He didn’t appear in the box score, but a former Loveland High School Tiger got into the game Sept. 5 when the University of Cincinnati made its triumphant return to Nippert Stadium.
Redshirt freshman tight end Jake Elfers, a proud member of Loveland’s Division II 2013 state champions, was a listed participant in the Bearcats 52-10 rout of Alabama A&M. It was his first official football game since the snow-filled Tiger championship against Cleveland Glenville about 21 months ago.
As a walk-on, he wasn’t officially on UC’s roster last season, but did attend games.
“It was a different experience, especially coming from a state championship high school team and playing such a big role,” Elfers said. “I couldn’t participate, travel or dress at all. It was different, but it was good to learn the offense on the sideline from some great leaders.”
Back on the field wearing No. 89, Elfers is currently third in the tight end mix behind junior D.J. Dowdy and sophomore Tyler Cogswell. As a senior at Loveland, Elfers was actually the team’s top receiver with 17 catches for 164 yards in 2013.
In the postseason, he had 10 more receptions for 126 yards and a pair of scores. One of them came in the snow at Canton against Glenville.
“It was a fairy tale,” Elfers said of the blustery night. “You couldn’t write a script better than that. I’m thankful for everything about it. I appreciate and treasure it and I still think about it today.”
Two seasons removed, Elfers still keeps in contact with Loveland coach Fred Cranford. The Tigers were unable to advance past the regular season last year and struggled out of the gate this season. Though the 2013 class set the bar very high, he hopes to see Loveland in the playoffs again.
Perhaps more difficult than watching Loveland miss the tournament last season was not being able to suit up for a year. Elfers and several others now on the UC roster had to bide their time and watch from a distance.
“When you sit out, it teaches you how much you appreciate the game,” Elfers said. “You don’t know what you have until it’s taken away from you. I’m hungry. Hungry would be an understatement.”
When he officially left Loveland in cap and gown, the former Tiger pass-catcher and basketball center had 195 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame. Now, he’s up to 235 pounds and growing as the youngest tight end on the team.
“When you’re third in line, you’re one snap away, especially in a two tight end set,” Elfers said. “D.J. (Dowdy)’s a great guy and Tyler (Cogswell) is a great backup. I’ve learned a lot from both of them on and off the field. I’m ready to go when my name’s called.”
As his eligibility clock just started this season, Elfers has this fall and three more to come to return to the coveted end zone.