Whitcher played at Redondo High and Harbor College, took a couple of years off, then found his way east. Going into today’s game against Fort Lewis in Durango, Colo., the NCAA Division II Mustangs are 3-5 overall and 3-3 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Sure, they rue the fact the season has not been a complete success, but the time they’ve spent in school has opened their eyes to a bigger picture of the world. White, a linebacker, was the trail blazer, arriving three years ago and ultimately became the recruiter of his three buddies. But he also latched on to the advantage of living in a small mountain town. “I’ve met a lot of cool people out here,” White said. “I basically came out here by myself and now I have a lot of good friends I’ll keep in touch with the rest of my life. It was pretty tough, but I didn’t expect to meet all these people, especially this many close friends. “It makes you grow up a little. You get a degree for free, plus you get a chance to play football.” Whitcher was working various jobs in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach while he attained his AA degree from Harbor when he was lured to Silver City, by White, whose team needed a punter this season. Whitcher admits to being shocked by the small town, but there was one thing he liked immediately. “The elevation (6,000 feet), being a punter that helps me out,” Whitcher said. “That’s always a plus.” Whitcher ranks seventh in Division II with a 41.5-yard average, but after correcting his numbers, the team discovered his average is actually 43.5 yards, which would rank him fourth. Ehinger, a defensive lineman, actually shared playing time last year for Grand Valley, last year’s Division II national champion that is still riding a 36-game win streak. But he couldn’t settle in the way he wanted. “The program was cool, but I really didn’t like Michigan,” Ehinger said. “It was cold and too far from home. People out here are a lot more down to earth, a lot more cool.” You’ve got to be down to earth to survive the simple logistics. They don’t get flown around to road trips like Pac-10 schools. No, it’s a minimum of six hours on a bus to visit RMAC schools, and last season, they got to endure a pair of 18-hour trips to games in Nebraska. “You get off the bus feeling like you’ve already been through a game,” Such said. “You’re sore and tight and twisted. Once it’s game time, it’s like here we go again.” There are little rewards along the way. On Oct.6, the limelight came to town with No. 2 Chadron State. On that day, Chadron running back Danny Woodhead became the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, surpassing the record of 7,353 career yards. “We were all talking about different ways to get on TV,” Such said, laughing. “There were rumors the game would be on ESPN. They might have covered it (for) 15 seconds.” But it was just a tiny part of an experience the four will never forget. “I think kids who don’t have the opportunity to go to Division I who are good enough to play Division II should definitely take a chance,” White said. “Get out of the city and go out and play Division II football in small towns.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Heck yeah, they talk about the beach. It’s about the only tie that binds that keeps four kids from the South Bay from going stir crazy. It would be easy, after all, for someone who grew up with all the amenities of the big city to suddenly be dropped into the middle of nowhere. Yet there are Nathaniel White, Jon Such, Jeremy Ehinger and Mike Whitcher toiling away in Silver City, N.M. Yep, that Silver City. Take Interstate 10 about 200 miles east of Tucson, Ariz., but don’t miss that junction at Lordsburg. When they aren’t sitting around and wondering when their next chance to hit the beach will be, at least the four can talk about football. Their shared passion for the game brought them together at Western New Mexico University. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre And despite the temptation for big-city folk to deride our nation’s outback, all four have no regrets attending school cut off from the rest of the world. “It’s a trip,” said Such, an offensive lineman. “I’m not going to lie; it’s definitely different than home.” The city is home to about 10,000 and the school has an enrollment of about 2,000. “It’s hilarious,” Such said, recalling one of his early visits. “I gave my parents a tour the first time they came out here and the tour was over in 15 minutes. There’s that, that, and that, and that’s about it right there. They thought it was pretty funny.” Such, Ehinger and White attended West Torrance High, then took different paths to reach WNMU. Such played at El Camino College, Ehinger attended Grand Valley State in Michigan and White played for Harbor College.