Around the Region
The culture has changed
|Matt Pawlowski and his classmates left an indelible legacy at Guilford.
Photo courtesy Guilford Athletics
Guilford football now believes that it is a perennial contender.
Five years ago, the Quakers were winless. The following year, they went 2-8 in Chris Rusiewicz's first season. Then, the class of Matt Pawlowski and Adam Smith arrived on campus.
The freshmen contributed immediately, leading the Quakers to a 5-5 season. That was followed by 6-4 and 8-2 seasons and capped by this year's 9-1 finish, the best in program history.
The Quakers are still seeking the program's first playoff berth, but there is no question that the culture change is complete.
"All of us seniors felt like we were the turning point in this program," said senior receiver Adam Smith.
This year's nine wins are a record. The Quakers narrowly missed earning the first playoff berth in program history. As much as it hurts now, this year's senior class altered the course of this program.
"We knew our senior class was special when we brought them in," said Rusiewicz. "They really came together as one group and bonded together. They took care of the classes that came after them."
Smith set a program record with 3,988 career receiving yards. His 46 receiving touchdowns are also a record. Pawlowski finishes second behind Josh Vogelbach in nearly all of the Quakers career passing categories. He is the all-time leader in completion percentage at 63.7 percent.
"He's very accurate and very smart," said quarterbacks coach Steve McNeely of Pawlowski. "He will take what the defense gives him and will not be greedy. He uses his brain to his advantage."
McNeely knows what it takes to build a championship program. He arrived at Guilford earlier this year after coaching at Mount Union. He coached Kevin Burke, a two-time Gagliardi Trophy winner. He noticed right away that the coaching staff had prepared the Quakers to approach each week at a championship level. He also recognized that his new quarterback shared many attributes with his previous All-American.
"They are both tremendous kids on and off the field. They are hard workers who do whatever it takes for their team to win," said McNeely, comparing Pawlowski and Burke. "Either of them would trade all of his accolades for team success."
Smith and Pawlowski began their relationship as competitors. Both were high school quarterbacks, and Rusiewicz would have been comfortable with either starting as a freshman. Pawlowski won out and in Week 2 of that season Smith moved to wide receiver. The pair connected for over 3,000 yards and over 40 touchdowns over the next four years.
"Adam and Matt just clicked. They're just such great kids," said Rusiewicz. "When Matt needs to make a play, he...
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 fourth season 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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