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By Rob Kiser Call Sports Editor
One of the most asked questions in Piqua has been answered.
Piqua quarterback Justin Hemm has made his college choice.
Hemm will be a preferred walk on at Ball State, adding to the Piqua pipeline to Muncie.
Piqua football coach Bill Nees, like others close to Hemm, has been asked the question about Hemm's future for sometime now.
"This is going to solve things for a lot of people," Nees said with a smile. "This will probably slow things down for me now."
Hemm, understandably so considering his talent, also has been asked the question a number of times.
"I got the question a lot around signing day (in January)," he said. "Then it slowed down a little bit, but it has picked up as late."
It is a question he will no longer have to answer and the choice of Ball State was an easy one.
"The only other Division I offer I got was from Navy," Hemm said. "And I wasn't ready to make that kind of commitment (to the armed services). I had some offers from other small schools, but it wasn't as good if I get a scholarship."
Which Hemm will have every opportunity to do.
"I have a spot on the team," he said. "I don't have to try out. Workouts start on June 14. I can't wait to get started."
Nees has no doubts Hemm will earn a scholarship.
"He is so athletic," Nees said. "There are a lot of things he could do or positions he could play. He very easily could have gotten a scholarship. It just didn't work out that way."
Hemm's biggest surprise is finding out Ball State was interested in him playing quarterback.
"That is where they are going to start me out at," Hemm said. "I thought they would have me either at receiver or defensive back."
In fact, had you asked Hemm when he was in junior high, he never would have given a thought about playing quarterback at the college level. He came up through the youth and junior high programs as a running back.
"I did (always think about playing college football)," Hemm said. "But, I never would have expected to be playing quarterback - or playing at Ball State."
But, a fateful decision was made his freshman year. At, the time, future Mr. Football and Ohio State running back Brandon Saine was a sophomore in the Indians backfield.
"The freshman coaches made the decision to move Justin (Hemm) to running back," Nees said. "He had the ability to play the position. And I think they (Justin Hemm, Brandon Saine) complimented each other in the backfield).
The rest as they say is history.
In Hemm's three years as Piqua's starting quarterback, the Indians compiled a record of 27-10.
He completed 226 of 454 passes for 3,702 yards and 40 touchdowns, while throwing just 25 interceptions. His talents at running back carried over to the quarterback position, were he rushed 3,005 yards on 482 carries and run for 25 touchdowns.
None of which was a surprise to Nees.
"You can see it in the guys who are going to be special," Nees said. "You definitely could see that (when Hemm was a freshman)."
Of course, Hemm will always remember his junior year, when he guided the Indians to the Division II state championship, accountig for more than 3,000 yards of total offense and 32 touchdowns (22 passing, 10 rushing).
"I have a lot of great memories from the last three years," Hemm said. "We had a lot of great guys on the state championship team. That is something I am always going to remember."
And Hemm admits he still has much to learn about the quarterback position.
"I think I probably have terrible footwork," he said with a laugh. "I was over at Ball State and the quarteback was going over everything and it was pretty complicated."
He will be the fourth Indian on the Cardinal roster. Bryant Haines is a starting linebacker, while red-shirt freshman Jafe Pitcock (defensive tackle) and Pete Rolf (defensive end), both played on Piqua's state championship team with Hemm.
"It definitely makes thing easier knowing those guys," Hemm said. "I always enjoyed playing with them (at Piqua)."
Nees said the relationship with Ball State is a plus for the program.
"I think the thing is they know we are being honest with them (during the recruiting process)," Nees said. "And they are honest with us. They were excited to get an athlete of Justin's caliber."
Hemm knows there is much hard work ahead.
"It is hard to say (his goal for playing time)," Hemm said. "They have a great quarterback their and have another coming in. We will see how everything goes."
Nees knows Hemm can make an impact somewhere.
"I was really tempted to put him in the defensive backfield when he was a sophomore," Nees said. "But, we had Bryant Fox at safety, so that position wasn't a priority. He could play as a receiver or defensive back."
Hemm is the single season and career passing leader at Piqua. He also ranks fourth in career rushing and his junior and senior seasons are in the top ten for single season rushing. He is also in the top ten in career points.
But, there is one question that will be debated for years to come.
"When you talk about the great quarterbacks at Piqua, his name has to be in discussion," Nees said.
And there is no question about that.