Unknown soldiers

Sep 252002
Authors: Reed Saunders

Football is about glory.

It’s about the big hit, the roar of the crowd and scoring the winning touchdown as time expires — the idea that the flight of a leather ball or the stampede of a running back can send thousands of people into fits of joy and jumping they can’t quite comprehend.

That’s football. And it’s what drives remarkable members of CSU’s scout team to do their otherwise unremarkable jobs.

The life of a scout team member is a thankless existence.

They take the same hits, do the same drills and endure the same pounding as the superstars and the media darlings. The only difference is they get no publicity. No recognition. None of the glory they salivate after.

The catch? The football team wouldn’t be the same without them.

“The reason we have been successful over the past three and four years is our scout teams have been outstanding,” head coach Sonny Lubick said. “They mean as much as the guys who everybody writes and talks about. Everybody wants to hear about the quarterback or the receivers or the linebackers, but they’re really the guys who do the dirty work.”

That dirty work, however, does have rewards. The prospect of getting on the field keeps players going.

“Every ounce of work I did here for three years until I finally got on the field the first time, for six seconds or whatever it was, was worth all three years, bar none,” said Jason Hepp, a junior defensive back who walked on to the program in 1999.

Hepp, like many CSU walk-ons, starred in high school. At Erie High School, Hepp earned 13 total varsity letters in four different sports and was a two-time all-state pick in football. Coming to Division-I was another world.

“I didn’t know what it was like to sit out or not play in games,” Hepp said. “It was a mental battle and I took it as a challenge.”

Scout players are as motivated as any. Every day and every practice is a chance for players to prove themselves on the field and maybe earn a shot to play. Sometimes it takes a while for that day to come.

“The biggest thing I keep reminding myself is I have to be patient,” said Travis Garcia, a red-shirt freshman running back. “If I’m mentally focused and I keep working hard, I know coaches will give me a chance. There’s no better D-I school to walk on to than CSU.”

CSU has built a reputation as a school where hard work is rewarded. Many former all-conference stars, such as safety John Howell and defensive end Clark Haggans, started as scout team members and are now in the NFL.

“It’s all about perseverance,” Hepp said. “You just have to keep going and you’ll get your chance.”

Unfortunately, sticking it out is not always easy.

“There were many times you think, ‘Why am I doing this?'” said Brandyn Hohs, a senior wide receiver who spent his first three years doing scout work. “I honestly thought I was going to be ‘Rudy’ and the last game everybody would be going to coach and saying, ‘Give Hohs a chance!'”

Hohs saw his first action in his sophomore year when he was on the field for one play against East Tennessee State, a moment he describes as, “The light of my life.”

The job of scout member is just that: a job. Many players take satisfaction in the effect they have on the team’s success.

“Just knowing that you’re helping out, that you’re making guys better is a great feeling,” Hohs said. “Knowing you’re helping the team and that you’re getting them get ready to play is great. We’re here to work, we do our jobs and the starters appreciate it.”

One Ram is unquestionably appreciative.

“In a lot of ways those guys work harder than the starters because we throw two units at them and they dig in and bear it,” Lubick said. “We treat those guys just like we treat Bradlee Van Pelt or Justin Holland. As far as I’m concerned we’re all equals. We’re all part of a team.”

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