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Stutzmann creates his own head start


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POSTED: Monday, March 30, 2009

For Billy Ray Stutzmann, spring has always been the time to get off to a fast start.

But it used to mean a fraction-of-a-second's edge in the 100 meters.

Now it's about a semester's jump on his peers as a college student and football player.

This afternoon, while the Saint Louis School classmates he'll march with in a few weeks loosen their ties, Stutzmann suits up for his first practice with the University of Hawaii football team.

He hasn't played a down yet, but he's already one of a kind when it comes to UH players. What other Warrior is looking for a date to the senior prom, or just got fitted the other day for his graduation tux?

Stutzmann had the credits to finish high school last semester. He weighed getting a head start on college football against giving up his senior year of track (he's one of the state's top sprinters).

Football won. And his grades (3.4 cumulative average) indicated he was ready for the next level of academic challenges.

“;I'd probably be taking some advanced placement anyway, and right now it kind of feels natural to be in college. In football, the guys really took me in and it's not a big transition,”; says Stutzmann, who has been a fixture at the UH informal pass-and-catch sessions since Colt Brennan was slinging the ball at Manoa.

Stutzmann also figures to benefit from regular weightlifting sessions he might not have been doing if running track at Saint Louis. He's added 12 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame and figures to check in at around 170 today.

“;I just think it will really help me down the line, being here, maybe in a few months,”; says Stutzmann, who had his first UH class in January, a couple of weeks after turning 18. “;It's always been my goal to get playing time as a freshman, but if the coaches want me to redshirt, I'm fine with that.”;

His brother, Craig, will have some input in that decision. The former UH slot heads into his second season as the graduate assistant coaching the Warriors receivers.

Craig Stutzmann has coached his brother before, when Billy Ray was a freshman on the Saint Louis JV.

“;We try not to have the relationship show in practice. He calls me 'Coach,' never Craig. We'll have to see how it is (today),”; the elder brother says. “;I try to not let it happen, but sometimes you can get a little more frustrated with your brother or son. For some reason, you have a shorter fuse.”;

It's natural. We all have high expectations of those we care about.

Billy Ray sees two sides to that.

“;The good thing is he'll be on me to do everything right. That's the negative thing, too,”; he says. “;He's always going to be hard on me, I already can feel it. But I think he'll be fair.”;

Stutzmann—the first player to be offered in the incoming class—committed early. Then he honored it despite a blitz from the Pac-10.

“;Washington came in late. That got in my mind a little bit,”; he says. “;Oregon State, Washington State. Notre Dame contacted me a little, but it died out.”;

Geographically, Saint Louis School is just a couple of blocks away from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

But anyone who's been to college, even as a non-athlete, knows how different it is from high school, how difficult that first semester can be.

Billy Stutzmann passed on what for many people is the most fun six months of their life. Instead, he opted to get ahead of the academic game by a full semester, loaded up with six classes of core requirements.

The weight-room investment is a solid one, too. In the coming weeks we'll see how ready he is on the football field.