DRIVEN SAFETY

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

BOCA RATON Kris Bartels collided with a Kansas ball carrier so hard the sophomore safety drifted in and out of consciousness for a few moments in the season opener.

Shortly after Bartels was helped from the field, he wanted to go back in. But his return was delayed because the training staff, knowing Bartels would want to play, had hidden his helmet.

"I barely remember what happened," Bartels said. "I got a stinger and a headache. When I see it on film, it still makes my shoulder hurt."

Forget about personal safety. He just wants to make the next play.

It's a strategy Bartels has used to go from a player who didn't even start for his high school team to the Owls' leading tackler this season.

It certainly isn't his size that has elevated him to among FAU's best defensive players this season.

At 5-feet-10, 190 pounds Bartels isn't physically imposing, but he plays as if he were.

At Chaminade-Madonna, Bartels was a backup to Jon Beason, who is now a linebacker at Miami.

"He never complained about his playing time..." said Chaminade-Madonna coach Mark Guandolo. "He has a lot of heart and you don't see that measure much anymore. He's a guy that will give you everything he has."

Bartels eventually worked his way into the lineup but not soon enough to garner attention from colleges. He went to FAU and begged for a shot to walk on.

"He has that desire that a lot of kids don't have," said Kris' father, Jack Bartels, who coached his son in the Optimist leagues in Broward County. "He's always been that way. Don't tell him he can't do something, because he'll do it."

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger noticed Bartels' attitude last season when he played on the scout team. Schnellenberger put the unknown player in as the Owls' starting strong safety early in this season's training camp.

"He's there because he's earned it," Schnellenberger said. "Last year on special teams he played well, and he's getting experience."

Bartels has responded with 37 tackles and ran back a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

Bartels isn't the first to crack FAU's starting lineup as a walk-on.

Five years ago linebacker Chris Laskowski was a walk-on freshman impressing the coaching staff until they finally gave him a shot.

Laskowski, who graduated last year as FAU's all-time leading tackler, sees a bit of himself in Bartels, who has excelled at safety and, like Laskowski, earned a scholarship.

"I guess he could be a lot like me, Laskowski said. "We just sometimes talk about the way you approach the game. He plays very hard. I'm proud of him."

Noteworthy: Sophomore wide receiver Frantz Simeon received a sprained left ankle against Louisville and is questionable for Thursday's game.... Freshman right tackle John Rizzo, who made his first career start in place of Antes Perkins (sprained shoulder), suffered a sprained left ankle. Perkins may return to the lineup