In 50 years, what names will the Penn athletic community remember? A laundry list of names could be made of all-star quarterbacks, Ivy League basketball MVPs and even Olympic wrestlers. Currently, there is one two-sport athlete at Penn that is going after that type of recognition, not only in Penn athletics, but also the possibility in two professional leagues. Josh Appell, known during the fall as the all-star punter, is currently spending his spring pitching for the Quakers' baseball team. As the senior begins the close of his athletic career at the University of Pennsylvania, his "two sports, two possible futures," mantra is still intact.
Appell has the potential to continue his career to the next level in both sports. He is already known for his ability to blast the football consistently when the team needs him the most. During the Cornell game on Nov. 20, Appell punted a season-best 58 yarder. During the back-to-back weeks of October 9 and October 16, Appell punted a 56 yard kick. Numbers like these quickly caught the eyes of the professional recruiters.
"In the NFL, usually only one punter gets drafted," Appell said. "I am hoping to get a free agent contract, but right now I need to try to show scouts my abilities and get into a training camp. Playing (football) in Europe is also a possibility."
Although the Penn community talks about Appell's opportunity in the NFL Draft Day and his experience at the Pro Day that was recently held at Franklin Field, playing collegiate football was not the original plan for Appell.
"I was not originally supposed to play football at Penn," admitted Appell. "I was being recruited for baseball and was already pretty sure that I wanted to go to Penn. In the end, Penn turned out to be a perfect fit because once I started to send out film of my kicking from high school, Penn actually recruited me the most aggressively for both sports."
Before Penn, Appell attended Hewlett High School in Woodmere, N.Y. He lettered in football, soccer and baseball and was named all-division, all-conference and all-county in baseball all four years. He also was named all-conference and all-county in soccer during his last two years, but baseball was his first passion. "When I began playing sports, my dream was to be a major league pitcher. I always wanted to play pro."
Taking steps closer to his dream, Appell came to Penn to develop his skills for both football and baseball. "During my freshman year, I remember seven kickers on the team. The coaches had me concentrate on punting, which is why I became a better punter," stated Appell. "My freshman year was a big learning experience for me - there was a lot to take in, especially with two sports. The coaches were great to me and very understanding about my situation as a two-sport athlete."
After a relatively quiet year wearing the Red and Blue as a rookie, Appell experienced a breakout year in both sports. Appell became the starting punter and the team leader in pitching appearances as a sophomore and finished each season with individual Ivy League accolades.
"I really consider my sophomore year as a breakout year for me. In baseball, I went from not pitching any innings in my freshman year to 16 appearances, which is second-most in the team's history. That led me to be a starter my junior year.
"I also really got into the winning tradition of the football team that year, and we won the Ivy League Championship and repeated as champions the next season."
Playing one sport in college is difficult as it is, especially with the challenging academics at the University of Pennsylvania. However, playing two sports can be considered mission impossible. Appell thinks differently though.
"Playing two sports at Penn has been an incredible experience," Appell exclaimed. "It was always a dream of mine to continue playing in college. The thing with playing two sports is that you are always in-season, experiencing the excitement of great competition."
Off-seasons represent the time of year where an athlete puts in long hours to improve his technique, conditioning and strength, all important factors of becoming successful in whichever sport one chooses.
"The coaches from both sports were extremely understanding," Appell commented. "They have been great and were always encouraging me. It may be because I am a punter and pitcher, which is mostly individual technique, but in all honesty, I really can't say enough about them.
"During baseball season, the football coaches don't harass me to make the spring practices and vice versa during football season. But if I have an off day or some free time, I will go practice the off season sport."
Such dedication is truly rare, especially in the college environment where students and athletes are bombarded with distractions. "I have taken so much from both programs, it is incredible to think about. I think winning the Ivy League Football Championship my sophomore year is my proudest college sport memory. My entire sophomore year was incredible in baseball. Besides making 16 appearances, I really remember the great team and team chemistry. Unfortunately, we lost to Princeton in the end.
"I am always going to remember the little things - staying in hotels, road trips and preseason for football."
College sports have deeper benefits than getting in shape and staying active. Through sports, most student-athletes make their closets bonds and friendships.
"I just love going out on the field and being with my best friends. I am really going to miss this routine. It is something I have wanted to do since I was a kid - to get a great education, strive for a championship...and make lasting friendships."
Not only is Appell a man of great athletic ability, but he is man of great character. It is for both of these reasons that Josh Appell will be remembered for a long time to come.
Written by Matt Lambach C’07