October 2, 2012

W&L's Heinsohn breathes life into family legacy

More news about: Washington and Lee
Athletics is in Luke Heinsohn's blood: He's a two-sport athlete, his grandfather was a Generals coach and his sister is in the school's Hall of Fame.
Washington and Lee athletics photo

The Division III spirit runs through Luke Heinsohn's veins. It is why he chose Washington and Lee. It is why he remains humble while excelling in two varsity sports and in the classroom. It is why, despite his talent, he remains the Generals' most unselfish teammate.

In 1954, Washington and Lee disbanded the football team and stopped offering athletic scholarships. Just three years prior, the Generals enjoyed the national spotlight, concluding the 1951 season with a trip to the Gator Bowl. After the one-year suspension, the Generals returned to play in 1955, but no longer to compete with the nation's top teams. After struggling to a 1-14 mark in the 1955 and 1956 seasons, the program was desperately in need of leadership and guidance. Enter Lee McLaughlin. McLaughlin turned the program around and guided it into the Division III era. He posted a 48-43-4 record at W&L before his tragic accidental death in the summer of 1968. Forty-four years later, his legacy is as strong as ever, thanks in large part to his grandson's efforts.

"It's really special being here," said Heinsohn, whose father also graduated from W&L. "I'm glad I ended up here."

Heinsohn obviously never met his grandfather, but McLaughlin's love for W&L lives on in the Generals' senior running back. He arrived on campus as a freshman eager to compete for touches, not bragging about his family's heritage in Lexington.

"With his lineage, it was hard for us not to know about him," said Generals head coach Scott Abell. "You would never know it from him if you didn't read about his background. He's very humble."

If he felt any pressure to be a star for the Generals, he never showed it. After this season, his name will be all over the Washington and Lee record book. In W&L's 42-21 win over Guilford, Heinsohn scored three touchdowns and kicked six extra points, becoming the school's all-time leading scorer. He broke the record of 220 points held by Marc Watson since 2001. Heinsohn now has 228 points with at least six games left to play.

"You can't help but be happy for Luke," said Abell. "He is a class act all the way around."

It is not common for the team's top offensive weapon to volunteer for placekicking duties, but that is exactly what Heinsohn did this past summer. He kicked off some as a freshman, but only rushed for 43 yards that season. He burst onto the scene as a sophomore, rushing for 1,321 yards and putting kicking duties behind him. Knowing that the Generals lacked depth at the position this year, he approached Abell and offered his services. He has made 18 of 19 point after tries so far this season.

"He wants to do as much as he can to help the program," said Abell. "He is so talented, and I think he's enjoying it. He wants to do so much for us that I have to hold him back some."

"It's just about helping the team in whatever way I can," said Heinsohn. "[Kicking] just takes a little more focus."

McLaughlin was inducted into the Washington and Lee Athletics Hall of Fame in 1995. Heinsohn's half-sister, Angie Carrington Murphy, was inducted in 2005. Like Murphy, who starred in both soccer and lacrosse for the Generals, Heinsohn is a two-sport star. Last season, he scored 11 goals and notched 13 assists for the Generals lacrosse team.

In the winter and spring, he is focused on lacrosse. In the summer and fall, he is dedicated to football.

"My coaches are really good about separating my seasons," said Heinsohn.

His ability to excel in both sports makes his accomplishments even more impressive.

"I think that makes what he's achieved even more remarkable," said Abell. "Luke is certainly a guy who can juggle a lot of different interests and strengths."

The humility that McLaughlin instilled in so many young men when the campus was still reeling from the scandal that shut down the football team in 1954 is a trait that has carried through the bloodline. When injuries in camp led to Abell approaching his power back about a possible move to the slot-back position, there was no hesitation.

"He said, 'Coach, whatever you need me to do,'" said Abell. "That is a testament to his character. Having a leader like that on your team, I can't describe it. He's the kind of guy that makes everyone around him want to do better."

Heinsohn also has much in common with Watson, the man whose records he continues to attack. He needs just 390 yards to supplant Watson — also a two-sport athlete for the Generals who ran track in the spring — as the school's leader in career rushing yards. After breaking the scoring record, Heinsohn received an email from Watson. The man who coached them both was surprised to see Watson's long-standing record surpassed, but very happy with the man responsible for breaking it.

"It was really special to hear from him," said Heinsohn. "I was totally honored to talk with him."

"Luke is an outstanding young man," said former Generals head coach Frank Miriello. "He is so talented and committed to coming to work every day. I'm really happy to see his name in the record book."

Heinsohn's lineage bridges the history of the program from its beginnings in Division III to the present day. He is well on his way to becoming the third member of his family in the Washington and Lee Athletic Hall of Fame.

"He comes from such a great family and great football family," said Miriello. "I am glad for him and for the program."

The running back/slot back/placekicker is currently tied for the national scoring lead with 18 points per game. More importantly, his Generals started ODAC play 1-0 and have won three straight games after dropping the season opener. The back defers credit for individual accolades.

"This record is not an individual thing," said Heinsohn. "It is a product of our whole team and every team from the last four years, especially our offensive line and the other backs and receivers who block, too."

The significance of the Generals' success during Heinsohn's run (19-6 overall, 12-1 in ODAC play since the beginning of his sophomore season) is not lost on those who are familiar with the history of the program.

"We are blessed to have not just Luke, but his whole family," said Abell. "For our offense to have the all-around success that we've had with Luke as our feature back, it makes it even more special."


