UL communities cheering on McKivitz in the Super Bowl

File Photo/Kristin Mazgaj UNION LOCAL graduate Colton McKivitz has his Jets’ jersey retired during a game in the 2019 season. McKivitz will represent ULHS in next Sunday’s Super Bowl as a starting offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers.

BELMONT — The communities of Union Local School District will be tuning in to the Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 11 to cheer on hometown favorite Colton McKivitz, a starting offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers as they face the Kansas City Chiefs.

McKivitz graduated with the Union Local High School Class of 2015 and has deep roots in the area. His former classmates, teammates and coaches have followed his career and are looking forward to this Super Bowl as a night to remember.

Union Local Treasurer Bernie Thompson recalled McKivitz and his high school record.

“I was a little bit older. I didn’t play with him, nor did I coach him, but he is a standout player at UL. He comes from a great family from the Centerville-Jacobsburg area,” Thompson said, adding that he became better acquainted with McKivitz in the past few years since he often returns to the district fieldhouse to work out during the summer.

Thompson said McKivitz is an example of someone who has determination that matches his strength and talent.

“I would describe Colton as a very down-to-earth hard worker. He’s worked for everything that he has achieved,” Thompson said. “Last time I saw him in person, he was here over the summer. He talks to our football team. The boys all look up to him.”

Nick Nardo, athletic director for the district, saw McKivitz’s early talent firsthand.

“I coached Colton, actually, when I was starting out as a teacher,” Nardo said. “I was one of the varsity assistants, so I got the privilege of coaching Colton during his junior and senior year in high school in basketball. Tremendous young man then, even better person now.”

Nardo said McKivitz also demonstrated sportsmanship, as well as the district motto: Jets think. Jets care. Jets aim high.

“He really took a lot of kids under his wings and treated them really well. It always stuck out to me the kind of person he was and the kind of character he had. He was good on the football field. He was an anchor in the middle for basketball.”

Nardo said McKivitz was a typical high school student in many ways, citing his love of hunting, but he also saw McKivitz’s abilities on the field.

“He was a rock. He was competitive and wanted to win, and we had a lot of fun those last two years,” he said. “On the football field, he liked hitting people. He liked getting those pads on.

“I tried to pass-rush him one time. We were on the basketball court,” Nardo said. “Needless to say, I didn’t make it very far. He threw me down for quick.”

He recalled watching the National Football League Championship game when the 49ers defeated the Detroit Lions 31-34 on Jan. 28.

“Sunday, they’re down and I’m thinking, ‘San Fran’s in trouble.’ Sure enough, they keep chipping away and end up winning and here we are.”

Nardo said jerseys featuring McKivitz will be available through the district’s athletic web pages.

“The kids are pretty excited,” he said. “People that know him in the community. Everybody’s kind of rallying around him. Everybody’s a San Fran fan come Super Bowl Sunday.”

Luke Menges, an algebra and calculus teacher and a basketball and football coach, knew McKivitz in school and in sports.

“Colton was a senior and I was a freshman, so I played a little basketball with him for a year. Colton did a really good job of showing me how to be a leader,” Menges said, adding that McKivitz never ignored or looked down on freshmen. “I learned a lot by watching him, how he treated younger kids, and that’s how I wanted to be like when I became a senior.”

Menges recalled being on the freshman scout football team while McKivitz was a right tackle practicing for the games.

“He’d come around the end, and he’d get like a 10-yard head start to come hit me,” Menges said. “He didn’t take it easy on me. He’d plant me on my butt every time, but he was the kind, he was picking me back up before I really even hit the ground. He was looking out for me that way.”

Menges said when it was game time, McKivitz meant business.

“You could definitely see when he was on the field a switch turned. Off the field if you talk to people, one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. When he got on the field, sometimes he wasn’t so nice.”

He said there was no doubt that McKivitz’s drive and ability would take him places.

“There’d be time we’d be lifting weights and there’d be a coach and a college would watch us lift weights, and we all knew — ‘they’re here to check out Colton,’ Menges added. “I knew he had the capabilities to go play somewhere.”

Menges reflected on McKivitz reaching the Super Bowl.

“I’m surprised at the fact, just because it doesn’t (often) happen. I’m not surprised at the fact that it’s him. Just the way I’ve seen him working,” he said.

Menges recalled McKivitz brought out the best in his teammates.

“Being a leader, you gotta say the things nobody wants to say to move the team in the right direction. He was good about doing that,” Menges said, adding that McKivitz’s example is one that young people can take to heart.

“Chase your dreams. Just because you’re from the Ohio Valley, just because you might not have come from the most gifted family, you can still chase your dreams and do what you want to do. Look at him — he came from a small town and he’s playing in the Super Bowl.”

Watch parties are scheduled around the district, including at The Pike 40 restaurant near the campus at 41010 National Road, Belmont, just east of Morristown.

The Union Local Touchdown Club is hosting a watch party at Route 40 LumberJaxe at 41761 National Road, Belmont. Co-owner Stacey Longenette said the staff will be wearing T-shirts with the names of the restaurant and of McKivitz and his player number 68, and the restaurant will be decked out red and gold.

“We’re doing free food. People are welcome to bring in tailgate food,” she said. “How exciting for a local guy to make it.”

Kelly Robinson of the Touchdown Club said McKivitz’s former coach, Bruce Stiles, helped organize the event and will be raffling off one of McKivitz’s signed jerseys.

“We thought it’d be good for a family gathering,” Robinson said as he recalled McKivitz from his time on the team.

“I did a lot of the cooking, so we fed him for four years, which was a feat within itself,” he quipped. “We’ve been big followers and Union Local Jets fans. We help out all the students that we can, but of course Colton’s made it to the top of the elite pile.”

He said all of the district’s communities are enthused that a Union Local graduate will be playing in the Super Bowl.

“It put Centerville on the map, but I think Jacobsburg is claiming him. Belmont is claiming him too,” Robinson said.

“He’s just a nice guy all the way around. He does everything that we do. He hunts. He’s just one of the guys. You don’t picture him 6-foot 8 and playing in the NFL, but people’s got to make it from somewhere.”

In addition, East Richland Friends Church is having a Super Bowl Party at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 inside its Ickes Family Life Center. McKivitz attended East Richland Christian School prior to his time at Union Local. People are encouraged to “bring your family, a snack to share, and a chair/blanket to enjoy watching the game on the big screen.” The church is located at 67885 Friends Church Road, St. Clairsville.

The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and features Usher as the halftime performer. It will be aired on CBS, Paramount+ and Nickelodeon.


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