Rock out with your ‘hawk out

Deanna Stevens

Quarterback Julian Edelman (front) and several members of the Kent State football team started sporting mohawks for the Akron game last weekend. Due to the Flashes’ 37-15 win over their cross-town rivals, the mohawks have become a symbol of the team’s ne

Credit: John Proppe

Akron was the first team to fall to it.

Temple will be the next team to try to overcome it.

This season, the Kent State football team’s success can be attributed to its chemistry on the field – and on its heads.

Sporting the mohawk, the Flashes are more united than ever.

The football fraternity with quarterbacks, offensive lineman and tight ends, known as FOOT-Phi, is responsible for the team haircut.

“Since we won with the mohawks, and it was against Akron, we have to keep them until the season is over,” said junior offensive lineman and FOOT-Phi member Bill Starry.

“Since we smacked Akron,” sophomore offensive lineman Dalton Memel said to correct Starry.

The superstition didn’t start with the Zips, however.

“Our first win was at Miami,” Starry said. “So now every bus ride, everyone has to sit in the same seats. You have to have the same roommate on trips. You have to sleep in the same bed. Some people wear the same underwear – they wash them though.”

Starry and junior runningback Jon Drager were the founders of the Mohawk idea.

Drager said he had the ‘hawk in high school and told the team they should do it for camp, but Starry wanted to save the unveiling for the Akron game.

“Actually, we were going to start it as a FOOT-Phi thing,” Starry said. “But it just spread to the rest of the team.”

Having the majority of his team with a Mohawk is a unique situation for Kent State coach Doug Martin.

“It’s to the extreme,” Martin said. “But hey, if it keeps them playing good, then I’m all for it.”

Offensive line coach Terry Tilghman said he tries to find ways to help the offensive and defensive lines connect. And any thing the players do by themselves is that much better.

Even though he supports the Mohawk, that does not mean he will get one anytime soon, however.

“They told me once we win the MAC championship I have to do it.” Tilghman said. “I told them that I was 34 years old, and I don’t think it will grow back.”

Not all the players were sure about the new hairdo either.

Starry said sophomore offensive lineman Dairon Memel took the longest to convince, but is now the Mohawk’s biggest advocate.

Sophomore quarterback Julian Edelman was not enthusiastic about the haircut at first either.

At the news conference after the Akron game, Edelman commented on his new look.

“The offensive line did it,” Edelman said. “I’m just trying to be with them. They wanted me to do it. And they protect me, so I got to do it.”

Edelman earned the respect, as well as a FOOT-Phi bid as a result of his decision.

“Julian is a honorary FOOT-Phi inductee,” Starry said.

“He did it because he wanted to show that he didn’t just step in and was the quarterback,” Starry added. “He wanted to show that he was part of us. Also he did it because his linemen were doing it and he wanted to show that he trusted in his lineman enough to actually shave his head.”

Memel added that Edelman got the mohawk because “he’s raw like that.”

Junior offensive lineman Travis McGraw, Memel and Starry were the barbers of the line.

Linebacker Sam Frist was the only player to get his Mohawk professionally done.

“I would do it by myself sometimes,” Frist said. “But it would end up looking like a question mark.”

“FOOT-Phi”.. “Ball!”

Tilghman, in his first year at Kent State, brought the FOOT-Phi phenomena to the Flashes. He was a part of the fraternity as an offensive linesman at East Carolina, under Martin, who was the offensive coordinator there at the time. Then he took the group to North Alabama as an offensive line coach and a recruiting coordinator.

Tilghman said he wanted to give the fraternity to the offensive line because they are the part of the team that is easily overlooked if something is good, or blamed first if something goes wrong.

“If a wide receiver drops a ball it’s our fault,” Tilghman said. “We didn’t give the quarterback enough time. And if the quarterback makes a heck of a throw, then it’s a great throw by the quarterback, or a great catch by the receiver. Nobody ever says anything about the protection of the offensive line. So this FOOT-Phi thing is theirs. And it’s kind of their thing to be proud of and take pride in.”

But being on the football team does not automatically mean a player is a part of group.

Tilghman said Edelman was the first quarterback not automatically included in FOOT-Phi. He wanted Edelman to earn his way in since he was new to the team this year.

