By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — KALKASKA — The furthest Eric Tracey has traveled in his life is Florida.
That’s about to change. In a big way.
Tracey was invited to play in the Down Under Bowl in Australia next summer.
But before he can leave the United States for the first time, he also has to raise $6,000 in order to pay for the trip.
“I leave June 28,” said Tracey, a senior linebacker and tight end at Kalkaska High School. “I’ll be there over Independence Day and I’ll be gone seven days.”
In order to raise funds for the trip, he’s seeking donations and engaging in several fundraising efforts.
He started a profile at gofundme.com and also aims to produce a Kalkaska football calendar in order to raise funds.
“We’re still looking at what all we can do,” he said.
The Down Under Sports organization will also give Tracey pamphlets that people can fill out to donate $10. Each donation is also an entry for a free trip to Hawaii. Donations are not tax deductible.
He received a letter from the Utah-based group just before Thanksgiving, inviting him to play in the event, which will feature four teams playing two games each.
Using U.S. high school rules, the players are drafted after several practices, mixing American and Australian players on the four rosters.
Tracey said he was one of five Michigan athletes invited to play in the game, based both on academic and on-field performance. Kalkaska running back Kaleb Hauser — Tracey’s cousin — was also invited, but won’t be able to play in the game.
Down Under Sports started its football program in 1989, and prior standouts of the Down Under Bowl include former NFL players Jake Plummer and Ahman Green.
Tracey (6-2, 220) is a four-year varsity player, starting his football career as a freshman with Mancelona and transferring to Kalkaska for his junior year. He was an all-Ski Valley Conference selection as a sophomore and an all-Lake Michigan Conference pick as a junior and senior at linebacker, where he’s had more than 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons.
The linebacker is on the Class of 2014 watch list on thedzone.net, a Michigan high school football website that tracks recruiting, and he’s looking to play at Ferris State, Northwood, Saginaw Valley or Rochester College.
Those wishing to donate can visit www.gofundme.com/55oy28.