did and I don't have a single regret.''

While Kilmer was busy doing his thing for the Bengals special teams in Sunday's 28-20 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, he had some familiar company with the presence of two former Nittany Lion gridders, Kenny Watson and Tony Stewart.

Also a special teams player for Cincinnati, Watson got a few chances to run the ball and he made the most of the opportunities. Late in the first half, his 18-yard burst up the middle to the Steeler 3-yard line on second-and-10 from the 21, set up Carson Palmer's 3-yard TD toss to Chris Henry.

"It was just a simple draw play,'' said Watson of the call. "I wasn't surprised that the play was that wide open because the line did a great job up front. When those guys do the job, there are always plenty of holes and room to run.''

Not to be outdone by Watson, Stewart also stepped up and was instrumental in one of the Bengals touchdowns.

Bengal punter Kyle Larson boomed a kick to Steeler return man Ricardo Colclough who tried to make an over-the-head catch of the ball. When the ball squirted through Colclough's hands, the mad scramble was on.

Down at the bottom of the pile was Stewart for the recovery at the Pittsburgh 9-yard line, and on the next play, Palmer hit wideout T. J. Houshmandzadeh for the touchdown.

"I just heard someone call for a right return and the ball was up there for quite a while,'' explained Stewart. "I was just presented with the opportunity to make a play and I took advantage of it. Once I saw the ball on the ground, I knew it was mine and nobody was going to take it from me."

Nice to start 3-0, Tony?

"Yeah, but we make a habit of only taking one game at a time, one quarter at a time and one play at a time,'' he said. "We can't look any further ahead than that. We had some guys step up today who needed to step up at different positions and we were able to get the job done.''

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