Wiser is reason Boone is playing at Lycoming

It wasn’t uncommon for Duane Boone’s phone to ring while he was in high school as a senior. He would look down and see it was Lycoming defensive coordinator Steve Wiser and excuse himself to take the call.

“I’d be like, ‘what do you want, coach?'” Boone reminisced earlier this week. “And he’d just be like, ‘nothing, how’s you day going?'”

Boone smiles now as he tells that story. The calls from Wiser to the Tyrone High School senior were consistent if nothing else. Boone really didn’t have any intentions of playing football in college. He never thought that route was for him.

But Wiser is a self-proclaimed “pain in the ass” when it comes to recruiting players he really likes. And in the heart of his recruiting territory in central Pennsylvania, Wiser saw a chiseled human being coming off an all-state season for the district champion Golden Eagles whose talent was probably better than Division III Lycoming. But there was an opportunity with Boone unsure about college.

Wiser called often and built a relationship with the defensive lineman who ran through blockers with aplomb, and destroyed ballcarriers as if his next breath of air depended on it.

“Wise is the reason I came here. Strictly for Wise,” Boone said of the man who has spent the last 50 years involved as both a player and a coach with the Warriors. “It seemed like he really cared about me. And when I got here, he still cared about me and made sure I was doing well in school. He’d ask how things were going and just check up on me every day. That made me want to come here and play for him.”

Boone is set the play the penultimate game of his college football career today as Lycoming travels to Lebanon Valley riding a two-game winning streak. The path to this point has been anything but linear for the senior criminal justice major. But it’s a path which has shaped who he is and probably changed the entire course of his life.

And much of it is largely thanks to the effort Wiser put forth in initially getting him to Lycoming. Sure, there were speed bumps along the way. He was hurt in the preseason of his freshman year with the Warriors, and the next year he transferred to Duquesne because he believed he should be playing at a higher level. There was even the 2017 season when he didn’t play any football.

But in the end, there was always Lycoming. A year ago, Boone was solid in a backup role as a defensive end. Playing behind all-conference end Sam Romanofsky and outstanding freshman Matt Stankiewicz, among others. But Boone was always a consistent presence. He finished the year with 29 tackles.

He’s found a different gear this year, though. He’s been Lycoming’s most consistent, and probably it’s dangerous, defensive lineman. Boone enters today’s game seventh in the Middle Atlantic Conference in tackles for loss, averaging more than one per game. His 39 tackles are second-most on the team behind linebacker Sam Pawlikowski.

This is the player Wiser saw when he recruited Boone. This is the player who recorded 15 1/2 tackles for loss as a junior at Tyrone and 20 1/2 more as a senior, his only two years of high school football as a Golden Eagle after moving there from New York.

“Sometimes it just takes time,” Lycoming coach Mike Clark said. “Jarrin Campman wasn’t an all-conference player until he was a senior and that’s probably a pretty good comparison. Sometimes the game finally slows down. He wasn’t here the whole time and he had the injury. I don’t think the light finally went on because we had seen glimpses before. But I think he’s finally matured and become a complete player.”

Boone never expected to be in this position. After his career at Tyrone came to a close, he assumed he’d just go right to work, punching in and out at some factory job. Of course, there was always a military option as well.

Nobody in Boone’s family had ever graduated from college so it never seemed like a logical path for himself until Wiser came calling. And when he needed time away from football this spring to get a job to help pay for school and help his family back home, Clark and the coaching staff gladly lightened his football load during spring ball to allow him to basically work full-time at FedEx while he went to school as well.

“The coaches knew the situation I was in and they knew I had to work and they knew it was the best thing for me at the time,” Boone said. “So they took all that into consideration and did the best they could to help me. But during the fall, I’m fully committed to football.”

Boone is a quiet individual who likes to keep to himself. Getting close to others has never been something which has come easy for him. But at Lycoming he found a family he wasn’t expecting to find.

After a year at Duquesne, financially he couldn’t afford to attend the school anymore. He was talking with fellow defensive lineman Ahmad Curtis who assured Boone he always had family at Lycoming who would welcome him back with open arms. Boone didn’t hesitate this week to call Curtis his brother. During his senior speech he gave to the rest of the team, as each Warrior senior does, he spoke about what Wiser meant to him and the family atmosphere he’s encountered at Lycoming.

Boone’s never been one to express those kind of feelings before, but a lot of things have changed in his time at Lycoming. His future looks far brighter than the days where he was expecting to punch in and punch out of a factory job. He hopes to use his criminal justice degree, which he’ll graduate with this year, to become a state trooper, a local police officer or work in any kind of law enforcement.

Choosing path has been important for Boone and his entire family. He wants to show the next generation of his family the path he once thought was impossible is far from just a dream.

“There’s a lot of people in similar situations who don’t figure it out the way some of these kids do,” Clark said. “When it works and they experience success, I think it’s awesome for those kids.”

“Coming here changed a big course in my life,” Boone said. “Coming from where I’m coming from, a lot of people don’t get here. So showing them that you can get here and be who you are means a lot to me. It means I’ll be setting up a legacy for my family and setting up a route that more people should take in my family.”