Editors’ note: Maryville College’s Kevin Wheatley is writing his writing his senior thesis on the average student trying to make his school’s football team. Throughout the season, Blount Today will publish excerpts from Wheatley’s journal.
Since the team’s goal of a conference championship was squashed after our loss to Christopher Newport, Maryville College coach Tony Ierulli has been pushing a new season goal on the squad.
“Since we’ve come into the USA South conference, we have gotten better each and every year,” he said in front of the team on the practice field this past Tuesday. “Our first year, we won one or two conference games, and we won four last year. And this year, we have the opportunity to win five if we do our jobs and finish strong.”
While some other schools have the philosophy of taking it relatively easy during the bye week, Ierulli doesn’t believe in that thought process.
“In my opinion, we have two solid weeks to prepare for a team that came into our place and beat us last year,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we take advantage of this time?”
Though we only had a few practices during the past week, it definitely felt like we were preparing for a game. The team got Monday and Friday off, but the other three practices felt like a normal week at work.
The big news this week around practice was the suddenly cold weather. The bitterness definitely hit the Florida boys a little harder than the rest of the team.
“Man, I didn’t know it would be so cold!” Paul Costanzo, a freshman running back, said during Monday’s practice. Even though he had Under Armor on, he was shaking like an old truck that has trouble getting out of first gear.
“I am about to pack up and go back home, let me tell you,” Costanzo said.
Tuesday, I prepared better for the weather. Not only did I have a long sleeve shirt under my pads, but under the shirt was a pair of thermal underwear, as well as a pair of long Adidas socks that I used to wear when I played soccer on the Elkhorn Middle School team.
“Killer socks,” senior defensive lineman Russ Harris said to me as I jogged down the field to run kickoff lanes. “Where can I get a pair?”
A running theme throughout the season has been my errant passes almost nailing offensive coordinator Ryan Hansen on an almost daily basis. Usually, a warm up pass or a screen pass would fly by his head when his back is turned, always unintentionally. He would typically whip around real fast and always see me without a ball in hand, and instantly put the blame on me.
“What do you have against me Kevin?” is a line I typically hear. “Shoot, I’m starting to think you don’t want me around anymore!”
On Tuesday, I tried my hand at drop kicking, which is when a player bounces the ball off the ground and kicks it, usually through the uprights. My first few attempts were alright, going in a straight line and decent height. My first kick went right to senior receiver and part-time quarterback Gary Hughes.
“Okay Kevin, I see you,” he said, putting the ball into position for a kick. Hughes has mastered the art of drop kicking, sending the ball through the air with ease. He sent the ball my way and I had to turn and chase it down because of its distance.
I lined up and got ready to send it back to him. I kicked it and hooked the ball to the left. Just when I looked to watch the ball, I noticed Hansen was standing there, back turned and talking to a player.
“Oh no, that’s going to hit him,” I said to myself. Sure enough, the ball sailed right past his head and he turned around, looking right at me.
“Dang Kevin!” he said with a smile. “What do you have against me? I couldn’t tell whether that was a pass or a kick!” We traded a few verbal jabs and laughed it off.
“Don’t print that in your column either!” he said later. “‘Coach Almost Kills Player’ doesn’t sound like a good headline to me.”