WEST HAVEN -- His No. 6 jersey had just been hung up in the University of New Haven locker room for the last time and the wound from a painful postseason loss was still open and raw, but Ryan Osiecki made one thing clear before he set off into the crisp night air.
"This can't be my last game -- I need to keep playing," said the 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback after the previously unbeaten Chargers' 17-14 loss to Indiana, Pa., in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs on Saturday at DellaCamera Stadium.
There's always been another game or another season for the 23-year-old signal-caller to look forward to, dating back to the days of tossing around the pigskin while growing up in Seymour.
However, for the first time in Osiecki's football career, he's uncertain where his next game will be. He wants that next stop to be the NFL, where his father, Sandy, once played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I'll probably take like a week off and then start working hard, lifting," said Osiecki, who was ranked the 36th best QB in the nation by nfldraftscout.com earlier in the season. "I don't know how this works (preparing for the NFL draft), so I just have to get in shape and keep throwing the ball.
"There's nothing else on my plate, it's just the NFL right now."
Prior to the IUP loss, Osiecki was just enjoying life as a college football star, rewriting the UNH record books along the way with his cannon arm.
If you asked Osiecki during his one season at Milford Academy -- which followed an all-state high school career at Seymour -- if he could ever find happiness at a D-II school, he might have laughed.
"Ever since prep school I've always wanted to go Division I," he said. "It was always in my mind. When I was thinking about leaving Louisville, I remembered talking to (UNH coach Pete Rossomando) from when I was at Milford Academy, but had brushed it off at the time.
"To be honest, this is the greatest experience -- I can't imagine it going any better. The people I've met, the players are like brothers to me. The coaches, it's been a great experience. It just happened perfectly, everything except this (last) game. I've had all the opportunities in the world and I've tried to take advantage of it."
In three seasons, Osiecki went from an all-Northeast-10 rookie team selection to the conference's best player, which he earned last year along with All-America honors after tossing for a school-record 3,336 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Despite missing four games earlier this fall with a right shoulder injury, the four-year starter still managed to finish his senior season throwing for 1,550 yards and 16 touchdowns with just four interceptions in seven games.
"That was hell (missing games), but I came back strong," Osiecki said. "The injury hurt all the hard work I had put in during the summer because I couldn't lift and I lost almost 15 pounds. Besides getting hurt, I was happy with myself as long as we won."
Overall, Osiecki threw for 9,572 yards, on 754-of-1,207 passing, to go with 91 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. All are school records besides the interceptions.
"I know I gave it my all. As long as everyone else gave it their all, I can walk away from this with my head held high," he said.
Making the jump from Division II to the NFL might be a long shot, but Osiecki likes his odds. In recent years, several other quarterbacks have emerged from long shots to starting signal-callers, among them former grocery clerk Kurt Warner and Fordham's John Skelton.
"If you look at the kids in D-I, there's really no difference," Osiecki said. "I'm bigger than half of them. I know I have what it takes. This wasn't meant to be my last game."
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