GREENVILLE – Greenville senior Ryan Eldridge will suit up this fall for the Wittenberg Tigers, the same as his high school coach, Aaron Shaffer, did 19 years ago.
Eldridge, the son of Mark and Julie Eldridge signed his letter of intent Wednesday afternoon to play college football for the Wittenberg University, a program with a winning tradition.
“Signing with Wittenberg means a lot to me and especially my family,” Eldridge said. “I know I made my mom and dad proud once I signed, and coach Shaffer especially since he’s an alum there.
“I can’t put in words how excited I am to go play football for Wittenberg and win football games.”
Coach Shaffer and his wife both are Wittenberg alumni where Shaffer played from 1995-98 and served as an assistant coach for the university from 1999-2004.
Shaffer served as a big influence and inspiration for Eldridge in pursuing a college education while continuing his love for the game of football.
“He (Shaffer) is like a second father to me,” Eldridge said. “He has helped me so much with this recruiting process. When he came in my junior year I didn’t know what to expect. I’m very proud of coach Shaffer. He is turning this football program around here.”
The younger Eldridge followed in his father Mark’s footsteps as a running back toting the football for the green and white on Friday nights for the Green Wave.
“He was pretty good,” an admiring Eldridge said when speaking of his father. “We joke around who was faster. He tells me I am stronger than him. My dad was a good player. He made it to the playoffs his senior year. I think my dad is happy how I played my four years here.
“It’s going to be weird wearing a different jersey,” Eldridge said. “I’m always going to bleed green and white, but my next four years, Wittenberg is going to be my new home, and I am very excited for that.”
“He (Eldridge) was the silent type. He was a good character kid that played hard,” Shaffer said. “The thing that’s been the difficult thing for me, I don’t know that really as I senior if we really got to see him do what he could do. He dinged up the ankle and played though through it the whole season, but he still had a tremendous year.
“I couldn’t imagine what he could have done for us had he stayed healthy,” Shaffer said. “He has always been a lot of fun. He is a good kid, works hard and comes from a good family. It definitely was a pleasure to coach him.”
Joe Fincham became Wittenberg’s head coach for Shaffer’s sophomore season of college football.
In his 18 seasons as Wittenberg’s head coach Fincham has a 164-37 record. He has never had a losing season and only had one non-winning record, a 5-5 mark in 2005. Since 2007 the Tigers have had two or fewer losses each season.
“Ryan (Eldridge) is the second to commit to Wittenberg with Kyle Bruner the first,” Shaffer said. “I’m happy for all of our guys that go off and play, but when I can have guys, the quality players and good students and good people go to my alma mater, that makes me feel good.”
Eldridge hopes to continue to carry the pigskin at Wittenberg but is happy to play where he is most needed.
“I’m going to go there and try to play tailback,” Eldridge said. “I’ll probably play some slot but wherever the coach is going to need me, wherever he is going to play me, wherever I can get on the field fastest.”