November 12, 2009

Urban, Trusnik still living the dream

Making the NFL is difficult, but not impossible
It’s the time of year when our seniors begin the transition into their next career, ostensibly going professional in something other than football, as the NCAA commercial used to say.

Though the vast majority of us come to grips with hanging up our cleats after the last game of our senior seasons, a handful carry the torch for Division III on the professional level. In 2009, that handful’s become nearly a dozen in the NFL, and that doesn’t begin to include coaches or front office professionals.

That there are more active Division III alumni than Around the Nation would want to talk to for a single column is great news. The NFL is giving our graduates opportunities to be judged on what they do, not where they’re from. And the results, in some cases, have produced genuine highlights.

Whether it’s former John Carroll wide receiver Josh McDaniels leading the Denver Broncos to a 6-0 start, Mount Union’s Pierre Garcon scoring the winning touchdown on Monday Night Football for the Indianapolis Colts or Coe’s Fred Jackson rushing for 163 yards for the Buffalo Bills in Week 2, it’s been something of a banner season for Division III alums at football’s highest level.

It’s proof positive that the dream doesn’t have to die the minute a player takes on the Division III label.

ATN talked with Jerheme Urban of Trinity (Texas) and Jason Trusnik of Ohio Northern about how they made it from Division III to the NFL, how they were treated when they arrived and what helped them believe they belonged.

Urban recalls meeting veterans, including stars Matt Hasselbeck and John Randle, when he joined the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2003. Randle had come from a Division II school then known as Texas A&I and shared a connection with Urban because of it, but for other veterans, coming from Division III to the NFL seemed to require some explaining.

“When they first introduced themselves, and asked where I played, I told them Trinity, a small school in San Antonio,” Urban, now a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, said in a phone interview. “For whatever reason I felt like I had to tell them why they had never heard of it. And they said ‘Well you’re here for a reason, you must be able to play.’ Early on, I kind of made more of a big deal of it than anybody else.”

“Once you get your opportunity, it puts that all aside,” said Trusnik, who was undrafted in 2006 when Division-III-defensive-end-turned-Jets-coach Eric Mangini took an interest in him. “Once you get [to the NFL], you’re all on the same level.”

But high school players rarely choose the Division III level if they’ve given hints of an NFL future. Cleveland.com wrote that Trusnik, a Browns linebacker listed at 6-4, 250, wrestled 112 pounds in high school. Urban chose Trinity over two Ivy League schools, and joined the Tigers intending to play quarterback.

What’s a little harder to project is an NFL-level work ethic and willingness to do whatever is necessary to succeed.

Trusnik says that when coach Dean Paul’s staff at Ohio Northern identified the pro potential in him, they never let him rely solely on his talent, instead pushing him to improve and never allowing him to take a play off. Stacey Hairston, an ONU grad and coach who had spent two seasons as a defensive back for the Browns, “knew what it took” and let Trusnik know he was good enough.

Urban had a similar experience with Mike Burton, a Trinity quarterback who’d had a shot with the San Diego Chargers before returning to his alma mater to coach. “He was always in my ear, ‘you’ve got the talent to do it,’ Urban said. “Always calling scouts that he had known in the CFL, trying to get them to take a look at me.”

Most importantly, both players responded to the coaching by working as hard as possible in preparation for their opportunity. When it came, each seized it.


Jerheme Urban's football career has taken him from the Stagg Bowl to the Super Bowl.
Photo by Chris Blackford

Urban, at 6-3, 207 pounds, had an NFL build, but Seattle didn’t really have a need at wide receiver. He worked his way on to the team, and says the label of undrafted Division III player actually bought him some time to develop and learn how getting open in the NFL was different than being three or four steps ahead of a defender in college.

Trusnik received a phone call from Mangini after the NFL draft.

“He gave me a real great opportunity coming out of Ohio Northern, out of D-III … I had to work my way up through the practice squad. I don’t think he treated me in any special way because I was a D-III guy. He likes hard workers, high-tempo, high-motor type guys.”

Fired by the Jets last season, Mangini’s new team engineered a midseason trade that sent a star to New York and brought Trusnik back home to Ohio.

