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Wednesday

April 2014

23

Football

Pendergast finds national treasures

Former Arrowhead standout helped Whitewater win three national football titles

Not one. Not two. Not three.

Well, OK, maybe three.

No, those are not the championship promises made by LeBron James when he signed his historic multi-million dollar deal to play basketball with the Miami Heat. But those are exactly the number of national NCAA Division 3 football championships that former Arrowhead High School standout Chris Pendergast was a part of during his four-year career with the UW-Whitewater Warhawks.

To win one national collegiate title at any level, whether in the glamorous Division 1 competition or at the lowest level college sports, is special. But to win three national championships, that's something that seldom ever happens.

"My entire experience at Whitewater has been something special, something I'll never forget," said Pendergast, who will graduate this spring with a business degree and an impressive 3.5 grade point average. "The football experience was unbelievable, the education was outstanding and I made a lot of great friends. Picking Whitewater was one of the best decisions I've ever made."

Being a member of three national football championships made it all that more special.

The championship run started in 2009 when the Warhawks went 15-0 and defeated national powerhouse Mount Union in the title game in Salem, Va., 38-28. Pendergast, a scout team player that year as a freshman, was a member of that team but did not suit up for the championship game.

Whitewater made it two consecutive national titles in 2010 when Pendergast was a sophomore. That year, the Warhawks stopped Mount Union in the title contest, 31-21. Pendergast played on the special teams, specifically the kickoff team and the kickoff return team. The 5-foot-9, 188-pounder also played several games in the defensive backfield. Once again, they went 15-0 on the year.

As things would play out, 2011 was a magical season for the former football, baseball and track standout at Arrowhead. He not only was a member of that title-winning team which beat Mount Union 13-10, in the finals in Virginia, but he played a prominent role in the championship game. He made a clutch interception that stopped a potential scoring drive by Mount Union and also made the final tackle of the game, which clinched the crown for the Warhawks. For the third straight season, they went 15-0 on the year.

Big title game performance

Pendergast, who had his best season in 2011, finished the year with 28 tackles as a starting defensive back. He also had a fumble recovery and two interceptions, both of which came in the NCAA playoffs.

"Making that interception and that final tackle made the national championship extra special for me," Pendergast said. "You can't believe how exciting it is to not only play in the three straight national title games, but to win all three. Like I said before, my experience at Whitewater is something I'll remember forever."

After winning three straight crowns, this past fall didn't go as planned for Pendergast or for the Warhawks. After playing in the national title game for a state-record seven consecutive years, Whitewater missed the playoffs this year, falling to a disappointing 7-3 season.

Not only did the team struggle, but the starting D-back had all kinds of trouble staying healthy and staying on the field. He struggled with a sore knee and a hip pointer. He ended the year with 11 tackles and did not play in two games. His best game came against River Falls when he made a season-best 6 tackles.

"I just couldn't get healthy all year," Pendergast said. "I got hurt in the Buffalo game and then got hurt again against Stout. That was disappointing to me. But it still was a great experience."

Final bow

The season ended on a very special note for Pendergast. His team not only defeated UW-La Crosse on the final Saturday of the season, but he got to play against his younger brother Jordy. Jordy started at linebacker for La Crosse (along with former Arrowhead standout Jack Leahy), and Chris started at defensive back for the Warhawks.

"To play the final game of my career against my brother was outstanding," Chris said. "It was one of the memories I'll never forget. We didn't say too much to each other before the game. We just shook hands, wished each other luck and got back to our own business."

In his four years at Whitewater, the team compiled an impressive record of 52-3 to go along with the three national titles.

"When I got to Whitewater, I was hoping to play right away," Pendergast said. "But I found out I had to get a lot bigger. I was 18 years old playing against guys 21 and 22. I started working my butt off right away and did a lot of lifting. As things turned out, all of that hard work paid some big dividends."

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