Football is here: Get fired up!

Adam Turer was once what Grey Reames is now: a defensive back at Washington & Lee.
Washington & Lee athletics photo

I used to love football.

I wanted to play for as long as I can remember, and finally wore my parents (mostly mom) down enough to allow me to put the pads on as a sixth grader. My ten years as a player shaped some of the best memories and friendships of my life. But as I grow older, I find myself feeling less and less passionate about the sport each season.

A lot of it has to do with the sport’s “growth” off the field. Maybe I’m just a purist. I find it difficult to care about conference realignment, recruiting, greed, money -- year-round news that can take the focus away from the game of football itself. I am frustrated by the rules changes that make the game so different from what it was just ten years ago. I no longer watch more than one or two NFL games a week. I don’t partake in fantasy football or any other form of football gambling, legal or otherwise. I haven’t played Madden in years (NCAA Football was always the better game anyway -- RIP). My shoulders are so jacked from years of tackling that I can barely toss batting practice to my son’s baseball team. I can’t imagine what players who actually hit somebody on every play of their careers must feel like five to ten years later. The physical toll the game takes on one’s body leaves me disillusioned.

In July, I have to search for the desire to grind through another season. By the time they announce last call at Mac & Bob’s in Salem, Va., on the third Friday in December, I’m grateful for another season, but also thankful that it’s over.

Then I speak to St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso and get inspired by his overwhelming passion to build leaders, fathers, and husbands out of his football players. I speak to Linfield quarterback Sam Riddle about our shared experience as D-III college football players balancing the game with fatherhood and academics. I see the unbreakable bonds forged through the tragic loss of a teammate at Washington and Jefferson, Linfield, and Thomas More. I remember the community atmosphere of tailgates at Franklin and the rowdy student section at Mount Union.

Each year from August through December, I am reminded that most love college football, specifically D-III football, because the on-field product is in many ways secondary. The season is about growth, friendship, leadership, overcoming adversity, self-discovery, and so much more. I will always appreciate a great blitz pickup, angle of pursuit, or pre-snap read. I like the game of football, the chess match between coaches. The past two Stagg Bowls were decided by innovative halftime adjustments by offensive coordinators.

I don’t know if I’ll ever love football as I once did, but there are plenty of moments when I can see why others do. My son, like I once did, has begged to play football for as long as he can remember. I finally relented this year, with the caveat that he play flag football. But as I stood on the sideline coaching him and his other sixth grade buddies on Sunday, I couldn’t help but get fired up. There’s something about this game that brings out an intensity and camaraderie that is unique.

Let’s go on this 2016 football season journey together. I hope you -- the coaches, players, administrators, families, and fans who make D-III football so special -- can help me love football again.

CT Tarrant tells a little bit of his back story.
Thomas More athletics photo

Players’ Corner

As part of my attempt to rekindle a love for football, I’ll be reaching out to players all season long to give them space to explain why they love the game. First up is Thomas More running back CT Tarrant. Like so many players out there, his story contains an inspirational element that is not visible on the surface, but provides him with the drive and passion that it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom.

I first realized that I loved the game of football when I was eight years old. My family and I had just moved to Hamilton, Ohio, from Pittsburgh, Pa. The neighborhood we lived in was located on the east side of Hamilton and all the kids in the neighborhood played for the New Miami Vikings at the time. My mother (Lorraine Blanchard) signed me up for organized football in the third grade after being asked to do so countless times. As a kid I remember having a very competitive spirit and always wanting to come in first no matter what it was. Academically I wanted to have the best grades, read the most books, and get entered into the advance courses. I wanted to be the best in tetherball, be the one who always got picked first in gym class, or be the one who got to pick others. My point in mentioning that is to illustrate that I basically always wanted to be the best and if I wasn't I worked my ass off until I was. So when I first played organized football I realized I wasn't the biggest or fastest, so that made me work even harder to catch up to those who were. Then and now I love the competitive nature of the game, along with the contact.

I love football because it's my heart, it embodies my entire life, I have so many positive memories from the game both on and off the field. The game has taught me so much about life. How to work towards goals, how to face adversity head on, and how to overcome obstacles. My 9th grade year of football my mother was diagnosed with cancer (Multiple Myeloma) and ever since then I've always played for her. She's my backbone, that internal fire that burns within me, the reason why I continue to chase my dreams and never give up. If she can battle a terminal illness for nearly a decade then I can run that last sprint, I can graduate from college, and on my worst days I can still give 110%. I can make her a proud mama! I love football because it's always been a part of my family and it always will be.

Thank you, CT and all the best to you and Ms. Lorraine. If you or someone you know would like to be featured in Players’ Corner this year, please reach out to me at any time.

Deja vu

Two years ago, Ryan Tipps took over this column from Keith McMillan. Ryan’s alma mater was playing in one of the season’s most anticipated non-conference matchups in Week 1. The game between Wabash and Hampden-Sydney paired two teams with similarly unique profiles.

As fate would have it, my debut Around the Nation column coincides with one of the season’s biggest non-conference games to open the season, also featuring my alma mater.

Washington and Lee played Johns Hopkins every year from 1997 through 2003. The Blue Jays won six of those seven contests, and the teams haven’t played since then. The programs have combined for eight playoff appearances so far this decade. Both went 10-0 last season.

The Generals are still searching for their first playoff victory. The Blue Jays have been tantalizingly close to breaking through to the next tier of D-III powers, losing their last three playoff games to Wesley by five, Hobart by three, then Wesley again by five.

“We’re real excited about the opportunity to play on a national stage against one of the best programs in the country,” said W&L coach Scott Abell. “We talk about taking the next step. To take that next step, you measure yourself against a program like Hopkins.”

The renewal of this series is part of a round robin that will see Johns Hopkins play the W&L for two years, then Randolph-Macon for two years. The Generals will face Dickinson in 2018 and 2019. Dickinson and Randolph-Macon are playing this year and next. The Centennial Conference schools only have the opportunity to play one non-conference game. The Blue Jays put less weight on the outcome and more on the experience gained. They know their ticket to the playoffs is a conference title.

“Our goal is always to win the Centennial. If non-conference doesn’t go your way, you can still turn around and make the playoffs,” said JHU coach Jim Margraff. “It’s tough to manage expectations sometimes. Our guys have taken a mature approach.”

Both teams reached many of their goals last season, but ended on a disappointing note. They quickly turned the page to 2016.

“Our guys are aware of how easy it would be to slip backward. This team will be measured on 2016, not anything they’ve done in the past,” said Abell. “I think they’ll respond the way we want them to. They’re grounded. They know if we don’t take care of the little things, we’ll be disappointed.”

A test against a perennial playoff team will show the Generals right off the bat how they measure up. But for both teams, this game will be a fun opportunity to compete against another ranked squad from one of the nation’s premier academic institutions. Everyone who has been craving more D-III football since last December will have eyes on this game, kicking off on Thursday night. These teams will kick off the 2016 season, but will wake up on Friday knowing that their respective Pool A berths are still very much alive.

“I see a lot of similarities in the type of players we have. They are tremendous scholar athletes,” said Margraff of his players and those they will face in the season opener. “They are self-starters in so many ways. Motivation is not a problem. Our guys have never given up. They know what they’re playing for.”

What do you know? Do you know things? Let's find out!

There are so many worthy stories to be told and I can’t find them all on my own. Please share with me those stories that make you passionate about D-III football. If you have suggestions for next week's column, please reach out to me on Twitter at @adamturer or via email at adam.turer@d3sports.com. Thanks for reading!

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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 third season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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