Bitburg High School senior Andy Flores has an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a college football program.

“I’m really excited,” Flores, a 5-11, 170-pounder, said Tuesday evening after receiving a letter inviting him to play football this fall at Southern Virginia University in Buena Vista, Va.

Flores said he hadn’t yet signed the letter, but when he does, he’ll be part of the first group of football hopefuls at the NAIA school.

Southern Virginia was founded shortly after the end of the Civil War, but since it became associated with the Mormon Church in 1996 it has been growing. Enrollment has expanded from 75 to 490 and the administration wants to launch a football program.

“I hope to have 100 young men out for football in August,” said SVU head coach Gary Buer, hired in December.

Buer has great expectations for the program, which will start play on Sept. 6.

“We’re NAIA now, but our ultimate goal is to be NCAA Division III within a four-year period,” he said. “I’m hoping Southern Virginia will fill the void for young men and women who want to continue with sports but aren’t good enough to earn scholarships at BYU.”

No one at SVU will earn a football scholarship, Buer said, no matter how good he is.

“We’re playing an NAIA-NCAA Division III schedule,” he said. “Those are no-football-scholarship programs. We have to look at aid packages based on academics, leadership and community service.”

The arrangement suits Flores, who knows he has a few hurdles to overcome.

“I really want to try to play in college,” said Flores, who was a safety/fullback/kicker for the Barons but plans to concentrate on the defensive backfield in college. “I think I’ll have a better chance on defense due to all the competition.”

Bitburg coach Rik Carr said that DODDS players can make it in college football, but they’re hampered by the limited programs available in Europe and the problem of becoming known to stateside programs.

“Our kids play a short season, and we can’t run real spring and summer programs over here like they do in the States,” he said. “It’s tough to make the kind of year-round commitment a player needs.”

Carr said he always suggests that football hopefuls in Europe attack the recognition problem by attending stateside summer camps — although that is not how Flores got his break.

He went to SVU’s Web site and completed a recruiting questionnaire. It worked, and in August he’ll get his shot at college ball.

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