Hart heads for Bethany

Fayetteville-Perry Rockets senior fullback Justin Hart signs his scholarship letter to play football at Bethany College. Hart is flanked by his mother Shelley Gacek and father Joe Hart, while Fayetteville Athletics Director Tim Carlier stands in the back.

By Daniel Karell


FAYETTEVILLE — The Fayetteville-Perry Rockets football team has churned out another college-ready player.

Last April, fullback Justin Hart committed to attend Bethany College in West Virginia to continue his football career. Located on the northern tip of West Virginia, the Bethany Bison compete in NCAA Division III in all sports and they play in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference, which consists of small-school colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Bethany also competes in the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

“It’s just a great feeling, I’ve been dreaming of it my whole life,” Hart said after making his commitment and signing his letter of intent at a ceremony at Fayetteville High School. “I finally get to go play (college) football.”

The signing put and end to a long recruiting process that began after Hart’s junior year. Hart had interest from Morehead State and even had a one-on-one visit from a coach, but a text message from Bethany College running backs coach Gage Lotozo following Hart’s senior season changed things in a hurry.

“We started talking and after my first visit, I fell in love with the place,” Hart said. “We decided that I would play football there.”

Listed at 5-feet 8-inches tall and 225 lbs., Hart played as a fullback for most of his career with the Rockets. That will change though when he joins up with the Bison, as they play with a spread formation, leaving only one running back in the backfield.

“They want me to actually be a true running back up there,” Hart said. He added that while he thinks his speed and strength will help him at the next level, he needs to continue working on his backfield vision, knowing where the gaps are in the offensive line to run through.

When asked about his favorite memories with the Rockets, Hart pointed to two moments during his senior season; His first touchdown of the season, and what ended up being the only touchdown in a 19-7 defeat to Clermont Northeastern, and his last high school game, when the Rockets beat Miami Valley Christian, 30-23, with a touchdown on the last play of the game.

“I remember I got the ball off a dive play and I bounced it outside because the inside was clogged up,” Hart said. “I just barely got in because I slipped in a little puddle of mud.”

Reach Daniel Karell at 937-378-6161. Follow him on Twitter @GNDKarell