By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- For the next step in his athletic and academic career, Amsterdam High School senior football player is trading in the frigid upstate New York winters for the sun of central Florida.
And even though he was wearing a pair of basketball shorts despite the sub-freezing temperatures Monday when he sat down in the AHS library to sign his National Letter of Intent to continue his football career at Stetson University, Cranker's excited for the change of scenery.
"That had a lot to do with it," Cranker said. "I went down there, it was 70 degrees. Perfect for February. You can't go wrong with that."
Cranker, a 6-foot-4, 260-pound offensive lineman, signed to play for the Stetson University Hatters -- who play in the Pioneer Football League of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) -- while surrounded by teammates, coaches, school administration and his parents in a ceremony Monday afternoon.
A versatile lineman who played tackle and center at Fonda-Fultonville High School before transferring to AHS, where he spent his senior season anchoring the Rugged Rams' record-setting offense at right guard, Cranker was thrilled to get his pressure-packed college decision out of the way at last.
"It's a relief. It's a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders," Cranker said. "It's a stressful process, but it feels good to get it over with."
"I'm very happy for Tyler," Rugged Rams head coach Doug Edick said. "Great kid, hard worker, I'm very happy for him."
When he visited Stetson's DeLand, Fla. campus a few weeks ago, Cranker said he immediately found the university and the football program to be the perfect fit for him.
"When I visited, it just felt right," he said. "Beautiful university, nice campus, everyone was friendly down there. All new facilities, everything's brand-new. It's the top business school in the Southeast, and that had a lot to do with it. Everything felt right."
Edick said that Stetson head coach Roger Hughes should be thrilled with the type of student-athlete he'll be getting in Cranker.
"He dedicates himself, not only in the weight room, but during film sessions. He really dedicates toward the sport," Edick said. "He really enjoys football. He has a passion for it."
Greater Amsterdam School District athletic director Randy Hutto made it a point of emphasis to the group of AHS students assembled for the ceremony that it was Cranker's academic commitment that opened doors for him just as much as his prowess on the gridiron.
"It's one of those things that is well-deserved. Stetson's a great university, and he's going for a lot of different reasons," Hutto said. "It's the academics first. He could go anywhere with his academics, the sports is just an add-on."
Cranker eschewed the pomp, circumstance and hype of declaring his college choice on National Signing Day in Februray because he wanted to be able to visit Stetson's campus -- his original trip to the university was postponed when weather issues caused his flight to be canceled. Now that he's made his decision, he's itching for the chance to head down to Florida this summer and be a part of a program that will enter its second season since relaunching in 2013 following a hiatus of more than 50 years.
"They're getting a competitor. Someone who's gonna show up on a daily basis to come and play and really contribute to the team, hopefully right when I get there," Cranker said. "I'll work hard this summer to see where it takes me, hopefully work for possibly a starting role and see where it goes from there."
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