Linfield College football is built on many pillars. The support from the administration, the incredible hard work from the coaching staff, the support from the Linfield community. However, one of the key aspects of the duration of the program's success are the many Wildcat players that grind away working hard for the opportunity to show they can contribute to the team on game day.
Wildcat11 was also a grinder. I came into the program as a quarterback and red shirted (when it was still allowed). Then spent time as a back-up before I made a move over to defensive end my 3rd year into the program when I finally had the opportunity to make a contribution on game day. Looking back on that time, it was the best thing ever for me. I gained a work ethic, found other ways to contribute to the team's success, and kept working towards that moment when my number was called. That's why I relate to our latest player blogger, Linfield Junior Running Taylor Avritt.
Taylor is a grinder. He's had to put in some hard work into the program, discover just how bad he wanted it and the result was being a key contributor of the 2009 Linfield Wildcats. I have so much respect for 'Cats like Taylor because they have a deep understanding of sticking to something they love and making the most of when that time comes. I think Taylor's story will ring true for many of you former 'Cats and a good number of current 'Cats on the roster. Keep working hard 'Cats!
As a player at Linfield, I've had to pay my dues. Whether those dues are in the form of sweat, blood, taping, film sessions or even more X's and O's than school text books, each is worth every minute of the grind.
As a freshman (2007) I came into Linfield with high hopes but a great sense of hesitancy and curiosity. I, as most freshmen do, had no idea what to expect in a College program. Although confident in my training habits and work ethic, I had no true idea how my skill matched up to my teammates. I had a lot of very very good competition in the running back position. With so much talent I ended up being moved to Weakside Linebacker. This was a huge transformation because although I played the position for 3 years in high school, my senior season was designated strictly to running the ball. I struggled with the change. I'll be completely honest, I absolutely hated it. I love football, LOVE IT, but I hated the fact that I was not thought to be good enough and compete with the rest of our RB's. I told Coach Smith this as well, because I was building a relationship with him as a coach and as my recruiter. I was lucky enough to be moved back to running back the week of Southern Oregon and remained there. I finished the year gaining no scout awards on defense and multiple scout awards as a running back, which I felt was appropriate. I was terrible at LB. But I was terribly happy to be back playing RB.
My sophomore season (2008) was just as much of a grind. I flirted with the 2nd string offense for a couple of weeks due to injuries, but was, in my eyes, demoted back to scout after performing as best as I could with the 2's. At this point I was pretty unhappy. Unhappy with my performance, unhappy with decisions that were made, and unhappy with football. But I found virtue in scout, particularly playing receivers. I took it upon myself to beat each and every corner we had and, of course, catch every ball that came my way. It was a matter of pride; I was too prideful to consider myself just a scout player my entire career, and took it out on all the starting DB’s. I finished the year with scout accolades and hungrier than every to make a name for myself as a running back my Jr. year.
I am incredibly happy with the year we had as a team, and naturally am happy about getting a chance to play. Throughout my first two years at Linfield I learned how to be patient; patient with football, patient with people, and patient with my own ambition. I had to be patient this year as well.
My first game I got to play in was against Occidental as the fullback for our punt team. I had to make the best of that position, blocking as well as I could and assisting in tackles in coverage. Southern Oregon was the first game I was put in as a running back, which is reminiscent of my freshman year moving back to scout offense during Southern week. I remember vividly the game down under the lights in Ashland. Coach Smith always talks about making the best of your opportunities as they are presented. I feel I made the better of that first opportunity against Southern, and was granted more and more opportunities throughout the year. I finished the regular season getting more and more time as a running back, and played every special teams position throughout the post season. This gave me a new passion for playing special teams next year, which I cannot wait for.
Every player wants to be the man. I’m just like every player. I would love to be the man at running back, carrying the team on my back as best I can. But I know we have a group of talented RB’s who will all be competing for time on the field. Just as Coach Smith says, I have to wait for the opportunity to present itself. I look forward to that opportunity my senior season, and when it comes believe I will run with it like my hairs on fire.
Class of 2011