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The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Eagle wideout Tony Pannunzio walks onto team, instantly makes impact

Pannunzio was awarded a scholarship at the end of the 2023-24 Football Training Camp
The Collegian
Eagle wideout Tony Pannunzio sits in the locker room prior to a game.

In last Saturday night’s home opening battle at Jack Miller Stadium, the Eagles battled closely with the No. 1 team in the nation, the Ferris State Bulldogs.  

 As the fourth quarter rolled around, the Eagles found themselves down 31 to 28 with 7:17 to go and needed a defensive stand to keep the game close. The defense held stout in the red zone and forced a 27-yard field goal that was blocked by Junior Tony Panunnzio.  

Pannunzio’s journey to being an impact player against the best team in the country was not always clear. Pannunzio walked onto the Ashland program and just hoped to be able to prove himself into playing time. After not finding the field much in any phase of the game his first two years, Panunnzio made one place on the field his own, the kick-blocking units. 

After truly dedicating himself to his craft, first-year Head Coach Doug Geiser saw something in Pannunzio this past off-season, and even decided to give him a reward for his hard work over the past two years. 

“Tony was originally a walk-on for our program, and really made his niche on special teams. He works harder on blocking punts and kicks than anybody else on our team, and as a reward, we were able to offer him a scholarship after training camp,” said Head Coach Doug Geiser.   

Pannunzio coming in as a walk-on knew the process of being able to get on the field would be a tall task in and of itself, but it would be worth it at some point. That grind paid off in the last quarter of Saturday’s game in a huge moment when the Eagles were trying to hang on to their upset hopes.  

“It was definitely a grind throughout the process. This year especially, with me having a larger role on the team,” said Panunnzio. “However, each time I found myself struggling, I kept my motivation and dedication to push through it, because there were goals that needed to be accomplished for the team this year.”

Those goals finally came to fruition this past weekend, when Pannunzio had the biggest play of the game at that point with only a few pivotal minutes left. And even though special teams is his forte, Pannunzio’s official position on the depth chart is wide receiver.  

While Pannunzio gets some time in the passing game, having hauled in four passes in two games this year, wide receivers coach Evan Berbari doesn’t mind letting one of his guys excel in another area of the team.  

“With Tony and others, I don’t want to put a kid in a position to fail, so I think the more situations we put them in where they succeed will benefit us,” said Berbari.  

It’s a relationship between the coaches and player, where maybe both sides have found something that they didn’t expect. Pannunzio had no idea if he would ever find a spot on the team where he would be trusted, and the coaches never knew what they had in a kid they never recruited. Now, both sides after two years can look back and know that sometimes people always find their way to the right place.  

I couldn’t have had a better support system to help push me to be the best version of myself. From my parents, teammates, Coach Berbari and Stacy, and to Coach Geiser for having faith in me,” said Pannunzio. 

The next chance for the once walk-on and now scholarshipped Pannunzio to take the field with his patented special teams units will be on Saturday, Sept. 16 in a matchup against Hillsdale. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. from Jack Miller Stadium. 

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