After a foot injury brought him to the end of a three-season run in Seattle, Urban had a chance to return to his home state as well. His missed the Seahawks’ training camp in 2006, but the Cowboys called to give him a look.

At a one-man workout, with owner Jerry Jones and then-coach Bill Parcells watching from the sidelines on folding chairs, Urban impressed. He hadn’t been through camp with the Cowboys, but Todd Haley, then the receivers coach in Dallas, saw something in Urban.

“He said ‘one thing I really appreciate is you being in shape and ready to go.’ ” Urban recalls. “In Dallas, one thing he would constantly tell me was that he was happy with the way I worked at practice. In his words, I can run all day.”

Urban, who ran track at Trinity to stay competitive in the offseason, says he now has text-messaging buddies on the roster of the Kansas City Chiefs, where Haley is the head coach, who were referred to him by the coach because they had trouble staying in shape.

Urban didn’t last with his boyhood team, who cut him after a 2006 spent on the practice squad. When Haley became the offensive coordinator in Arizona, he wanted Urban to play for him.

“The following year when [Dallas] released me, Todd was the first person to call me from Arizona,” Urban recalls. “He said ‘hey, I’m going to go upstairs and go to bat for you’ for them to put a claim in for me.”

Now he’s a Cardinals regular in the final season of a three-year contract.

“For me my faith is the most important thing to me,” Urban says. “Looking back at how things work out, it’s kind of evident to me where I’ve been put for certain reasons.”

That starts with choosing Trinity, where he still works out in the offseasons and for whom he and his wife Emily volunteered coaching track. He says he still watches Tigers games on the Internet unless his NFL team is on a plane, and he texts back and forth with old teammates about game strategy and tactics. Jerheme’s brother Caleb, is a senior wide receiver for Trinity.

For Urban, choosing a Division III school was a step on the road to seven seasons in the NFL, two Super Bowls, and being on a first-name basis with a Matt (Hasselbeck), a Kurt (Warner) and a Jerry (Rice).

For Trusnik, it’s earned him accolades like NFL Special Teams player of the week and given him a chance to start two of the past three games for his favorite team growing up. He got to see his brother Lenny, an ONU linebacker, take a shot in the NFL as a fullback. It didn’t work out, “but that’s why he got his degree,” Jason says.

The moral of their stories, for Division III players with pro dreams, are don’t let the Division III label deter those dreams.

Work like mad. Be the guy on the team that finishes every drill first, even if it draws the ire of the players who would rather slack. It can only help. Maybe a coach will take a liking to you, and you’ll earn an opportunity down the line.

Even if you’re already supremely talented, continue to push yourself. Garcon might have been the most physically gifted player on the field in every college game he participated in, but after his freshman season at Norwich, he sought out Mount Union, a place where he’d be challenged and receive the best coaching there is.

And, whatever you do, remember where you came from.

“I don’t want to say I’ve made it,” Urban says. “Deep down I have that Division III mentality, that undrafted free agent mentality that I’ve never really made it.”

Ten best
If you’ve enjoyed the Around the Nation series celebrating 10 years of D3football.com, with our Ten Best lists, keep an eye on our blog, The Daily Dose, throughout the playoffs for at least one more Stagg Bowl-related list, and the annual ATN year-in-review in late December and early January, where I can foresee Ten Best rearing its head once more.

Meantime, keeping with this week’s theme, the success of those who coached or played at Division III schools in their post-D3 endeavors should come as no surprise -- that’s sort of the point of going to a college where your athletic career is designed to never let you lose track of your academic aspirations. So while ATN, with your help, is attempting to assemble a list of Division III alumni who’ve gone on to fame and great accomplishments, this list won’t include ex-players like WWE star John Cena (Springfield), who went on to fame in a field other than football, or grads like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (Washington and Jefferson), who wasn’t a player.

Strictly limiting the list to those who played or coached in Division III in D3football.com era (since 1999) means we have to leave out those who have had success in football since then, like Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, Broncos coach Josh McDaniel and Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio (all John Carroll ’98 or ’99), Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Browns coach Eric Mangini (Wesleyan ’75 and ’94, respectively), Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo (Springfield ’82, one of several Pride with pro ties) or Texans punter Matt Turk (UW-Whitewater ’93).

