KENT - Nov. 17, 2012.
It's a date Luke Wollet won't forget anytime soon.
The Poland Seminary High School graduate and Kent State University senior safety's interception late in last year's game in Bowling Green sealed the victory and the Mid-American Conference, East Division title - the first one for KSU in almost four decades.
It was one of many highlights the Golden Flashes had as they advanced to their first bowl game to cap an 11-3 season.
Saturday, Kent State hosts the Falcons at Dix Stadium - starting at noon.
"It was a pretty special moment for me just because of all the events that happened leading up to that week. It's a moment I'll cherish forever," said the 6-foot, 198-pound senior safety. "As far as last season, I really don't even think about it anymore. I got new goals. Last season is in the past. I focus on this year."
He started off the 2013 campaign with five tackles in the Golden Flashes 17-10 victory Thursday against Liberty - the university, not the area high school.
Wollet hopes those tackles add up to the team lead - just like last year's linebacker Luke Batton did, pacing KSU with 143 tackles. Wollet was second on the team with 119.
"My biggest focus is stepping up and making more plays this year, really taking on that role Batton had last year," Wollet said. "We have a lot of great players on our defense, a lot guys like Roosevelt Nix, Darius Polk, a lot of guys that are stepping up and doing a great job. If we can come together, that's the most important goal right now."
One player in particular Wollet knows quite well is Canfield High School graduate Jordan Italiano, who also plays safety.
"Jordan is an extremely hard worker," Wollet said of the 5-10, 207-pound sophomore. "He pushes me because I see how hard he works. If he's not watching film, he's lifting, he's doing something. When he first got here, I tried to take him under my wing, but he's really grown into his own player and own person. He doesn't need my help anymore. He's about to breakout this year. I'm excited to see him grow."
Italiano earned a more significant role on defense this season, making the starting roster before the season started.
"It's a good feeling," he said. "It's a nice opportunity for me. I truly appreciate that just because he kind of sees the hard work coming off. You work so hard and you finally see, 'Ok, now it's your shot. Now, make the most of it.'"
Italiano added Wollet is a hard worker.
"He has great instincts, great intelligence," Italiano said. "He's always out here working, pushing himself to his full potential so he can be the best he can be."
Kent State coach Paul Haynes said Wollet has great instincts for the game.
"I think he's a passionate guy who is one those guys that you say wear it on your sleeve," Haynes said. "He always does. He has a chip on his shoulder. He will tell you from Day 1 no one recruited him. He's out to prove it every single day that he belongs as a Division I athlete. I think that's first and foremost, where his passion lies.
"He has a knack for the ball. You don't get honors for tackles at DB. You get honors for making plays and getting your hands on the ball. That's the thing he has done well. He's a good leader. He brings a lot of energy to the game. He brings a lot of passion. That's what you want out of that position."
Wollet was trying to make an impression on Haynes, who is in his first season at KSU.
"Anytime you have a new coaching staff, it's always a personal challenge to try to show them you're a leader and want to be a contributor to this team," Wollet said. "It's just like a new boss. They're looking for jobs and you try to fill one of those jobs. It's exciting and remotivates you at the same time. You have to bring your best everyday. No complacency."
Maybe that hard work will land Wollet in the NFL?
"You always hear a bunch of talk on the outside," Wollet said. "I know my weakness and strengths. Every day I come out here and try to get better. I know all the way from coach (Jon) Heacock to coach (Brian) George. I give 100 percent each day. I know I have a ton of weakness and a lot of things I know people in the NFL are going to say, 'He's not tall enough. He's not big enough.' I will always be outworking whoever I'm going against. I'm always trying to get a step up on them. Maybe one team will see that and give me an opportunity."