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Hartselle Enquirer

School size does not always matter

By Staff
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
There's a story in today's paper that everyone can be proud of, not just those in Priceville. Ryan Kirschbaum, a junior forward on the Bulldogs soccer team, was named to the 2005 Super All-State Soccer Team by the Birmingham News on June 13.
It is always an honor for a local player to receive accolades from such a major publication, but the award is made all the greater by the fact that the Super All-State Team is comprised of players from all classifications in the AHSAA.
Kirschbaum is one of just three players from a Class 2A school to make the 20-member Super All-State Team. Of the 20 members of the team, 15 played at either a Class 5A or 6A school.
Small schools got even more love this year, as Class 2A Holy Spirit's Fernando Zambrano was named the Super All-State Player of the Year.
Kirschbaum said that he was "surprised" by the honor because he didn't think anybody would pay attention to a school the size of Priceville. But a fact of sports is that sometimes the best talent can be found in the most unlikely of places.
I attended tiny little Westbrook Christian School in Rainbow City and at the time the Warriors participated in Class 1A, the smallest of AHSAA classifications. At the time, Westbrook Christian had a prep quarterback who started to break all kinds of state and national records. His name might be familiar to some of you – Brodie Croyle.
Recruiting gurus and coaches from across the country came to watch Croyle play and left drooling about the talent this kid from a tiny private Christian school possessed. By the time he was a senior, Croyle was regarded by some as the top quarterback prospect in the country, and it was considered an absolute steal when he signed to play football at Alabama.
The fact that Croyle's school didn't even have enough students for a marching band, or that his graduating class only had 52 students (including your humble columnist) didn't change the fact that his talent was exceptional. It's the same case with Kirschbaum, who is more proof that the smaller Alabama schools have their own share of talent as well.
Sports is full of players or teams from smaller schools who have made it big. The Denver Broncos' Jerry Rice cut his teeth not at a football factory like Miami or Michigan, but at Division I-AA Mississippi Valley State. Scottie Pippen, who won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, was a college standout at the University of Central Arkansas. And of course, the granddaddy of all small-school-makes-it-big stories is tiny little Milan High School in Indiana, immortalized as Hickory High in the big screen sports drama Hoosiers.
It's players like Kirschbaum that are an inspiration to any young athlete who is worried that his or her small school or hometown won't get enough publicity or respect. As 5-foot-8 former Ohio State football star Archie Griffin is famous for saying, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." This season, Kirschbaum was a Bulldog with plenty of fight.

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