Ridgewood High football coach John Castelamare pointed out a crushing hit on the television monitor as he showed highlight films to Bayonet Point Middle School students Tuesday. "That's Kenny Lowenburg taking somebody out," Castelamare said of the senior linebacker whom he had invited to speak to the potential Ridgewood players. Lowenburg had just leveled a Hudson High running back.
"Nobody did it as good as he did."
By his own admission, Lowenburg was perhaps too good.
"I was always thinking of football, studying football; that's all I did," the all-state linebacker said. "I would constantly watch film of my opponents and then lie awake in bed at night, replaying it in my mind. I was always ready to play on Friday night."
Unfortunately for Lowenburg, he was not prepared for the Scholastic Aptitude Test last fall. Lowenburg had been offered a scholarship by Kansas State University, but he failed to meet the minimum SAT score for Division I admission.
So he will play the next two years at Arizona Western Junior College, which requires only a high school diploma for admission. Lowenburg will be on scholarship, but it won't be the same as Kansas State.
"Sure, I'm disappointed in myself," Lowenburg. "I know I'm a Division I player, but now I'll have to wait two years to prove it.
"But I learned there is something more important than football _ the classroom. My football playing days will be over some day. But what I learn in the classroom will stay with me all my life. In the long run grades come first."
That was part of the message that Lowenburg and Jeff Deremer, a former Ridgewood center who will be a junior at Florida State, delivered to the Bayonet Point boys. Avoid drugs and alcohol, stay out of trouble _ and study.
"That sounds familiar," Lowenburg said as Deremer related a story about falling asleep in class.
Lowenburg maintained a grade-point average near 2.5 (B-minus). But he did not prepare for the SAT with the same intensity as he did for football.
"My parents bought some books to help me get ready for the SAT, and I never even opened them up," Lowenburg said. "They just sat and collected dust. I was too busy studying football.
"I just didn't take (the SAT) serious enough. I saw all these guys playing in Division I, and I figured I could easily pass it. I didn't know what to expect."
Lowenburg waited until last October to take the test for the first time and had to retake it in December. It did not leave enough time for him to prepare.
"When I found out I didn't pass again and couldn't sign, I felt stupid," Lowenburg said. "All these other guys passed and I didn't."
Lowenburg still had offers to play at small four-year schools that had less stringent entrance requirements, but he said he sees his future in Division I. He thinks junior college is his best route.
He said he chose Arizona Western because of its outstanding football reputation, and more importantly, for its academics. If he completes a two-year associate's program at Arizona Western, he will have two years of eligibility left.
"They will send me to a guidance counselor who will make sure I take the right classes so that I can graduate in two years," said Lowenburg, who says he will study forestry and wildlife management. "They said I will have no problem going to Division I."
That's if a Division I school still wants him. Though it is not uncommon for junior college players to move up to Division I (O.J. Simpson did), Lowenburg must still prove himself at Arizona Western.
"It won't be the same as Division I, but I will play with the same intensity," Lowenburg said. "The coaches say I have a chance to start but they want to see me play first. I intend to make a name for myself.
"I'd love to come back and play for Florida or Florida State. It's just a matter of how I do in junior college."
And Lowenburg now realizes he has to make the grade, on and off the field.
"There's always room for improvement," Lowenburg said, "but I need to improve a lot more in the classroom than I do on the football field."