While most incoming freshman students spent their summer working, spending time with friends and getting ready for college, Michael Hnatkowsky ’21 spent his time with one of today’s best quarterbacks in the National Football League.
The new Mules starting quarterback casually explained to me that he spent his Fourth of July weekend with current Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Both are alum of the William Penn Charter High School, where each started as quarterback during their respective times at the school. Hnatkowsky earned national recognition recently when he bested school records for both passing yards and touchdowns. These records were previously held by the man who fell just short of a Super Bowl championship this past February. In his four years at William Penn, Hnatkowsky threw for 6,172 yards and 60 touchdowns, both marks that bested those of Ryan’s.
Following a stellar high school career, Hnatkowsky knew that he wanted to continue his time on the gridiron as it came time to select a college. Despite being a standout athlete in football, basketball and track during his time at William Penn Charter, football was the only sport he truly considered playing at the collegiate level. In addition to looking at Muhlenberg, he also considered playing football at Kutztown University and Bloomsburg University. However, he knew that Muhlenberg was the right fit for him for a number of reasons.
“First and foremost, I wanted to come to Muhlenberg for its great education. I also noticed that they had a very strong football program so that was very appealing to me as well,” said Hnatkowsky. “I also just felt like home when I visited Muhlenberg, especially after meeting with Coach Donnelly.”
Now that the Philadelphia, Pa. native has assumed the role of the Mules starting quarterback he has a lot to learn. He immediately noticed that the style of play between high school and college is drastically different. Among many changes between the two levels, Hnatkowsky noted that playing football in college is a much more fast and physical game. Additionally, there has been a substantial amount greater meetings and practices. Even with the heavy time commitment, Hnatkowsky believes that being a part of the football team has the transition from high school to college go much smoother.
“Playing football here actually keeps me more focused because it helps me manage my time better with limited free time due to practices and lots of homework. But I really like it here so far, the whole team really has been great.”
Although he has enjoyed being around all the members of the football team, a couple players have especially been beneficial to Hnatkowsky in his time at Muhlenberg thus far. Nick Savant ’18 and Matthew Stickney ’18 have frequently served as mentors to the freshman quarterback as he comes into this year replacing a Muhlenberg legend.
“I’ve heard that Nick Paladino was a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Hnatkowsky said, speaking of the former Mules record-setting quarterback. “Having teammates like Savant and Stickney have really helped me adjust to playing at Muhlenberg and just adjusting to a new role now as the starting quarterback.” In addition, Hnatkowsky noted that he was learned much from the other quarterbacks on the Muhlenberg roster. But despite being just a freshman, he was rose above them all on the team’s depth chart.
In his first career collegiate start, Hnatkowsky put up amazing numbers. He threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran the ball for a touchdown to give him five total scores on the day. His spectacular effort propelled the Mules to a thrilling 56-40 win over Juniata. All in all, this was more than enough for the Centennial Conference to award Hnatkowsky with Centennial Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Playing football here actually keeps me more focused because it helps me manage my time better with limited free time due to practices and lots of homework.
In this second career start this past weekend against Franklin & Marshall, Hnatkowsky threw for 202 yards and one touchdown. Ultimately, F&M pulled away with a 17-14 victory, despite a second-half comeback push from the Mules.
With another half of the 2017 football season yet to be played, Hnatkowsky still has much to learn. It is amazing what he was already accomplished in his first year as a college quarterback, but he knows that he still has plenty of room to grow as a football player. Hnatkowsky is very excited to see what the rest of the season holds, and he can’t wait to continue going to battle each week with his Muhlenberg teammates.