It took longer than maybe he had hoped, but St. Clairsville senior Jerrid Marhefka knows where he'll be heading for college.
Marhefka, the Red Devils' multi-sport standout, informed the Ohio University football coaches that he intended to accept their offer as a preferred walk-on for the Bobcats this fall.
Marhefka, who is 6-1, 170 pounds, had numerous offers from Division II schools, but wanted the chance to prove that he belonged at the Division I level.
"I feel like I made a great decision, and I am sure I'll be happy for the next four years of my life," Marhefka said. "I know I have the ability to play at the Division I level and if that takes having to walk on to prove that, I am fine with it. I am ready for the challenge."
Having been to Athens several times, Marhefka was familiar with the OU campus and indicated that the coaches and other players made him feel escpecially welcome when he visited a few weeks ago for a spring practice.
"I fell in love with everything about it," Marhefka said. "The coaches were really welcoming. Eveything about Athens made me feel comfortable."
As a preferred walk-on, Marhefka is assured a roster spot, study tables and all of the other benefits of a scholarship player, except the tuition grant.
"Jerrid had a great career, but this season was just a culmination of it all," said St. C. head coach Brett McLean. "He might not have had the offensive statistics he would have had since he was injured early on, but he really shined in the postseason. He made some of the most memorable plays that our football program has had."
Marhefka, who set the Division IV state title game receiving record with 272 yards on nine receptions and four touchdowns against Clarksville Clinton-Massie, firmly believes that he'll eventually be able to make an impact with the Bobcats, but he knows plenty of work lies ahead.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I was raised to know that you have to work for everything you want," Marhefka said. "Now coming into this, I know that I'll have to keep working."
The Bobcats' coaches have told Marhefka he'd get a chance to compete as a wide receiver. He was a first-team all-Ohio defensive back as a junior in which he led the area in interceptions.
That position choice is fine with him. Despite playing most of last season with a fractured thumb, Marhefka averaged better than 27 yards a reception. He caught 36 passes for 983 yards and 12 touchdowns. On top of the state record, Marhefka also had the game-sealing touchdown in the Region 15 title game against Johnstown-Monroe.
"The season didn't end how we wanted it to, obviously, but the ride itself was like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Marhefka said. "It was rough (playing with an injury), but I got used to it."
For his fine season, Marhefka, who still managed to have seven interceptions, he was an all-Eastern District and all-OVAC selection. He's also been chosen for the Ohio North-South Game later this month and has recently learned he'll play in the Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Classic.
"I have to put some weight on, continue to increase my speed and strength and keep working on my route running," Marhefka said.
Marhefka's decision makes him the sixth Red Devils' senior gridder to announce he'll continue his football career at the collegiate level. He joins Dan Monteroso (Purdue), Corey Ernest (West Liberty), Cole Stephen (West Liberty), Matt Kinnick (West Virginia State) and Luke Smith (Mt. Union).
"We're really proud of all of these kids going on to take that next step to the next level," McLean said. "Our success is a culmination of good talent, good attitudes, good coaching and good support people. That's how you make it."
Along with his football exploits, Marhefka was a mainstay for the highly successful Devils' basketball team, which advanced to the state tournament in 2012 and the regional last month. He's also been a state track qualifier.
All told, he's been a part of three regional championship teams and five OVAC championship squads.
"My high school career has been a blessing and I am just grateful for it," Marhefka said. "A lot of it has to be attributed to my teammates, coaches and our abilities to help each other. It's been fun."
Marhefka is also a standout in the classroom. He carries a 3.8 grade point average and has served as the vice president of the French Club for two years.
Jerrid, who plans to major in business law, is the son of Jon and Susan Marhefka of St. Clairsville.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org