Thursday, November 18, 2010

Last Call

The days grow short in the middle of November, when the optimism of two-a-days and the bright sun of August has given way to the inevitable enemy of every football player: time. From a pee-wee kicker to the likes of Bret Favre, time takes its toll, and walking away from the game that so many have put their heart, mind, and soul into for so long is no easy task.

Saturday's game with Marist concludes another season of Georgetown Football, another down year for what was (and otherwise should be) a storied program. But it's more than that for the 15 seniors who moved onto campus together in the summer of 2007, who suffered through good times (a few) and bad (more than enough), who sat on bus trips to Worcester and Hamilton and Easton, who kept their heads up high after the losses, and who never quit on themselves or their team.

As fans, there's always next year. For these young men, this is the end of the line.

OK, maybe Nick Parrish will get a tryout somewhere, or a call to play in Europe. Even with his career tackle record, he's one of the more underrated players you will see at linebacker, and with the right amount of luck could be at the right place at the right time for someone to give him a look. For the other 14, perhaps not. But it doesn't diminish the impact of one, just one more afternoon to get out there any play the game they love, because it'll never be the same again. It won't be for an axe or a bell or an old oaken bucket, and it even won't be against a school many of their classmates even have heard of. It's still a game, and it's worth playing.

A season ago, staring at an 0-11 season, senior lettermen offered their thoughts to on what it would mean to play that last game. Three are worth repeating.

"It has been 21-straight games since I have seen the field. But yet, I haven't missed a practice unless I was in the hospital," wrote linebacker Jon Cassidy (C'10). "I have this one game to finish my career on a high note, but I may only have a few plays or maybe even one depending on what my shoulder allows. However, what I can tell you is that no matter what I will make that play represent what these other guys mean to me. It has been a rough four years, but they have been there through it all and it demonstrates their character. They dedicated every waking minute to football (20 hours a week does not scrape the surface of what they put in). Football envelops your life whether you want it to or not, and without my teammates I was blessed with it wouldn't have been possible for me to keep coming back. I know I speak for everyone when I say I love football and the way it makes people show their true self. My teammates have shown over these past four years that they are committed, hardworking, and relentless individuals no matter the result. I will miss this game greatly, but I will miss most of all the opportunity to be involved with my friends. I wish everyone nothing but the best."

"The way I feel about playing at Georgetown and this being our last game is that I love playing football and wish I could play it for the rest of my life," wrote lineman Rich Hussey (C'10). "In other sports like basketball baseball and soccer you can always pick up a ball or bat and play again, but with football you're never going to suit up again and be able to go full tilt. I've been playing football since I was 6-years-old and ever since then, I've seen myself as a football player. So now that its almost over it's kind of depressing considering for most of us, it is all we've known and how we've described ourselves for so long as `a football player.' It's the greatest sport on earth since you can go out and act with controlled violence for 60 minutes without being arrested. Not many people can play college football, but many would die to play so you can't take it for granted. Overall I've made a lot of lifelong friends playing here and especially being part of such a big class with 22 seniors. I loved playing with these guys and I'm sad that it's over but I'm grateful I had the experience."

And then there was Dan Matheny (B'10), who gave it his all for four seasons in that most difficult of positions, the offensive line.

"This game means everything to me. Being able to put on my uniform one more time is going to be bittersweet. Playing football has been amazing. I would not trade it in for anything. When high school was over I was not even close to ready to hang it up. It is one of the best decisions and most challenging experiences of my life. The last practice has sunk in. My roommates and I have been talking a lot about it. I have been playing football since I was 8-years-old. August is now [just] a part of summer."

Of course, there's another finality to this game as well. For a number of people beyond the seniors, it's their last game at Georgetown as well; some know it, some don't. last season, 18 underclassmen suited up for the finale with Fordham and didn't come back; they didn't get a Senior Day and it was gone just the same. We never saw Dishon Hughes or Brandon Floyd become the stars they could have been, we never saw Charlie Houghton come back to finish his career. Promising linemen like Chris Bisanzo and Robert Watson probably expected a senior year of great memories, and those summarily ended a year ago.

And it wasn't just the players. Assistant Coaches Dassin Blackwell, Frank Colaprete, and Jim Miceli made the walk back to McDonough Gym that day as well, and a chapter of their professional lives ended that day as well. Ten coaches left the field at MSF after a humbling loss to Colgate to end the 2005 season, but few would have figured only one making the return trip the following season. You just don't know.

And so it is with Kevin Kelly and his staff. Unless you're Joe Paterno, it's part of the itinerant nature of coaching that people move around in their careers. For Kelly, who hasn't dwelled publicly on what his fate will be after this season, otherwise knows that this staff will change as well in some form or fashion.

Eight wins in five years would be grounds for civil unrest at some schools, but not at Georgetown; still, we'd all be foolish to say it doesn't get addressed with athletic director Lee Reed at some point. When Reed arrived at Georgetown, he received only two questions at the press conference: "When are you going to build a basketball practice facility?", and "When are you going to fix the football program?" Sooner or later, he's got to answer both questions, and whether Kelly and his staff are part of the problem or the solution is a question Reed will ultimately answer.

For coach Kelly, who has witnessed Senior Days at places as disparate as Bowdoin College's Whitter Field and Syracuse's Carrier Dome, Dartmouth's Memorial Field to Marshall Unviersity's Edwards Stadium, and from Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium west to tiny, unnamed Multi-Sport Field, he has seen it all before. The only constant is change, and for those involved to make the most of it. That's the charge Kelly and his team have to take in its finale with Marist. The seniors will certainly get to sing the fight songs at reunions, at basketball games, and at events in the future, but never again on the field of battle with their teammates. A win Saturday offers that one, that last, that lasting chance.

Seniors, stay active, stay informed, and please stay involved. And to those who will follow in your footsteps, recall the classic verse from days gone by: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.