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Oehlbeck going out big
Georgia Southern linebacker Kyle Oehlbeck, top, finishes off Western Carolina receiver Willie Police at Paulson Stadium on Saturday, November 9, 2013. The Eagles won 35-19. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Ga. Southern (5-4, 3-4) at Elon (4-4, 2-4)
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Elon, N.C.
Radio: 102.9 FM, 103.7 FM

    Coming out of high school, Kyle Oehlbeck knew what he wanted in a college football program.
    “I wanted to go somewhere where they had great tradition, a history, a powerful football program,” Oehlbeck said. “I was a big Penn State fan.”
    The Nittany Lions didn’t come calling when Oehlbeck was finishing up his career at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Fla.
    It was the old, “if he was a few inches taller, a few pounds heavier,” refrain.
    Oehlbeck was that tweener guy, the one that draws the attention not of the big boys, but schools at the FCS level.
    One of the schools that came calling was Georgia Southern, a school which has historically recruited the greater Gainesville area, getting a player named Adrian Peterson among others.
    When Oehlbeck decided to cast his lot with the Eagles he got what he was looking for — the school with the tradition and history and that classic blue and white uniform, plain helmet look that, like Penn State’s, is one of the most recognizable in college football.
    And, as for a powerful football program, it doesn’t get much more powerful than six national championships.
    When he came to Georgia Southern, little did Oehlbeck, a 5-foot-10, 203-pound senior linebacker, know he would play his final college game in his hometown. The Eagles play the Florida Gators in Gainesville, on Nov. 23.
    But, before the Gators there’s some business to be taken care of this weekend. Georgia Southern (5-4, 3-4) will play at Elon (2-8, 1-5) at 3 p.m., on Saturday, needing a win to assure itself of a winning season.
    “It’s a dream come true to play at The Swamp,” Oehlbeck said. “But, our focus this week is on Elon. This is the most important game of the season for us. We need this one to guarantee us a winning season.”
    While the Eagles concluded their home season with a 35-19 win over Western Carolina last weekend — Oehlbeck had a career-high 14 tackles — this will be Elon’s final home game.
    “It’s a big game for them, too,” Oehlbeck said. “It’s the last home game for their seniors, and our last Southern Conference game. It’s going to be emotional for both teams.”
    And, Oehlbeck will be up to the task. He’s one of those players who when the lights come on turns it up another notch.
    He was redshirted as a freshman and played primarily special teams the following year, although he did get a start at Coastal Carolina where he scored the only touchdown of his career.
    As a sophomore he played in all 14 games, and started at Alabama and in the FCS semifinal game at North Dakota State.
    Last year saw him start nine of the 10 games in which he played — he missed four games due to injury and disciplinary reasons — and has started every game this season at the weak-side linebacker position.
    “I really like Kyle a lot,” coach Jeff Monken said. “He’s a fun kid to be around, and he’s got a great personality. He’s a real effort guy, and I think he’s a talented guy,. He plays fast and tackles, he gets people to the ground. He loves to play the game. I admire that about a kid. He’s played a lot of football for us, and he has meant a lot to this team. When he played special teams he took a lot of pride in it.”
    While Oehlbeck has been an integral part of three teams which reached the FCS semifinals and had double digit win seasons, Monken is as proud of his growth off the field as his play on it.
    “He’s had his ups and downs with us in terms of school work and not handling some things the right way,” Monken said. “But, he’s come a long way, and he’s made a lot strides as a man. I’m going to miss him.”
    Oehlbeck, one of 31 Eagle football players to have a 3.0 or better GPA (3.25) was Georgia Southern’s leading returning tackler with 51. He has 69 this season, second to middle linebacker Edwin Jackson’s team-high 77.
    While some players tend to recall certain games when asked about their highlights Oehlbeck, who is as intense a player as to be found on the Eagle roster, has more specific memories.
    “I’ll remember the hard work,” Oehlbeck said. “The coaches told me it’s different here, it’s harder here. You get pushed to your limit. I’ll remember how we lifted in the spring and in the summer as a team, as a unit, and the success that came with that.
    “I’ll remember three semifinal appearances. It shows hard work pays off.”

Monken radio show moved to Thursday

The upcoming Inside Georgia Southern Football with Coach Monken radio show will air Thursday, Nov. 14 live from Locos Bar and Grill in Statesboro, Ga.

The show normally airs on Monday's but has been moved to Thursday at 7 pm due to scheduling conflicts.