It does, however, include 10 men who have managed to make a living playing football after Division III, letting the game lead them on some interesting journeys. Here are ...

The ten most interesting post-D3 careers of the D3football.com era:
10. Tom Arth and Pierre Garcon. At first glance, Arth (John Carroll ’03) and Garcon (Mount Union ’08) have very little in common besides both having played in the OAC. But both have also been fortunate enough to spend time with one of the NFL’s most successful franchises around one of its best and most popular players, Peyton Manning. After passing for 10,345 yards and 89 touchdowns in 38 starts for the Blue Streaks, Arth wore the Colts’ blue and was Manning’s understudy from 2003 to ’05, before playing for the Packers (2006), CFL’s Toronto Argonauts (2007) and Arena League’s Grand Rapids Rampage (2008). In Garcon’s second season as a Colt, he’s rapidly become one of Manning’s go-to receivers, with 23 catches for 353 yards and two touchdowns through eight games.

9. Ed Meierkort. South Dakota and “interesting” might not seem to go hand in hand, but the former UW-Stout head coach from 1993-2003 has kept USD from being anything close to boring. Rolling up points and becoming a fixture in the D2Football.com rankings, Meierkort’s Coyotes set more than 100 school records and produced back to back Harlon Hill Trophy finalists. (That’s the D2 equivalent of the Gagliardi). Now he’s in the second season of USD’s transition to Division I-FCS, helping chart a new path for the school and a young conference, the Great West.

8. Fred Jackson.
On the Daily Dose, Pat Coleman recalled Jackson’s performance as a Coe running back in 2002. On his career, Coleman wrote that it’s been all over the map: “He spent two years in the United Indoor Football League, then got a break from Marv Levy, a fellow Coe alumnus, who got him into the Buffalo Bills organization and a spot in NFL Europe. He ran for 731 yards for the Rhein Fire, then made the Bills practice squad in 2006 and ran for 300 yards in 2007. He made the 53-man roster last season out of camp and totaled nearly 900 yards from scrimmage.

“Then, this season, of course, his big break, with Marshawn Lynch suspended for the first three games of the season. He’s taken the ball and run with it, including 163 yards on 28 carries against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”

7. Jay Locey and G.A. Mangus.
As alumni of Division I schools, both coaches seemed at home leading teams deep into the Division III playoffs. Locey spent 23 years with Linfield, the last 10 as the head coach, posting an 84-18 record and winning the 2004 Stagg Bowl. Fortunate to be able to return to his alma mater, Locey is now the assistant head coach at Oregon State. Mangus, meanwhile, cut his teeth playing for Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators, and spent four seasons at Widener and two at Ursinus before leading Delaware Valley’s turnaround. The former MAC also-ran remains a power in the East, although Mangus left to become offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State and is now working alongside Spurrier again as South Carolina’s quarterbacks coach.

6. Jerheme Urban.
See above. His journey through Trinity and three NFL teams -- two that went to the Super Bowl and one from his home state -- has brought him longevity. But perhaps his most interesting moment was his very first NFL touchdown, on Monday Night Football for the Seahawks in a 43-39 loss to the Cowboys. “That kind of really brought it all together for me,” Urban said. “My family was able to see it, Jerry Rice was on our team at the time, and I got a touchdown celebration hug from him.”

5. Jamal Robertson.
The former Ohio Northern running back also used a stint with the Rhein Fire, where he was NFLE’s offensive MVP in 2002, to help propel a professional career. He’s seen time in the backfield and at kick returner for the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, and traded from the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders to the Toronto Argonauts in 2008, Robertson just concluded a 1,035-yard, nine-touchdown season.

4. Owen Schmitt.
After rushing for 1,063 yards in the UW-River Falls wishbone in 2004, Schmitt moved closer to his Fairfax, Va., hometown and walked on at Division I West Virginia. A bruising blocker and runner, he made the team as a fullback, eventually blocking for NFL-bound tandem Steve Slaton and Pat White. Schmitt, who visited River Falls’ during this summer’s kicking camp, made his way into the NFL as well, and has been active in eight games this season for the Seahawks.

