Off Campus: QB Chris Haupt leads Widener against mighty Mount Union

Chris Haupt
Chris Haupt
Posted: December 01, 2012

The overriding vibe from watching Widener's offense one time: A sense of calm. This undefeated Division III team, about to play its biggest football game in more than a decade, plays fast but it doesn't look like it's playing fast.

Now, that could change real fast Saturday when ninth-ranked Widener runs up against D-III titan Mount Union in the NCAA quarterfinals. Maybe the hurry-up will turn hurried against the top-ranked team in the nation, the calm running into the storm.

But Widener has a quarterback who hasn't gotten rattled yet, and there's a reason beyond winning. Chris Haupt is unusually seasoned for a D-III starter. He's now 25 years old, a late starter in college after a few seasons riding buses playing minor-league baseball.

"Basically, on the field, he's a second coach," said Widener sophomore running back Tyler Rank. "He's one of the most mature people I know. He always makes sure it's business first, goofing off later - and I actually have never really seen him goof off."

A sturdy 6-footer, Haupt has been sacked five times this season, three times in the regular season and once in each playoff game.

"We've gotten to people all year - we just had such a hard time getting in his face," said Bridgewater coach Chuck Denune after losing to Widener, 44-14, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"Their timing in the passing game and the way they get rid of the football, it's really tough," said Lebanon Valley coach Jim Monos, who was at the Bridgewater game. "He gets rid of it really quick and the core of receivers and backs they have are awesome. They really have a nice scheme, a real nice scheme."

An earlier game against Lebanon Valley game turned out to be key for Widener. The Pride had been taking teams out, and caught heat for running up the score. (A 90-0 win will do that for you.) What would happen when this team got into a real fight? The week after, Widener answered the question, scoring the last 16 points against Lebanon Valley, including a 64-yard interception return with two minutes left to push it into overtime, where Widener won, 40-37.

There were more close games, including five-point league wins over Lycoming and Albright.

Widener coach Isaac Collins said he has a quarterback who is a great fit for the scheme and the locker room, unafraid to get in anybody's grill but an upbeat presence.

Haupt believes any maturity he has hasn't come from age as much as the adversity he ran into. Playing professional baseball can sound glamorous, until you're averaging two at-bats a game and your lifetime average is .066. Originally a 30th-round draft choice, Haupt spent two years with the Marlins organization, got cut and picked up by the Blue Jays, and then released again.

He knew it was time for a restart, after a brief stinting selling sporting goods in his hometown of Bloomsburg, Pa. It wasn't all bad, he said of his baseball experience. His last year, the team won the New York-Penn League, with the kind of chemistry he's seen the last couple of years from Widener.

He had been recruited by Widener out of high school, and sent tape back to the coaches. He was looking for an engineering school, he said.

"Football was kind of an afterthought," Haupt said. "I just really wanted to get back and get my degree."

He'll do that, but Haupt and the school both got a little more out of the bargain. He was Middle Atlantic Conference player of the year, was a finalist for the Gagliardi award for national D-III player of the year last season and a contender again this year. He holds Widener career records for passing yards and touchdown passes.

Just staying with Mount Union, a 10-time Division III national champion, the pound-for-pound dominant program in the sport, would be an accomplishment. So far, the school out of Alliance, Ohio, has won its two playoff games by a combined 127-26 margin. The only time Widener ran into Mount Union was in the 2000 national semifinals. Mount Union won, 70-30.

So the biggest pressure Saturday will be on Widener's defense. But the old man of the offense is trying to keep this from being the last game of a storied second career.

Contact Mike Jensen

at 215-854-4489

or or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter.

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