Eagles Seniors Prepare For Last Day At Alumni
|11.18.09 at 9:10 pm ET|
What a long, strang trip it has been.
For the Boston College seniors preparing to make their final stand on Chestnut Hill this Saturday, those Grateful Dead lyrics ring true. These are some of the final players recruited by coach Tom O’Brien before he made the jump to NC State, who then lived to tell the story of the Jeff Jagodzinski era and come out on the other end as high flying Eagles with Frank Spaziani. These seniors saw Matt Ryan create a miracle against Virginia Tech in 2007 and subsequently lose to those same Hokies in the ACC Championship game. Twice.
They are a proud bunch who identify closely with the team mentality of what it means to play for BC. It was probably not the experience they thought they were going to have when they signed up (as most college students would probably say), but it has been a successful run through the years and they hope to finish strong and maybe have a chance to get back to the ACC Championship game. Hey, maybe this time they can even win it.
“It is a scary thought,” co-captain Rich Gunnell said about the last home game of his career. “I try not to think about it too much. Get ready for the real world. It might be emotional, I don’t know. It might be a spur of the moment thing.”
Gunnell, Matt Tennant, Mike McLaughlin, Marcellus Bowman, Austin Giles, Jim Ramella and Roderick Rollins are just some of the names of the Eagles moving on who are the heart of this year’s squad that have defied the pundits expectations and put together yet another solid run towards the top of the ACC. Not that this group ever cared what pundits think.
“This year more than ever we have taken a lot of pride in our success because it was not expected, more than normal,” Bowman said. “The predictors and experts normally do not pick us but this year they had all the reasons in the world not to pick us and we knew as a senior class that we had to step up more than normal. We had to step up more than normal. More than just making a play. Psychologically we had to step up and make sure the younger guys believe the philosophies that we have at BC. We all take a lot of pride of what we have done before and what we plan on doing.”
Saturday’s challenge against the North Carolina Tar Heels represents a catharsis for these seniors. Once again they come in as underdogs (3.5 points according to Bodog.com) against one of the best defenses in the country, despite the fact that they have not lost a home game all year and UNC can have trouble moving the ball. The seniors are focusing on winning the game but somewhere in the back of their minds they would relish the fact that they did not lose a game in front of their home fans in their final year on The Heights.
“Definitely. Any time we can achieve something like that, especially on your home turf, especially for the last one,” Bowman said. “Nobody wants to have a bad one in front of their home crowd and their family. So, it definitely means a lot to us to perform well and keep that streak alive.”
The Eagles are a relatively young squad. Of the 44 players currently listed on the two-deep depth chart, 23 of them are true or redshirt freshman or sophomores as opposed to 10 seniors and 11 juniors. One of the big questions heading into the season was how the seniors could convey what it means to be a BC football player to the legion of underclassmen and provide the leadership needed for the team to be successful. This was another question from the pundits who were looking at loss of Mark Herzlich for the season to cancer and yet another coaching change as negative blows that the team might not be able to overcome.
It turned out to be just another old hat.
“I think we are the model class for BC,” Tennant said. “This is what we should advertise. Look at these guys, these are the guys you want at BC. Three head coaches and are still winning games. In the end it is not about the coaches, it is about the players and the cohesiveness that we have as a team.”
Tennant said the turning point for this class was right after O’Brien and the players had a team meeting. Former BC linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said “it is not about the coaches, it is not about the fans, it is about this team and we have to stick together if we want to be successful.” Any time the Eagles faced a set back this year, such as the transfers of Justin Tuggle and Josh Haden or Herzlich’s illness, Dunbar’s message echoed around the team through the voices of the seniors.
“We’ve always believed in each other,” Gunnell said. “We don’t really pay attention to what people say about us. The guys in the room always know we work hard, no one knows how hard we work and then it really pays off on Saturdays.”
This group hopes all that work will payoff on one more Saturday on The Heights.