- Scott Barboza, ESPN Staff Writer
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For Catholic Memorial senior Kevin Bletzer, the changing of the seasons is marked with an exchange of sporting equipment.
A three-sport captain who’ll graduate to Boston College next year and play football, the Medfield native makes – what appears to be – a seamless transition from one to the next.
But even for a Division 1-caliber athlete, there’s one time of the year that’s particularly challenging. It comes the week after Thanksgiving, when the football spikes go in the closet and the skates come out.
“It’s like walking on water,” Bletzer said. “It’s brutal.”
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is a jack-of-all-trades.
On the football field, Bletzer has been a Swiss Army knife for the Knights – lining up at cornerback, safety and inside and outside linebaker on defense, while playing running back, full back, tight end, wide receiver and even a little quarterback. He even returned punts during his high school career.
When lacrosse season comes, he’s heat-seeking missile in the defensive midfield while enough stick still to play in the offensive half as well. Earlier in his high school career, Bletzer had offers in hand from UMass-Amherst and Penn State for lacrosse.
Then there’s Bletzer’s “first love.”
“I remember my dad putting me in Learn to Skate and I absolutely hated it,” Bletzer said of his earliest hockey memories. “My feet hurt in the skates, and we weren’t actually playing hockey, we were just skating around. It was brutal.
“But then, when we started playing, a lot of my friends that I’m still playing with now were the ones I played with then. I was hooked.”
Since around the age of 3, when his father, Kurt, first laced up his skates, Kevin’s been a rink rat in the winter. That also extends to the Bletzer family’s ice sheet in the backyard, where Kevin, younger brother, Kurt, and members of CM’s hockey team can be found just about any afternoon.
With a program rich in tradition as Knights hockey is under the direction of Bill Hanson, many Boston-area skaters dream of pulling on Montreal Canadiens’ style “CM” sweater. For many, it’s the zenith of their life in the game.
But, for Bletzer, with a promising future on the gridiron ahead of him, a major decision came during his junior season, last year, when he considered giving up one of his passions in order to pursue a full-fledged shot at big time college football.
“I asked him if he could do me a favor, I told him I needed him in the locker room,” Hanson said of a conversation he had with Bletzer during tryouts last year. “He hadn’t developed as a hockey player that way we thought he would, but that’s because he hasn’t played as much as everybody else. But I knew we were going to be young last year and we needed him in that room.”
Bletzer had resigned himself to running track and putting extra time in the weight room, preparing for football season. That experiment lasted a couple of days before his hunger to return to the ice took over.
“I was like, ‘This is all we do?’” Bletzer said. “I was missing it too much.”
Bletzer rejoined the team, contributing to a Knights team that endured a first-round, best-of-three Super 8 tournament duel with archrival BC High, before bowing out to eventual champion Malden Catholic in the semifinals.
“He ended up having a hell of a year,” Hanson added.
And so the challenge for Bletzer and Co. entering the 2013-14 season was how to keep that momentum going. For Bletzer, himself, naturally, it takes a little while to get going.
“It takes about a month to get your skating legs back,” Bletzer said after a recent practice at the Cleveland Circle rink, a stone’s throw from BC’s Alumni Stadium. “The hardest part of the transition is getting to the point where I was at the end of the last season.”
Not matter how the Knights season might end, however, this will be Bletzer’s last go playing competitive hockey. And, as soon as lacrosse season concludes, he’s divesting his former interests to jump into football entirely.
While those elements of Bletzer’s athletic career will go away, it’s part of what made him alluring to BC’s coaching staff.
Bletzer first’s Division 1 FBS scholarship offer was his last, as he gave his verbal commitment to the Eagles following their camp in June. He received the call that the Eagles intended to offer him from assistant coach Ryan Day while he was at a lacrosse tournament with his Laxachusetts travel team.
Even though Bletzer has yet to sign his National Letter of Intent, Steve Addazio and staff didn’t want him to deviate from his original plan.
“They were more than OK with me playing every single sport because they liked that about me,” Bletzer said. “Just as long as I know, after lacrosse season, that’s it’s all football, and just to be ready for that.”
The intent is for Bletzer to work with Eagles defensive backs coach Kevin Lempa as a safety when he arrives at the Heights.
It will mark yet another transition for Bletzer. But for a player who’s prided himself on versatility and doing whatever is required for his team, it seems a natural progression.
“Not very many freshman make the varsity football team at CM,” Knight football head coach and athletic director Alex Campea said. “At the time he made the team, we had some pretty talented kids on that team -- Cam Williams, Armani Reeves, A.J. Doyle. They really took him under his wing and were great teammates to him. They showed him the ropes.
“Now, in his time, he’s done that for his teammates, too, which is really an indication of his leadership qualities.”
For now, Bletzer’s focused on making the most of hockey season, taking advantage of even the smallest time with his younger brother. With a sizeable contingent of players from Medfield on this year’s roster, Kevin Bletzer’s led the morning caravan to West Roxbury, then to the rink, then home, and then maybe some time for a little pond hockey.
“I think this hockey season has been a breath of fresh air for him,” Hanson said. “He’s playing with his brother, he’s captain of the team and playing for a team that is really a great group of kids to be around.
“This team is kind of like a group of kids who play pond hockey, that’s how they approach the game together, in games, too – they’re having fun.”
3dMike Scandura, Special to ESPNBoston.com
8dBrendan C. Hall
9dBrendan C. Hall
10dMike Scandura, Special to ESPNBoston.com
11dBrendan C. Hall