3. Steven Hauschka.
A Middlebury neuroscience major, JV soccer player and lacrosse attackman, Hauschka became the Panthers’ kicker when his freshman year roommates convinced him to try out. He succeeded, making 10 of 12 field goals one season, graduated with honors and headed to N.C. State for his master’s degree. Since he’d played other sports as a freshman for the Panthers, he had a year of football eligibility remaining. He made 16 of 18 field goals for the Wolfpack, and was trying to decide between UCLA or Tufts dental school before his NFL dreams caught on. He’s now the kicker for the Ravens, where he’s 8-of-11 on field goal through eight games.

2. K.C. Keeler.
Keeler’s post-Division III journey didn’t take him very far from home, and it only includes one stop. But it also includes a championship. After leading Rowan to five Stagg Bowls and the brink of a sixth in 2001, Keeler replaced the legendary Tubby Raymond (a member of the 300-win club who Keeler had played linebacker for) as Delaware’s head coach. The Blue Hens went 15-1 in Division I-FCS in 2003 and won the national title, and Joe Flacco, a Keeler protégé, became a first-round draft pick and the Ravens’ starting quarterback.

1. Matt D’Orazio.
After tearing up the field as Otterbein’s quarterback from 1996 to 1999, D’Orazio has had quite the football journey. Playing for nine franchises since graduation, including eight in the Arena League, D’Orazio never spent more than two seasons in the same uniform. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t a star; he was the Arena League MVP and Arena Bowl MVP while leading the Philadelphia Soul to the 2008 title.

React to this week’s list on Post Patterns’ Around the Nation thread under general football. You can also send e-mail to Keith@D3football.com or use our feedback form.

Stay tuned to the Daily Dose throughout the postseason. As we near the national championship game, ATN will rank the 10 Stagg Bowls, best to least-best.

Keep track of active Division III players in the NFL via
our FAQ page and share with readers any Division III alumni you know of on ATN’s thread dedicated to this on Post Patterns.

Stay tuned
Before you drift off into the offseason, especially for those fans whose seasons end this week, ATN would like to remind you that we’ll be honoring, highlighting and otherwise mentioning your teams right up until the beginning of January. So don’t tune out completely once your team has turned the equipment in. A quick calendar:

Sun. Nov. 15: Selection Sunday (show between 3-3:30 p.m. on ESPNews)
Following week: Playoff primers, D3football.com playoff pick ‘em
Thu. Nov. 19: ATN’s annual playoff surprises/disappointments column
Sat. Nov. 21: Playoffs, Round 1 (32 teams), ECAC bowl games (12 teams)
Following week: ATN podcast on Mondays, D3football.com regional wrap-ups and playoff features Tues.-Wed.
Sat. Nov. 28: Playoffs, Round 2
Following week: Gagliardi trophy finalists named, D3football.com playoff features, ATN podcast
Sat. Dec. 5: Playoffs, Round 3 (eight teams); D-III Senior Classic all-star game in Salem
Following week: D3football.com All-Region teams announced, Gagliardi Trophy regional finalists (four) announced, Liberty Mutual coach of the year fan voting ends, D3football.com playoff features midweek, ATN podcast
Sat. Dec. 12: National semifinals (four teams), live webcast
Thu. Dec. 17: Gagliardi Trophy presentation
Fri. Dec. 18: Stagg Bowl luncheon, pregame festivities in Salem/Roanoke
Sat. Dec. 19: Stagg Bowl XXXVII, 11 a.m., D3football.com all-Americans announced during pregame broadcast, wall-to-wall coverage of the championship, First installment of ATN’s year-in-review
Last week Dec./First week Jan.: Final installment of ATN’s year-in-review, Liberty Mutual coach of the year award winner announced.

Although it might not be on the schedule officially, die-hard D3football.com readers, please consider coming to Salem for the Stagg Bowl. Not only has it grown to be quite the meetup in terms of fans you know from our boards, regardless of who’s in the championship game, but it’s also a chance for us to share our appreciation for you. Plus, it’s a good time and usually a great game.

If my tailgate challenge between Bridgewater (Va.) and Franklin holds up, we’ll also have that to look forward to. (Got to figure out how to get St. John’s’ Stiftungsfest and Wesley’s tailgaters down there).

