CANTON - It wasn't all that long ago that Heidelberg was continually voted towards the bottom of the Ohio Athletic Conference's preseason polls.
Usually, the players either said it was meaningless, or that they'd use it for motivation.
But as the Student Princes have been ascending to one of the league's best teams, they have gained respect from coaches and members of the media.
That respect was on display when this year's preseason polls were announced at Tuesday's OAC Media Day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Student Princes, coming off their first postseason appearance in 40 years, were voted second in the media and coaches polls, trailing only national champion and perennial poll champ Mount Union.
"It's just something that's been built around here for a while," said HU fullback and Hopewell-Loudon graduate Aaron Kapelka, one of two player reps at the event for the school. "Now we have to meet those expectations and keep growing."
Heidelberg received five first-place votes in the media poll, and two in the coaches poll. The Purple Raiders and Student Princes were the only squads to receive first-place votes.
Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett said the ranking won't add any pressure for his group.
"The expectations we have internally to reach our potential is higher than anything that anybody else can put on us," Hallett said. "We've just got to go play, and that's really the bottom line to it."
And, as Heidelberg defensive lineman Will Nunnally said, titles are not won by preseason projections.
"It really don't mean anything, not to repeat what everybody said," Nunnally said. "As a team, you've still got to go out there and play football."
Beyond that, Hallett said that right now he's far more concerned about how the season begins than how it ends. A month from today, the Student Princes will open their season at Mayer Field against Alma in a non-conference game.
"I know it's clich, but honest to God, all we have to worry about is the game we're playing," he said. "Our competition is against our own best performance. If we compete against that every week, we'll be fine."
The polls mirrored each other in the top five team rankings. Baldwin Wallace was third, Otterbein fourth and John Carroll was fifth in each poll.