Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Around The Northwest Conference

While the Division III season ended back in December much as been happening around the conference regarding coaches moving on, being hired, and the possibility of one college making a push to bring back football and gain entry to the Northwest Conference.  So much is going on that I had to get my thoughts out by bring you a "very special" Around the Northwest Conference.

Willamette: Speckman out, Fowles in

Let’s start by knocking out the most recent news at Willamette. (Because like our Wildcats, knocking out the Bearcats early is always enjoyable.) Unless you’re living under a rock you know by now that the Bearcats longtime head coach, Mark Speckman, has stepped down from his 14 year tenure as head Bearcat to take the head coaching job at his former Alma Mater, Menlo College (Speckman graduated from Menlo when it was still a J.C.). I have to say that I’m not surprised that Speckman left Willamette. Rumors of him flirting with other jobs seem to have come up every couple of years, but what I am surprised about is his leaving Willamette to take over Menlo. I get that he’s going back to where he’s from and “giving back” to Menlo but that is still a rather interesting move.

Menlo is currently an NAIA independent but the word has been the stop in the NAIA is just a bridge to their bigger goal of working at a move towards Division II. At first that doesn’t seem possible, but there is a Western Division II conference comprised of mostly private institutions, the Pacific West Conference. Menlo might be wanting to join the PWC in all sports but football and reaching out to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference as a football-only member. Maybe that was the pitch to Speckman that made him jump? That’s just me speculating but being the only NAIA Independent in the western United States just doesn’t seem too appealing.

So Speckman is gone (along with his 3-11 record vs Linfield) and the Bearcats stayed in-house and tapped long time assistant coach Glen Fowles as the newest Willamette Head Coach. Fowles is a former Willamette player and has been on their staff for 16 seasons and spent the past 14 as their offensive coordinator. The first question that came up is of course “Are you going to keep the Fly?” Being the O.C. for the past 14 season Fowles knows the offense just as well as Speckman, but during his press conference he played it close to the vest about if the Fly will remain as the Willamette base offense. He did state that he did want to put his “mark” on Willamette football so I guess we’re going to have to wait and see what Willamette does with their offense in 2012.

Fox hires their Head Coach

Now let’s move along to George Fox University. As we’ve known for awhile now that a storm is a Bruin on the Newberg campus with the 2013 return of George Fox football. Wait, that’s now a 2014 return for George Fox Football?  When did that happen?  Just a week or two ago?  Uh-oh.

Just today George Fox has announced that Aloha High School Head Coach, Chris Casey, will be reviving the program starting in 2014. Casey is no stranger to the Northwest Conference as the Linfield graduate spent a considerable amount of time on the ‘Cats staff (1985-1993) before spending 10 years at Whitworth (1994-2003). Coach Casey is from Newberg, has a great reputation, and is a very good hire for George Fox. He should usher in a solid foundation for Fox to build a program upon for years to come. Good for them.

However, George Fox’s decision to push their opening to from 2013 to 2014 is a tough move for the rest of the NWC schools.  Why?  Scheduling.

George Fox’s 2013 NWC schedule has been on the NWC future schedule page for over a year now and the other 7 football playing members have been putting together their 2013 non-conference schedules accordingly.

Scheduling football for Northwest Conference teams is no cake walk, as finding opponents is a highly difficult task that usually involves costly flights to Southern California, Texas, or the Midwest. These deals are typically two year home-and-home agreements that can be made years in advance. So in pulling out of the 2013 season Fox has put some of the NWC members in a position where they probably have to scramble to find a one-year deal to hold that place in the schedule until Fox starts in 2014.

So instead of having a short 30-60 minute bus ride some of NWC members might be looking at coughing up an additional $30,000 -$40,000 to fly to another part of the country to play that 2013 game now voided by Fox. I understand George Fox wanting some additional time to raise capital and meet Casey’s wishes to coach one more season at Aloha (Casey said he lobbied hard to push back to 2014), but that decision will be a costly one for multiple NWC members.

