By Frank Rizzo
LOUDONVILLE, NY When asked about Justin Mootz, the first words out of the mouth of Siena College head football coach Jay Bateman were, Hes one of my favorites.
Siena, a Division I-AA school, proved to be the right choice for Mootz, a 1998 graduate of Tri-Valley CS who wanted to play football in college. Since the middle of his sophomore season Mootz has held down a starting job on the defensive unit for the Saints.
Siena coaches came to Grahamsville to watch him play, and he later went to visit the school, located in Loudonville, NY, just north of Albany.
I really liked the college, the program, and the coaches, Mootz recalled.
His first game experience, as a freshman, came against Georgetown.
They were big and quick, and knew the deal, he said of his opponents. I was amazed a kid from little Tri-Valley that I was out there playing. I was overwhelmed at first but then settled down and enjoyed it.
As with anyone who moves up a level of play, Mootz discovered that the speed of the game is so much faster than in high school. It was something I expected.
As a freshman he saw action in all 10 games and finished with nine tackles and six assists.
In his sophomore season Mootz was chosen to the All-American Farm Team, which he described as honoring student-athletes from rural communities competing at that level.
He finished the 99 campaign with 16 solo tackles and 26 total, was credited with 11&Mac218;2 sacks and three tackles for losses.
Mootz was voted to tri-captain for the 2001 season, and is the only captain from the defensive side.
This past fall he finished with 55 tackles, including five for losses totaling 25 yards, and made one interception.
It was a pretty rough year, Mootz said of 2000. We finished 19 [after going] 64 a year ago. Our offense was young and inexperienced, and we lost our starting quarterback.
But, thanks to a defense which Mootz said was ranked ninth nationally in I-AA, we didnt get beat up too badly.
Bateman noted that Mootz has gotten a lot bigger and stronger since he got here, and indeed Mootzs vital stats since he entered college have gone from 5-foot-11 and 185 lbs. to 6-1 and 211 lbs.
Hes pretty big for an outside linebacker, and runs well, Bateman said. Hes a tough kid with a good football sense. Hes mentally tough.
Justins been banged up the last couple of years with minor injuries, Bateman added. Hopefully hell be healthier next season. Hes a big time leader and the kids look up to him.
Mootz won four letters at Tri-Valley under football coach Max Stolzenberg. He also played basketball and was a track and field standout.
Stolzenberg said of Mootz in his senior year: Justin was our emotional leader. He brought an attitude that he was going to get the job done.
In that senior season Mootz rushed for 1,007 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Mootz is the son of Douglas and Susan Mootz of Hurleyville.