I also think there should be an unofficial ATN D3 alumni game the morning of the Stagg Bowl, either flag or two-hand touch. Shoot, a Wesley and Bridgewater quarterback show up each year, along with me and a Mary Hardin-Baylor linebacker, so we have your offensive and defensive captains right there. Who’s with me?

Pool A watch
For those of you less concerned about the past 10 years or the next five weeks than you are the next three days, let’s transition right into talking about what we know about the field of 32 that will compete for the national championship.

With the bids in the 23 automatic-qualifier conferences in varying states of clinchdom (let’s pretend that’s a word), here’s ATN ‘s breakdown of the races:

Twelve are clinched, and there are 14 teams we can confidently project as in the field via Pool A. Anywhere from two to four teams are competing for each of the other nine berths.

Five bids clinched in Week 9: HCAC -- Mount St. Joseph
IIAC -- Central
MWC -- Monmouth
NWC -- Linfield
PAC -- Thomas More

Seven bids clinched in Week 10: MAC -- Delaware Valley
MIAA -- Trine
MIAC -- St. John’s
NCAC -- Wittenberg
OAC -- No. 1 Mount Union
SCAC -- DePauw
WIAC -- No. 2 UW-Whitewater

Two bids are practically clinched: Barring stunning upsets by 0-9 Texas Lutheran and 1-8 North Park, which hasn’t won a CCIW game since 2000, these teams are in the field:
ASC -- Mississippi College
CCIW -- Illinois Wesleyan

Five bids go to the winner of showdown/title games: The NEFC features Division III’s only conference title game, pitting perennial power Curry against a Maine Maritime team that rushed for 730 yards on Saturday. The other four games are what we’d call defacto title games. The playoff prospects are bleak at best for most of the losers in these games, as only the NJAC teams look like they’d get consideration with two losses.
LL -- Susquehanna at Union
NEFC -- Maine Maritime at Curry
NJAC -- Kean at Montclair State
ODAC -- Hampden-Sydney at Randolph-Macon
USAC -- N.C. Wesleyan at Averett\

The final four bids are very much up in the air:
CC -- Johns Hopkins is in with a win against McDaniel. If JHU loses, Dickinson is in with a win against Ursinus. If both lose and Franklin and Marshall also wins against Gettysburg, there would be a four-way tie at 6-2. F&M is 1-2 against the other three, Dickinson would be 2-1, Johns Hopkins would be 2-1 and Ursinus would be 2-1. Reverting to a three-way tie between JHU, Ursinus and Dickinson, Ursinus would win the automatic bid, because it would have swept Dickinson and Johns Hopkins while Dickinson would be 0-2 and JHU 1-1.

E8 -- Alfred is in with a win against Utica. If Alfred loses, St. John Fisher is in with a win at Hartwick. If Alfred and St. John Fisher both lose, then there is a four-way tie with Alfred, SJF Springfield and Ithaca. SJF and Alfred are 2-1 against the group; the other two are 1-2. Alfred beat SJF head-to-head, and would win AQ.

NathCon -- Concordia (Ill.) is in with a win against Benedictine. Lakeland is in with Concordia (Ill.) loss and a win against Aurora. There's also a four-way tie potential here if both lose and Concordia (Wis.) wins at Rockford.

SCIAC -- Cal Lutheran is in with a win. Cal Lutheran is in if CLU loses and Occidental wins. Redlands is in if CLU loses and Oxy loses to Whittier.

Contributing: Pat Coleman

Pool B
Case Western Reserve, Huntingdon and Wesley are still the favorites for the bids. It still looks like three and three only.

ECFC -- Norwich has clinched the division at 6-0 but finishes 7-3 and out of the playoff hunt.
UMAC -- Martin Luther and Greenville are each unbeaten in conference play but has at least three losses and is out of the playoff hunt.

Pool C watch
In this week’s podcast, Pat & I identified 14 candidates for the six at-large bids left over once the 23 automatics and three Pool Bs are handed out. ATN can come up with a few more, but they’re even less likely to get in. Also, there’s at least one team, Hampden-Sydney, likely to win its AQ that would make a legitimate candidate if it lost on Saturday.

Since the playoff committee identifies at-large contenders, then discusses only four at a time, one from each region, ATN finds it most helpful to list them by region, taking Wednesday’s selection committee rankings into account.

