In the Trenches

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Oct 042004
 
Authors: Preston Cagle

The trenches. It is a place that few backs or receivers like to

end up. A place where large, hard-working men make their living

hitting and being hit, just to make other people look good. They

are the masters of moves like the chop and pancake blocks, and

double teams are just another day at work. They are the

linemen.

“In the trenches, that’s where the real men play,” said senior

defensive lineman Patrick Goodpaster. “We don’t score touchdowns,

or get all the statistics or all the fame. We just get to bust

heads and hit every single play. That’s where the real men

play.”

They represent the primitive essence of football, and embody the

words “smash-mouth football.” Their primary responsibility is the

line of scrimmage. On every play they are asked to relocate to the

opponent’s side of the ball, and on every play they go head-to-head

and belly-to-belly, with other 250-300 pound men who are trying to

punish, hurt and put them into the ground to take that line from

them.

“We don’t have stats,” said senior offensive lineman Erik Pears.

“We take pride in being able to be physical on every play, and

putting guys in the dirt. That’s what we take pride in.”

It is a tough go in the trenches. It gets mucky, physical and

often painful, and it is never pretty. Linemen are often on the

bottoms of the piles, and in the middle of large scrums and it can

get dirty and mean.

“We just have to come out and be meaner than they are,” said

senior defensive lineman Jonathon Simon. “It’s a battle every day.

You just gotta play hard.”

The offensive line is the best example of the team concept of

football. They are like a band of brothers, without one another

they all look bad and will fail, but when all do their job right

and as a unit, no one notices a thing.

“You have to be real close, on the offensive line, with the guy

next to you,” Pears said. “You’re making calls with each other and

pulling combo blocks. You gotta know how he plays, because you

gotta play with each other.”

On the defensive line, there is still cohesiveness and a unit,

but individual players can still make game-breaking plays. The

defensive line is about pressure on the ball carrier and the

quarterback, and if a front four can control the line of scrimmage,

a defensive coordinator can dream up schemes all day long to

showcase his linebackers and secondary.

Linemen are not just about brute strength; they also have to

think while out on the field, before and during the play. Both

sides must read formations and make proper calls and adjustments

according to the opponent’s alignment before the play. Once the

play has started it becomes instinctual. Offensive linemen have to

find the blitzes and pass off linemen on stunts, while defensive

linemen have to read for a pass or a run, and also beware of

screens and delayed runs.

When the dust has settled and all is done, these men walk off

the field knowing that their name is probably not going to make the

paper the next day. They walk off knowing that they are not going

to have the long stat lines, but it does not matter.

“A win, that is all it is about. It’s all about wins,”

Goodpaster said.

All the sacrifice, the blood, the sweat, the pain, the work, the

muck and grime, the bottom of the pile and hitting someone every

down. That is what the trenches are about, and that is where the

game’s most important battles take place.

“All is forgotten with a win,” Pears said.

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