“The original thing was, hey, he throws for 250 yards in a game, I’m going to make him a member of FOOT-Phi,” Tilghman said. “But he came to pre-game meal with his mohawk – he’s an automatic FOOT-Phi. If my starting quarterback is willing to get a mohawk then he’s automatically a part of FOOT-Phi.”

Tilghman added Edelman had his official FOOT-Phi T-shirt in his locker when he came to the stadium for the Akron game.

As a part of the fraternity, the members acknowledge one another with a call and response.

“The deal is, kind of like the Que-Dogs, if someone hollers ‘FOOT-Phi’, then only FOOT-Phi members can holler ‘ball’,” Tilghman said. “That’s where it started. And it kind of bred into everything else that we’re doing.”

FOOT-Phi and the defensive line have a Thursday night college football meeting where they eat pizza and watch games on ESPN.

At the meeting, that week’s most valuable blocker gets wings instead of pizza. And the athlete with the most knock downs gets a steak.

Tilghman said as of now, FOOT-Phi will only belong to its current members.

“They really want it to be theirs,” Tilghman said. “They don’t want me to give it away. So if I start giving it away, then it starts losing its value. So I don’t think it will ever be a whole team FOOT-Phi.”


Martin called the offensive line the most improved part of the team.

He said he could see the offensive line starting to bond during winter conditioning. He added they were disappointed with the way they played last season, and they wanted to make a commitment to one another this season.

Junior offensive lineman Shawn Donaldson said he feels like the work paid of when Martin’s acknowledged the line as the most improved part of the team.

His teammate, Starry, just cares that someone recognized the work they put in.

“As long as somebody notices, its good,” Starry added.

Memel said the mohawk is nothing compared to the work they put in earlier this year.

“We had to get up at like 5 a.m. and go to winter conditioning.” Memel said. “And no one knows the kind of hell we had to go through this summer.”

Tilghman said the improvements made to the offensive line can be seen in their attitude especially.

He said he wanted to change the line’s mentality to that of football legends Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant as well as bring them together as a unit.

“They didn’t have that mentality when I got here,” Tilghman said. “And I told them we’re going to play the old-school way. We’re going to play the way the game was meant to be played.

“They’ve taken that to heart, and embraced it. And actually started playing that way, a physical, dominating, intimidating style of play.

Donaldson said Tilghman’s philosophies are the reason for the progress.

“We’ve started from scratch and built all the way up to where we are,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson also sees the change in the chemistry of the offensive line.

“This is my third year here, and this is the most together we’ve ever been,” Donaldson said.

Starry added the group tries do go out to eat together, as well as going to movies after practice.

Jackass 2 is the latest movie FOOT-Phi has seen.

“We all could have starred in it,” Memel joked.

Starry said the team is now able to be there for each other, and that started with Tilghman’s teachings.

“He taught us to give ourselves to him as a coach,” Starry said. “And now we are starting to give ourselves to each other as players. And that’s what the mohawks represent.”

Never There

While the offensive line holds the title for most improved, Tilghman said they are not close to the level they want to be.

He said the line is striving to be perfect. But, there is always something to fix, no matter how close they get.

Executing plays was the biggest problem for the line.

“When I first got here, even in spring ball, they would know the right play, they would go the right way, but they wouldn’t finish it all the way,” Tilghman said.

Tilghman said in preparing for Temple, he’s more concerned with resolving Kent State’s faults, rather than catering to the Owls. He added that the line should not be overconfident with their performance against Akron.

“Even though the scoreboard says what it says and the stats say what they say, I can show the offensive line enough mistakes made in the Akron game that by the time we get to Temple they’ll be ready to fix those mistakes,” Tilghman said.

The offensive line’s physicality tops the list of things the coaches want to focus on this week.

“Coach (A.J.) Pratt and I, this week, have really emphasized that we’re going to try and be physical,” Tilghman said. “And try to elevate that portion of our game, which we think is not to the level we want it to be yet.”

Contact football reporter Deanna Stevens at [email protected].

Kent State at Temple

When: 1 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Philadelphia

Kent State’s record: 3-2 overall, 3-0 Mid-American Conference

Temple’s record: 0-5 overall, 17-game losing streak

Series: This is the first meeting between the two teams

TV/Radio: The game will be Webcast in the K-Zone at and available on WHLO-AM 640

Up next: Next Saturday the Flashes will host Toledo for Homecoming at 4 p.m