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On Campus: Local grads transfer, flourish at Augustana College

Sometimes, a person’s first choice isn’t the best choice.

That was the case when it came to picking colleges for Batavia graduate Shane Holl and Marmion alum Joe Weber. After starting out at different institutions, the two found a home at Augustana College in Rock Island, earning starting defensive positions on the football team. Holl thought his football career was over when he left Batavia in 2008 and enrolled at Illinois State. But his stay in Normal lasted only one semester.

“My dorm room was right next to the football field at ISU,” he recalls. “Every day I had to walk by and see practice. I just got that itch to play.”

His brother, Brandon, was a member of the Augustana football team at the time. Holl visited the campus and met with Vikings’ defensive coordinator Rob Cushman, who is now head coach.

“I decided once my semester was over at ISU, I was going to transfer to Augustana,” says Holl, now a senior.

Weber, meanwhile, spent his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. It was a great season for the Warhawks on the gridiron, ending with an NCAA Division III national championship, but it was a frustrating one for Weber. He missed a couple of weeks of practice because of illness, and felt like a forgotten person when he returned to the squad.

“I wasn’t happy there,” Weber says. “I didn’t feel I was given the opportunity that I should have.”

At Augustana, he was given a chance to make an immediate impact.

Playing every snap of every game for the Augustana defense as a sophomore, he had 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. His numbers declined slightly in 2011 as league offenses became more aware of his penchant for destruction, but the quality of his play was recognized with a second-team all-conference selection.

Holl also found success with the Vikings. The 6-2, 255-pound defensive end lettered his freshman year of eligibility, forcing a pair of fumbles and coming up with an interception. He had 28 tackles and a pair of sacks as a sophomore. Last year, he racked up 43 tackles, including five for negative yardage.

After missing the second game of the season with what he dismisses as “a few bumps and bruises,” Holl returned to the starting lineup Saturday in a 34-10 victory over Loras, recording three tackles in a little more than one half of action as Augie rolled to a 24-0 lead. It was the first victory of the season for the Vikings (1-2).

Weber says the Vikings “definitely have the talent” to win the league. The 6-2, 240-pound senior says Augustana compares favorably to UW-Whitewater‘s national championship squad.

“All our starters are very comparable to what their starters were,” he said. “Talent-wise, I think we’re at the top of the league.”

Weber is off to a solid start to the season with 19 tackles and three sacks.

“I really need to focus on doing my job,“ he says. “ I think I have tried too hard [sometimes] to make every play. I really just need to focus on doing my assignments and everything will fall into place.”

• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information about local athletes participating in college, contact him at mngeditor@yahoo.com.

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