Football players feed off team chemistry

Thomas Gallick

With 88 players participating in summer camp, Flashes built strong bond for 2008

Metaphors of a football team as a family or a band of brothers are generally thought of as just “coach-speak” meant to create an artificial bond between teammates, but that may not be the case this year at Dix Stadium.

Maybe it’s the summertime team activities, returning team leadership or a general feeling that this is the year. But whatever the motivating factors, Kent State football players seem equally invested in their teammates’ successes as their own.

“In the summertime, we all were committed (to) working out together, and we had team activities that brought our team together,” junior running back Eugene Jarvis said. “I think that’s going to help us later on down the road when it counts, late in the season.”

Jarvis and Kent State coach Doug Martin both pointed to weekly softball games, in which the nation’s leading returning rusher steps behind the plate to play catcher, as an activity that really brought the squad together.

Senior tight end Jameson Konz said the camaraderie among the team is not new but definitely improved from past seasons, especially between offensive and defensive players.

“We do a lot of stuff in the off-season together (and) all the guys just hang out,” Konz said. “We cook out, we go swimming, meet up and just go out bowling and stuff like that.”

Senior linebacker Derek Burrell said the whole mindset of what it means to be a football player at Kent State has changed completely since he played his first game as a freshman.

“I say the whole atmosphere is different,” Burrell said. “Before, we had people on the team who would do their own thing, get in trouble or cause trouble. Now those people are gone, so there’s a lot more class on the team. That’s going to help on the field because in those tough situations, that’s when we need that character.”

Burrell said there is not an individual team leader everyone looks to, which he sees as a positive because it gives every player a chance to step up and lead the team at times.

“Everybody talks,” Burrell said. “I couldn’t sit here and say it’s one person (because) there are a lot of vocal leaders on our team. That’s going to give our team more balance because offensive players talk to defensive players, (and) defensive players talk to offensive players.”

This renewed emphasis on team unity and responsibility could be attributed to the coaching staff, and especially Martin. But Martin gives the credit to the players for investing their time in team activities and training.

“I think that (the team coming together) actually started all the way back last spring,” Martin said. “They had a great spring practice, and then this summer was the best I’ve ever been around.”

Martin said 88 players on the roster stayed the entire summer, practicing and training daily.

“They were here every day (this summer), and they were holding each other accountable,” Martin said. “They worked their tails off, so they carried that over into camp. It’s a close group.”

Only time will tell if this new focus on camaraderie will have a positive impact on the team, but the consensus among the players and coaches is that it cannot hurt. With an increased attendance at summer practices and improved communication between offensive and defensive players to that team chemistry, the Flashes should be a tight-knit group on and off the field this season.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].