College of Idaho votes on return to football? 

However, the biggest news of the day isn’t the hiring of Chris Casey but what’s happening out in Idaho. There have been mummers of College of Idaho trying to bring back football for years now but it looks like the movement is more than just whispers. The Idaho Statesmen is reporting that the CofI board is actually going to vote for a possible return to football by the 2014 season. WOW! CofI is currently an NAIA athletic program but has made it no secret they want to be a Division III member and rejoin the Northwest Conference. I don’t have all the background on this but the small bits I have is there might be some hesitation from the other NWC members because of College of Idaho’s location.

 For football, having C of I back wouldn’t be that big of deal in terms of travel but for all other sports it would cause some logistical issues as Caldwell, Idaho is on a major island in SW Idaho compared to the other NWC schools. College of Idaho might be a perfect fit in terms of their academic profile and size but location could be an NWC roadblock. These are both big “IF’s” but IF College of Idaho brought back football and IF the NWC agreed to their membership bid we could be looking at 9 Northwest Conference football members. Incredible, that back in 2005 we almost were down to 5 members, but now, could possibly have 9 by the 2014 kickoff.  That is if George Fox keeps their kickoff at 2014 and doesn't push it back to 2015.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An NWC Decade (+2) of Linfield Dominance

On December 31st 2009, WC11 thought it would be good to review the first full decade of the realignment of the Northwest Conference (The NWC regrouped in 1996 as the Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges (NCIC) and then officially named back to the Northwest Conference in 1998).  Two seasons have passed since that post and I thought it would be fun to see where the numbers currently stand after the past 12 seasons. (2000 - 2011)

There have been some slight changes in the numbers but it's mind blogging to see how dominate Linfield has been since the 2000 season.  Over the past 12 seasons the 'Cats have only had 5 conference losses, an overall winning percentage of 85.2%, 14 playoff wins (the next closest NWC team has 3), 9 NWC titles, and an offense that averages 38.2 points per game while only giving up 17.5 points.  That's flat out crazy to see just how incredibly consistent of a force this program has been not only on a regional level but as a national power.

When you look at the data of the past 12 years it's startling how far Linfield has pulled in front of the NWC contenders.  A few have risen up for a season or two, but at the end of the day, Linfield is THE team to beat year after year.  It's a tribute to all of the hard work by the Linfield staff, players, administration, and support folks who have made this program so great over the past 56 years.  Keep it rolling 'Cats!

Decade Records (2000-11) (I've excluded Pacific from all the numbers below as they've only reinstated the program since 2010.)

Overall Record (Winning Percentage)
Linfield.............109-19  (85.2%)
Whitworth.........75-41   (64.7%)
PLU.................68-44    (60.7%)
Willamette........68-52    (56.7%)
UPS................31-78    (28.4%)
L&C................27-76     (26.2%)

NWC Record
Linfield............60-5     (92.3%)
Whitworth.......42-23   (64.6%)
PLU................39-26   (60.0%) 
Willamette.......39-26  (60.0%)
L&C...............11-54   (18.3%)
UPS..............11-49   (16.9%)

Home Record
Linfield............61-8   (88.4%)
Whitworth......39-20  (66.1%)
Willamette......38-25  (60.3%)
PLU................32-22  (59.3%)
UPS................16-35  (31.4%)
L&C................17-38  (30.9%)

Road Record
Linfield..........48-11  (81.4%)
Whitworth.......36-21  (63.2%)
PLU...............36-22  (62.1%)
Willamette.....30-27  (52.6%)
UPS..............14-40  (25.9%)
L&C...............11-41  (21.1%)

Playoff Record

NWC 1st Place Finishes
Linfield............9 (1 -tie)
Whitworth.......3 (1 -tie)
PLU..............1 (1-tie)

Conference Honors (2000-11)

Coach Of The Year

Offense Player of the Year
Lewis & Clark...1

Defensive Player of the Year
PLU............ 2

NWC 1st Team Players

Team Statistics (Averages) (2000-11)

(I excluded the 2005 stats from L&C since they only played 4 non-conference games and canceled their NWC games.  Their total numbers were divided against 11 season (rest of the teams total numbers are divided against the 12 previous seasons.)

