Wesleyan's Tight End Proves to be the Complete Package
Ben Kurtz knew he wanted to come to Wesleyan. In fact, it was the only school he applied to coming out of Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, where he set team records as a wide receiver for most receiving yards in a season (1,022) and a game (301). But when Kurtz came to campus as freshman, he learned he would be lining up in a different position, tight end.
Then head coach and now Athletic Director Mike Whalen '83 said his staff told Kurtz that, "as a tight end, he would have good to great speed and would be a tougher matchup for the guys trying to cover him." Current head coach Dan DiCenzo stated, "He was big and strong so we knew he would be able to block guys, but he also had good hands which would make him a threat." DiCenzo continued, "We knew he could be a hybrid tight end, with great size, speed and hands, who can be a downfield threat." Kurtz jumped at the opportunity to become a tight end for Wesleyan. "It ended up being a great fit for me," he said.
For Kurtz, playing tight end is the best of both worlds as he can "catch passes while playing a more physical position with a lot of contact." Whalen said, "you could see it was only a matter of time before he physically developed and became a complete tight end." DiCenzo notes that Kurtz has gotten bigger and faster and he [Kurtz] had a great guy to learn from in Jon Day '15. "When Ben came in, Jon was a senior, and Ben got to play behind him and watch how he played, trained and prepared. It showed him what he needed to do to be a great player."
Kurtz was named a tri-captain for this year's team, which was a bit surprising to DiCenzo because of his injury riddled junior season. "He got hurt after four games last year, and for him to still be voted a team captain by his teammates after missing half the season shows what the guys think of him," DiCenzo said. Kurtz noted that he is not much of a ra-ra guy, and he lets his play do the talking for him. "I'm more of a lead by example type," Kurtz went onto say, "I think that when I do speak up and have something to say, it means more because it's not something I do often." DiCenzo says that on the field Kurtz isn't afraid to speak up if he notices something isn't right. "He's very in-tune with the offense and what everyone should be doing, and he's usually quick to point it out to others."
For some, making the jump from high school to NESCAC football can be quite a challenge, and for Kurtz it was no different, but his mindset and competitive personality helped to ease the transition. "Once you get into college, everybody isn't just good, everybody is really good," Kurtz said about the level of competition. "You really have to push yourself because the person behind you and the person in front of you are both working hard to either keep their spot or take yours, it's sink or swim." Kurtz swam his freshman year as he played in seven of the Cardinals eight games that season, and has been a valuable part of the offense ever since. DiCenzo says the senior is an extremely valuable asset to the Wesleyan offense, which is one of the best in the league. "You could tell that when he got hurt last year we weren't the same on offense." DiCenzo said, "We lost a big part of our offense and it showed. He is a big offensive threat for us, and it's great to have him back."
Playing at home at Corwin Stadium at Andrus Field, which is the oldest continuously used collegiate football field in the United States, means a lot to Kurtz. He enjoys playing in the middle of campus, a location which "shows off Wesleyan well since it's the most beautiful part of campus." Playing at home has been an advantage for the Cardinals, who own a 12-2 record at Corwin Stadium during his four years thus far. Kurtz feels playing at home becomes even more of an advantage when the team isn't playing great. "When you come home after not playing well, the crowd really picks you up and gets you going. They keep the energy going and you want to play well for them," and so far Kurtz and the rest of the Cardinals have kept the energy up with their winning ways.
DiCenzo says that recruiting isn't an exact science and sometimes guys don't end up looking like what they did on film, but Kurtz turned out to be "everything we'd thought he'd be and more."
Written by Lauren Dellipoali, Athletic Communications Intern