Senior quarterback Will Bardo surveys the field against Robert Morris University Sept. 20 at Welcome Stadium. The Flyers won the contest 31-7. Chris Santucci/Photo Editor.
By: Chris Bendel – Sports Editor
Change saturates the college experience of the University of Dayton’s class of 2015.
Campus has and continues to expand toward the great Miami River and beyond. With an Elite Eight run, Dayton’s men’s basketball program and its new logo re-entered the national spotlight. The annual Dayton 2 Daytona trip gradually became more exclusive.
Amidst these changes, a degree of consistency comes from UD’s football team in the form of four-year starter, redshirt senior quarterback and 2014 team captain Will Bardo. The class of 2015 knows no other Flyer quarterback.
When Pioneer Football League play opens Saturday at Davidson College, Bardo will make career start No. 35.
Bardo’s presence has stabilized the Dayton attack over the last four years and assures the coaching staff peace of mind in almost any situation.
Put simply, Bardo has been there before.
“It gives you a confidence in knowing that you have a young man under the center that’s been there, been there in a number of ways, tough games, coming back from losses, you know how he’s going to respond,” head coach Rick Chamberlin said.
Entering the program in 2010, Bardo redshirted his freshman year and after winning the starting job in 2011, has remained UD’s signal caller ever since.
At 6 feet 3 inches and 210 pounds, Bardo holds the record for career passing attempts with 877 and sits second in almost every offensive measure of a quarterback in the program’s record books.
His 5,282 career passing yards and 6,912 yards of total offense trail only former quarterback Kevin Hoyng, a 2007 graduate and four-year starter in his own right.
While Bardo needs 2,617 yards over the remaining eight games to set the career record for total yards, he focuses on bringing the Pioneer Football League championship back to Dayton instead of keeping tabs on the record books.
“I’ve had a great opportunity. I’ve gotten to start four years now, but I feel like I have a lot to prove this year. We’ve got a lot to prove as a team in bringing the program back to where it was my freshman year,” Bardo said.
He witnessed UD’s last PFL championship in 2010, while on the sidelines during a redshirt season, where the quarterback learned the ins and outs of the Dayton playbook. He is one of nine five-year players on the team who were around for Dayton’s last conference title.
“[Bardo] didn’t disappoint us his freshman year. We prepped him… We felt like Will could become the starter after his freshman year,” Chamberlin said.
In recruiting the state champion from Highlands high school, located just outside the town of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Chamberlin said the coaching staff liked his raw athleticism, complete with a strong arm and speed to excel at the collegiate level.
“Will is a dual threat,” Chamberlin said. “If the pocket breaks down, [Will] is able to get away, to run downfield and get some big hunks of yardage.”
Bardo currently sits third in rushing yards from a quarterback in program history, trailing Hoyng by 26 yards and former quarterback Kelly Spiker, who played his final season in 2002, by 419 yards.
Sticking around for a fifth year also granted Bardo with a unique opportunity he didn’t have during his high school career.
He is teammates with his brother, freshman cornerback Jackson Bardo, who as of yet, hasn’t intercepted any of the older brother’s passes in practice.
“I’m sure the time will come,” Bardo said smiling. “It hasn’t happened yet.”
Unlike the more vocal types of leaders, Bardo said he doesn’t lead by motivating others with fiery pregame speeches. Rather, he leads by example, with confidence.
It’s a confidence manufactured from three-plus years at the helm of the offense and the situational knowledge stemming from that experience.
While reserved by nature, Chamberlin said he’s seen more intensity from Bardo over the last two years especially.
“This year and last year, there’s a little more grittiness from Will around his teammates, a little bit more intensity,” Chamberlin said.
Bardo said his experience under center has boosted his confidence over time, a re-enforcing relationship that has grown season by season.
“What you see is who Will is,” Chamberlin said. “He’s a very reserved young man. He doesn’t get too excited, doesn’t get too low. He’s pretty even keeled which you like in your quarterback.”
“I wasn’t always the ‘rah rah guy,’ saying stuff all the time and I’m still not that guy. I think [playing quarterback] has taught me a little bit how to do that. I’ve learned how to carry myself,” Bardo said.
Now, Bardo hopes to carry his team to another PFL championship, a potential full-circle ending of sorts for the seasoned Flyer quarterback.