Team of the Week: Catholic. ODAC play began with an upset, as the Cardinals defeated Hampden-Sydney, 41-28. Catholic led 34-7 heading into the fourth quarter. Nash Nance threw three fourth quarter touchdown passes, but it was too little, too late. Mike Pitsenberger rushed for three scores and Greg Cordivari passed for 302 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Many observers, myself included, kept waiting for the Tigers to come back. Instead, the Catholic defense kept coming after Nance, sacking him four times, picking him off twice and holding him to just 16 completions in 40 attempts. It was the Cardinals’ first win over Hampden-Sydney since Catholic tied atop the ODAC in 2008, and just the second victory over the Tigers in 12 seasons. Alonzo Cooke caught ten passes for 135 yards and two scores for the Cardinals.

An honorable mention goes to Greensboro. The Pride held on for a 34-33 win at Methodist to improve to 3-1 in head coach Bill Young’s first season. It is only the second time the Pride has started a season 3-1 and the first time since 2003. This also marks the first time Greensboro has been 1-0 in conference play since 2006. The three wins have come by a total of nine points, but after an 0-10 season a year ago, this team is simply looking for wins, not style points. Ryan Throndset passed for 398 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Pride to victory. Throndset once again relied on his duo of dynamic receivers: Antwan Thorpe (nine catches, 195 yards, one touchdown) and Dexter Russell Jr. (eight, 106, two). Thorpe ranks 17th in the country with 110.75 receiving yards per game and now has four touchdown receptions on the season. Russell is not far behind, hauling in 95.5 yards per contest.

Number of the Week: 35:20. The best way to slow down a potent offense is to keep it on the sideline. Randolph-Macon possessed the ball for 35:20 of its 22-10 victory over Emory and Henry. The Yellow Jackets rank seventh in the nation with an average time of possession of 35:03. Drake Sanders rushed 18 times, while Will McGhee carried the ball 13 times. Zac Naccarato was very efficient, completing 15 of 19 passes for 233 yards and no interceptions, and scoring one rushing touchdown. The Yellow Jackets did not turn the ball over. Despite being held to 24:40 time of possession, Wasps quarterback Kyle Boden continued to light it up. He completed 31 of 55 passes for 359 yards, one score, and one interception. In the three games that haven’t been played in monsoon-like conditions, Boden is averaging 352.67 passing yards per game, which would tie him for fourth in the nation. Boden was hounded all day by the Yellow Jackets defense, especially senior Cross Trued, who notched 2.5 sacks among his six total tackles. Parker Williams intercepted Boden for the game’s only turnover. Each team now stands 3-1 overall and the ODAC race remains wide open.

At the Bye: The Centennial Conference heads into its bye week looking like a three-team race. The Blue Jays are the favorites, the Bullets have looked very impressive, and the Diplomats are still hanging around. Scott Cremens caught nine passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns in Johns Hopkins’ win over Juniata. The Blue Jays are tied atop the CC with Gettysburg. Ted Delia ran for three touchdowns as Gettysburg rolled to 5-0 on the season with a 35-3 win over winless McDaniel. The Green Terror remains the only winless team in the Centennial Conference. Dickinson scored two defensive touchdowns, but the Red Devils’ rally fell short against Franklin and Marshall. Dickinson’s defense came up with the biggest plays, but the Diplomats’ defense came up with more plays, finishing with five sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Susquehanna pulled off the biggest upset so far in CC play, shutting down Muhlenberg, 17-0. The Crusaders forced four turnovers and held the Mules to just 217 yards of total offense. Muhlenberg has now lost two straight, likely falling out of contention for a conference championship. In a conference loaded with stout defenses, Ursinus posted one of the most impressive performances of the season. The Bears held Moravian to 95 total yards of offense. Defensive end Andrew Fiorentino led the effort with three sacks.

Quick Hits: LaGrange had three different players rush for over 70 yards each, as the Panthers totaled 310 yards on the ground in a 40-13 win over North Carolina Wesleyan. Bridgewater is now the only 4-0 team in the ODAC after a 44-14 win over the Apprentice School kept the Eagles perfect in 2012. A showdown against a very angry, but suddenly beatable, Hampden-Sydney team awaits.

Looking Ahead: Ferrum at Christopher Newport for a Saturday night showdown in the USA South. These teams have met each of CNU’s 11 seasons on the gridiron. The Panthers are 1-10 in those meetings, with the only victory coming in 2003. The Captains seem to be the bridge that Ferrum just can’t cross. Four times since 2001, Ferrum has had just one blemish on its conference record; each season, that lone defeat was courtesy of the Captains. Last season, an injury-depleted CNU squad won the de facto conference championship game, 48-30. After being held to 20 points or fewer in their first three games of the season, the Captains righted the ship in the USA South opener, a 45-31 win over Maryville. Ferrum will need to slow the home team’s deep backfield and force CNU to go to the air. On offense, sophomore quarterback Tim Reynolds will need to do it all. The dual-threat quarterback has accounted for 946 of Ferrum’s 1,488 yards of offense this season. The winner here is the clear favorite to earn the conference’s automatic playoff bid.

What Did I Miss? Do you know about any upcoming milestones, big games or new names in the Mid-Atlantic? Please share them with me. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me at @adamturer or adam.turer@d3sports.com. Enjoy Week 6!

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his second year as Around the Mid-Atlantic columnist.

2007-2011 columnist: Ryan Tipps
2003-2006: Pat Cummings
2000: Keith McMillan
1999: Pat Coleman 

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