North -- Wabash, Ohio Northern, North Central, Wheaton, Otterbein
South -- Mary Hardin-Baylor, Dickinson, Washington & Jefferson.
East -- Lebanon Valley/Albright winner, Springfield, St. John Fisher, Kean/Montclair State loser, Lebanon Valley/Albright loser.
West -- St. Thomas, Coe, Redlands, St. Norbert, Willamette

Except in the north, this list barely scratches the surface when it comes to two-loss teams. Some, like Alfred and Cal Lutheran, are in line for Pool A bids and would have faint hopes in Pool C with a loss Saturday. But even if it doesn’t look good, don’t despair. There have been Week 11s when several teams play their way out of likely bids and teams thought to have little chance going into the day end up in the field. So, as in the case of Wheaton last season, there’s always hope.

Discuss Pool C on Post Patterns right up until Sunday’s 3 p.m.-ish selection show on ESPN, and then on into next week.

Bracket building
As an exercise intended to illustrate just how many options there really are when it comes to building the eight brackets the make up Division III’s playoff field, I came up with three mock brackets.

Pat’s official projection was released Wednesday night.

Games of the week
For a breakdown of this week’s national games to watch and why, see Friday morning’s Triple Take.

Ryan Tipps, Pat Coleman and I field seven questions regarding this Saturday’s schedule, and give you three answers to each on our blog, The Daily Dose.

Playoff primer
Keep handy the the OWP/OOWP calculations that the playoff selection committee will use, a link to the championship handbook, and the primary selection criteria:

Win-loss percentage against regional opponents.
Strength-of-schedule (only contests versus regional competition). SOS is weighted 2/3s Opponents’ Average Winning Percentage (OWP) and 1/3 Opponents’ Opponents’ Average Winning Percentage (OOWP). This number is listed on our Strength of Schedule page.
In-region head-to-head competition.
In-region results versus common regional opponents.
In-region results versus regionally ranked teams.

Upon further review: Seniors’ last game

Feedback from last week also featured on the ATN thread of Post Patterns. Two messages in response to last week’s “seniors’ last game” item stood out. Here are they are, excerpted:

“Keith,

Your portion of ATN about the Seniors' Last Game gave me goose bumps. I graduated
from Moravian College in the spring and just reading your piece about the last time
you get to strap it up brings back so many memories. I did not start following D3football.com until after I graduated, there is hardly enough time to fit in schoolwork with all the practice and normal college stuff that following a website week to week becomes nearly impossible. It's a shame because a piece like that could probably help things touch home for some seniors who are embarking on their final games in the next couple weeks. I finished my regular season career with an upset of top 10-ranked Muhlenberg and an 8-2 record. We had felt like we were on top of the world and to this day my true final memory is of Ryan Rempe jumping through the pile for the game-winning OT score. However, we were selected for a ECAC Bowl against Salisbury. There seemed to be many mixed emotions about that selection. Number 1 it was below 30 degrees every day of practice that week. Number 2, what could have been better than upsetting a top 10 team, let alone a despised rival like Muhlenberg? We jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead only to see it slip away to a 21-17 loss in the second half. Looking back I know we all tried our hardest in the game, but I sincerely wonder if we realized how lucky we were to be able to play one more
collegiate game. If we knew how we would feel the following fall watching college football instead of playing, if we would have pulled a little deeper to make one more play that could've turned that 4-point defeat into a victory.”
-- Marc Braxmeier

“I have been an ardent reader/follower of information/articles on D3football.com for four years. While I am well aware that it may not be relevant to those fans that follow Division I football, for the vast majority of us who have sons that are what I consider 'true student athletes', who well play for "the love of the game', it is a
source of recognition, inspiration, and information, about 'our world'.

As my son plays his last few games, which I believe will be punctuated by his team's
playoff aspirations being met, I too, as one of the recent articles suggest, look out over the last few years and realize that there are only a few more times watching them come down the "Long Green Line," participating in the tailgates during the warmth of Indian summers and the cold and drizzle of the Midwest in mid-November. The meetings with families (mostly dads) discussing the winning or losing, play calling, great plays, (sometimes with a victory cigar), to remembering to bring the Gatorade on the away games for the boy's bus ride home. And for me, the enjoyment of watching my son walk off the field in victory or defeat and meeting with him after the game. And what hit me as my family trekked from all over this past couple weeks to watch these few games that are left, I realize that over the last few years while my son has evolved into a man, and grown before my eyes, he's met some lifelong friends and I have met some really great people also.

