first_imgSteve Probst has only known the spread offense. For the last seven seasons — his entire high school and collegiate football career — Probst has quarterbacked an offense running a variation of that system. He learned and mastered the spread in four years under the tutelage of head coach Buddy Krumenacker at Farmingdale (N.Y.) High School. Krumenacker said Probst demonstrated a clear command of the offense and the ability to make reads at game speed throughout his career. ‘He’d make a read on the defensive end and pull the ball, and usually, then the edge is covered by the outside linebacker,’ Krumenacker said. ‘He’d beat the outside linebacker and take it up the field.’ Rutgers, Syracuse and Temple were all interested. Instead, Probst landed at Hofstra, a Football Championship Subdivision team. Since then, he has transferred to Rhode Island, where he’s about to begin his senior year. In a career riddled with hardships, Probst has emerged as a leader of the Rams. And 2011 is his last chance for a big season after overcoming a slew of difficult situations.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text After picking apart defenses for the first half of his senior year at Farmingdale, injury struck Probst. Two broken bones in his foot right in the middle of the season. Farmingdale persevered with Probst on the sidelines, reaching the Long Island championship game and giving him a chance to return for the final game. He displayed rare toughness, playing through pain in what turned out to be a Farmingdale loss. The bones in Probst’s heel have long since healed, but that competitive flame is still burning. It has allowed him to win tougher battles than a couple of broken bones. Probst and Rhode Island (0-0, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association) face another tough challenge this weekend when they take on Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Syracuse (1-0, 0-0 Big East) in the Carrier Dome. Compared to what he’s been through, facing a stronger, faster Big East opponent isn’t as daunting as it seems. The Farmingdale product was looked at by FBS schools but didn’t receive any offers. He took his only offer at Hofstra and remained on Long Island to begin his collegiate career. ‘Teams that looked at me heavily, I got looked at by Villanova a little bit,’ Probst said. ‘But Hofstra was my only offer coming out of high school.’ Even as a true freshman, Probst’s combination of size and athleticism set him apart from other players. Probst had a knack for escaping seemingly hopeless situations, former Hofstra linebacker Basim Hudeen said. So much so, his teammates dubbed him ‘Slippery Steve.’ In his first career action against Maine, he lived up to the nickname. Probst remembers countless reminders from coaches in the practices leading up to that game. With starting quarterback Bryan Savage already on the shelf, he was only ‘one play away’ from getting in the game. And when Cory Christopher broke his hip after a lengthy run in the second quarter, Probst was ready. But as he entered the huddle for his first collegiate snap, his teammates weren’t ready. The poised Probst provided some assurance. ‘I was just trying to tell those guys to give me a chance,’ he said. ‘Let’s see how it goes. Let’s just ride.’ With Probst holding the reigns, Hofstra came back to force double overtime. He racked up 135 yards and three touchdowns through the air, often using his mobility to extend plays. He rushed for another 63 yards. But unfortunately, the ride was short-lived. Probst all but benched himself for the Pride against New Hampshire in 2008. With Hofstra’s top two quarterbacks sidelined by injuries, Probst was thrown into the fire for most of his freshman season. In his third start, everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong. Probst threw five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. He didn’t complete a pass longer than 21 yards. As he jogged off the field after one interception, Probst’s teammate, linebacker Luke Bonus, jogged on with the defense and gave the then-18-year-old Probst a piece of advice. ‘I couldn’t help but laugh as he came off the field after one of the interceptions.’ Bonus said. ‘I just said, ‘Hey man, just keep throwing. Just keep slinging ‘em,” And he did, as the problem wasn’t confidence for Probst. Nor was it the will to win. He was just unprepared after taking third-string reps in practice for the early part of the season. After that five-interception debacle, Probst became more meticulous in studying opposing defenses. He spent extra hours in the film room. He overcame his early-season jitters and grew more comfortable on the field. He proved again he could also be an elusive ball carrier despite his 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound frame. Probst was better in his three games after New Hampshire, throwing three touchdowns and rushing for another, while throwing three interceptions total. But in the offseason following his sophomore season, Probst was thrown another curveball. Probst and his teammates were pulled out of class by head coach Dave Cohen for an emergency meeting Dec. 3, 2009. When Cohen introduced Athletic Director Jack Hayes to speak, Probst and many of his teammates thought Cohen had been fired. Cohen was in fact leaving Hofstra, but he would not be alone. Hayes announced that funding had been pulled for the football program. ‘There were hard feelings all around: sadness, anger, confusion,’ Bonus said. ‘I think speaking from my standpoint, I am very angry still. I want nothing to do with Hofstra. As long as they don’t have a football team there, I will never support that school.’ Representatives from other universities came the next day to recruit the Hofstra players, some already prepared to offer scholarships. The players would not be forced to sit out the next season because of the unusual circumstances. Among the coaches was a trio from Rhode Island that was interested in adding Probst. Head coach Joe Trainer and assistants Roy Istvan and Eddie Allen made their pitch. ‘They kind of came in and they offered me a scholarship and said, ‘Look, you can play here. We’re in a similar offense, and we’d love to have you,” Probst said. Just like that, he was a Ram. Though he did not have to sit out, Trainer said Probst came to Rhode Island with every intention of redshirting. But when starter Chris Paul-Etienne went down before the season opener against Buffalo, Probst was once again forced into action. Fortunately, he was used to an accelerated learning curve after his time at Hofstra. As a junior, Probst led the Rams with 1,876 passing yards and nine touchdowns through the air. He tacked on 600 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Many of those 16 scores were a product of Probst’s split-second decision-making, including one of the biggest: the first play of overtime against Brown. Probst stood in the shotgun formation, inspecting the Bears’ defense. He was watching one of the defensive ends in particular. If the end hung back, he would hand the ball off to the running back that stood next to him. But if the end rushed, Probst would take it himself. Calling for the snap, Probst saw the end sprint forward. He followed the running back up the middle. Twenty-five yards later, he gave Rhode Island the go-ahead score. ‘We ran the zone-read play where I just kept the ball, and the offensive line did a great job of blocking it,’ Probst said. ‘I kind of wasn’t thinking, I was just running.’ Now a senior, Probst enters the season as the starter for the first time in his college career. Rhode Island quarterbacks coach Liam Coen said Probst spent the offseason cleaning up his footwork by emphasizing a ‘good feet, good head, good throw’ mentality. Against Syracuse, Probst will have his first chance to show that improvement. Prepared, comfortable and locked in, Probst appears in the right mindset to once again try to beat the odds by beating SU. Compared to the adversities of playing through broken bones and the folding of a football program, Probst said defeating Syracuse could be a plausible task. ‘Everything that’s happened in the past doesn’t matter,’ Probst said. ‘Right now, the score against Syracuse is 0-0, so if we all come out and do our jobs, it’ll be a fun day, and we’ll see what happens when the clock hits zero.’ [email protected] Published on September 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Stephen: [email protected] | @Stephen_Bailey1 Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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