Walk-on wonder

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Aug 252003
 
Authors: Joshua Pilkington

For three years Jeff Flora toiled in the life of a

student-athlete, without partaking of the perks that often define

the term. For three years he stood in line at the bookstore, like

any other student, waiting to purchase his textbooks. For three

years he paid his tuition, in full, to the university. No freebies,

no full-rides, just a lot of hard work on and away from the field

awaiting his opportunity to shine.

That time came last season when the senior from Arvada took to

the field in each of the team’s 12 games as a reserve linebacker

and special teams player, putting up his best numbers to date. And

now, three years of hard work later, Flora is reaping the benefits

of a full-ride athletic scholarship.

“Their was a lot of cheering among the players when I announced

his scholarship,” said head coach Sonny Lubick. “They know who

works the hardest and who deserves it.”

Now, with his scholarship in tow, Flora faces the daunting task

of replacing Adam Wade, who was ruled academically ineligible in

June, as the team’s starting strong-side linebacker.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Flora said, who spent the summer

working with fellow linebackers Drew Wood and Eric Pauly to hone

his skills. “I’ve been working hard and am excited to take on a new

challenge.”

From the line on back, this team is stacked

It is that trio of linebackers that anchors what many players

consider one of the strongest defensive squads assembled at

CSU.

“We’re deeper than we’ve ever been,” said defensive lineman

Patrick Goodpaster. “We’re faster, bigger and stronger.”

Every starter from last season’s defensive line returns in 2003,

giving the Rams a crew of experienced down linemen focused on

thing: stopping the run.

Seniors Andre Sommersell, Bryan Save and Lavell Mann lead the

charge on the line, with the junior Goodpaster adding substance to

the crew.

“Our main goal is to keep the other team from running on us,”

Save said. “We got beat up late in the season last year and we’re

not going to let that happen again.”

The line is not the only area where the Rams run deep, the

defensive backfield has its share of talent as well.

“We run two deep at almost every position,” said defensive back

Landon Jones. “We have a lot of guys with experience from last

season and that always helps.”

Accompanying Jones in the defensive backfield is the versatile

Dexter Wynn – who may play on offense as well as his defensive and

special teams positions – and senior Benny Mastropaolo who earned

all-MWC honorable mention in 2002 – his first with the Rams.

With the team’s depth on defense, however, it is not a matter of

who starts the game, but who performs, Lubick said.

“The players, the writers, they all worry about who’s starting,”

said Lubick at a press conference. “I don’t worry about that, I’m

just worried about the guy who’s gonna come in and play.”

With the defensive line and backfield providing depth and

strength, Flora, Wood and Pauly know they need only repeat their

performances from last year to stop the opposition this season.

Pauly, a first team all-MWC in 2001 and a second team member in

2002, and Wood, a two-time all-MWC honorable mention from 2001 and

2002, have recorded 242 and 211 career tackles respectively,

leaving them both within reach of the team’s top-10 in career

tackles.

According to Lubick, the defense may be a step ahead of the

offense going into Saturday’s contest against CU, something that

does not bode well for the Buffaloes.

“Defensively we’re about on schedule,” he said following a team

scrimmage Saturday. “We put them in a couple of situations and the

defense rose up and did some things.”

 

 

 

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