And as one of the articles I read mentioned, that college football will be the last for most of the boys, I too will probably visit D3football.com less and less, but wanted to thank all those involved for the effort and reporting D3 provides us regular dads.”

-- Larry Pope

The press box

Readers: ATN seeks feedback on the Ten Best lists and moments to remember for the year-in-review.

Around the Nation always encourages general opinions on the column. Readers can best get a response by posting on Around the Nation's running thread on Post Patterns (under general football). Send e-mail to Keith@D3football.com or use our feedback form.

Follow Around the Nation …
1. … When the column publishes on Thursdays.
2. … Throughout the week on Twitter. This is ATN’s first season tweeting. Follow @D3Keith.
3. … Mondays, Pat Coleman and I wrap up the week that was in our podcast. Download from iTunes or listen to it in the Daily Dose’s media player.
4. … Whether ATN travels or observes from the home office, Saturday’s Gameday post on The Daily Dose is where you can find D3 staffers and fans from all over the country sharing highlights.
5. … Advance discussions raised here on Around the Nation’s Post Patterns thread, at the top of the General Football board.

Parents of potential players and possible transfers: Been getting a lot of e-mail from you lately, and while I do the best I can to respond, several heads are always better than one. Our message board community is really eager to help when it comes to requests for information about which schools would be good fits with a potential player’s academic and athletic goals.

Please refer to this thread on Post Patterns. The advice is invaluable, and the answers come more quickly and with a better base of knowledge than sometimes I am able to provide. Be specific in your questions, and they will be specific in their answers.

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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If you haven't seen regional rankings before, or your team hasn't been a contender in recent years,...
November 3, 2013
Snap judgments: The aftermath
With so many games featuring two ranked teams, we should see a lot of movement in Sunday's Top 25...
October 24, 2013
Poll positions: Doing some number crunching
The Top 25 doesn't exist to steal anybody's joy. It is merely a prism through which to view...
October 20, 2013
Snap judgments: Cycling up
Maryville and TCNJ are atop their respective conferences, the John Carroll defense isn't the only...
October 13, 2013
Snap judgments: A blurry picture developing
Not literally -- we get great pictures from our associated photographers and SIDs, but that won't...
October 8, 2013
Poll positions: Streaking up the rankings
Keith McMillan looks at why one computer ranking is making the case for a blue team No. 1, and not a...
October 6, 2013
Snap judgments: Bounceback seasons
Olivet, St. Lawrence, North Park, Husson, Western Connecticut ... the list of improved teams this...
October 3, 2013
Re-ranking the conferences
With September's games, and the vast majority of non-conference play in the books, Around the Nation...
September 29, 2013
Snap judgments: Look away from the Top 25 scores
At first glance -- like say, the scores page, with the top 25 scores the initial finals that catch...
September 26, 2013
History lesson: Engineering rivalries
Week 4 is perhaps the most odd Saturday on the schedule. There aren't many great rivalries, but...
September 24, 2013
Poll positions: How the voters reacted
A kick going wide left produced a wide variety of reactions, but when Wesley got taken down a peg,...
September 22, 2013
Snap judgments: Week 3
The Tommie-Johnnie rivalry is back, UMHB's defensive line is pretty darn good, the MIAA has a better...
September 19, 2013
History lesson: Wesley vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor
Now that longtime rivals Wabash and DePauw are both in the North Coast, and Mount Union and...
September 18, 2013
Poll positions: There's some movement coming
The top of the poll didn't change much last week but Saturday's games could have a significant...
September 17, 2013
Off the beaten path
Just because a team isn't in the Top 25 running or mentioned in the podcast or doesn't have a Play...
September 11, 2013
Poll positions: Why teams shuffle
In Around the Nation, Keith McMillan discusses a nonstandard way of assembling the ballot after Week...
September 8, 2013
Snap judgments
Keith McMillan's Around the Nation column returns. You'll see ATN several times a week, including on...

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