Football's unsung heroes
Picture this: you line up from scrimmage at the 50. You make a gap for your running back to run through and he takes it to the house. But what most see is the speed of the running back. Offensive linemen typically experience a lack of recognition.
That’s when they aren’t shouldering the blame for a hard hit to the quarterback.
“You toil in anonymity,” said head coach Randy Schrader. “You can’t run the ball — they blame you. If the quarterback gets sacked, they blame you. If you get a great run it’s because you have a great back.”
The effectiveness of the offensive line was recognized by teammates after the team rushed for 280 yards last game.
“I thought our O-line played a lot better; they really stepped up,” said running back Alex Coker. “They gave us the holes we needed to have and everything clicked.”
Center Kyle Collier liked what he saw from his unit in the blowout win.
“I think our O-line did pretty well on our combo blocks on Friday,” Collier said. “We got our heads up and got our push. We got fired up.”
Schrader is appreciative of the battle his line puts forth in the trenches.
“They all have a great work ethic,” Schrader said. “Offensive line is a tough place to play and coach. If your O-line doesn’t do anything, what you have on the back end doesn’t matter. If they aren’t blocking, communicating the game is over. You might as well go home.”
The supportive relationship the line has with quarterback Daryn Sebelius goes both ways.
“Daryn is the first guy we look for in the end zone,” Collier said. “He is always there to congratulate us on our blocking. We congratulate him on his pass or good read or good run.”
Collier said he and the other four players on the line know all 74 plays by heart and sometimes call them at the line.
He said the roughest part of his job is how blatant errors can be.
“Everybody knows if you screw up,” Collier said. “If there is a sack or a shove happens behind the line it is on us. You can tell where everyone is blitzing, so it is the easiest place that you can see the faults in.”
With this burden comes the realization of how much responsibility the offensive line has.
“I love it because they depend on you,” Collier said.
Off the field right tackle Craig Lillie, right guard Derek Miller, center Kyle Collier, left guard Tommy Peterson and left tackle Carter Hesseltine are a close-knit group.
“They are my brothers,” Collier said. “I would do anything for them. I love them all. We hang out all the time, and go hunting and fishing all summer.”
Hunting and fishing, in that order, are the two things that Collier and the rest of the line talk about during down time.
This time can be hard to come by, which leads to the teammates spending more time together than with their family.
They sit together on the bus for road trips. During this ride they will talk game strategy and pinpoint where they will be for each play.
Collier said his coaches ask a lot but it helps push the team.
“Our coaches are really demanding on lifting times,” he said. “We are up really early and going home really late. I think it is great. We are so well-conditioned, it helps on the football field.”
From the quarterback to the line, Washington is filled with hard-working football players.
“Daryn communicates with us very well,” Collier said. “We hung out with him the other day. He is just like one of us. A bunch of blue-collar boys.”