Points Per Game
Linfield..........38.2 PPG
PLU...............29.8 PPG
Willamette......29.2 PPG
Whitworth......28.0 PPG
UPS...............21.6 PPG
L&C...............20.5 PPG

Points Allowed Per Game
Linfield..........17.5 PPG
Whitworth....21.5 PPG
PLU...............23.0 PPG
Willamette....23.1 PPG
UPS...............32.7 PPG
L&C...............40.1 PPG

Pass Offense Per Game
Linfield.........275.7 YPG
PLU..............241.0 YPG
Whitworth.....205.1 YPG
L&C..............203.4 YPG
UPS..............160.0 YPG
Willamette....121.3 YPG

Pass Defense Per Game
PLU..............190.5 YPG
Whitworth.....190.7 YPG
Linfield........191.1 YPG
L&C..............209.1 YPG
Willamette....209.8 YPG
UPS..............219.5 YPG

Rushing Offense Per Game
Willamette....255.8 YPG
UPS.............170.5 YPG
Whitworth....166.0 YPG
Linfield........160.3 YPG
PLU.............145.0 YPG
L&C.............133.0 YPG

Rushing Defense Per Game
Linfield........112.2 YPG
Willamette....128.9 YPG
Whitworth....150.4 YPG
PLU.............155.9 YPG
UPS.............173.6 YPG
L&C.............230.4 YPG

Total Offense Per Game
Linfield........436.0 YPG
PLU.............385.9 YPG
Willamette..377.1 YPG
Whitworth..371.1 YPG
L&C.............336.3 YPG
UPS.............330.6 YPG

Total Defense Per Game
Linfield........303.3 YPG
Whitworth....341.1 YPG
Willamette....342.4 YPG
PLU.............346.4 YPG
UPS.............393.4 YPG
L&C.............439.5 YPG

Avg. Sacks Per Season

Avg. Turnover Margin Per Season

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2012 Linfield Football Wallpaper is here!

Your 2012 Linfield Wildcat Wallpaper!

We at Catdomealumni.com/ADvantage Catdome wanted to give you something to add a little fire to your computer this off-season so I reached out to former Linfield defensive lineman Chris Miles ('04) who is now a very talented graphic artist in the McMinnville area (Visit CMDesign on the web). I asked Chris to give us his take on ADvantage Catdome's "Expect To Win" theme and what he returned a day later was spot on.

This is what Chris had to say about the wallpaper: "I immediately thought of the playoffs and how we always expected to win and when coming up with the design I thought: "Expect to Win... ANYWHERE" As in having to travel for playoff games and the Stagg Bowl... so, that is what the big city signifies in the background. Let me know what you think."

I think it's fantastic and captures the mindset of Linfield football, in it doesn't matter where the 'Cats go, the expectations are the same.

Click on this link to download the full sized image or you can just click on the photo above for the full sized image.  Once you've done than you can right click on the image and set as your wallpaper.

I need to give a tip of the hat to Linfield Professor Brad Thompson and Linfield S.I.D. Kelly Bird for the use of the player images. Brad provided the images of Charlie Poppen (#22), the gang tackle, Josh Hill (#7), and Lucas Jepson (#2). Kelly provided the image of Mickey Inns (#11). You can visit Brad's 2011 Linfield photos here and visit Linfield Sports Football images here.

Again, a major thank you to Chris Miles and CMDesign for the fantastic wallpaper. If you're looking for a graphic artist to help with an ad campaign, creating brand imaging, or even a slick T-Shirt, Chris is the right person for the job. Visit CMDesign on the web, go like his facebook page, or drop him a call 541.619.7062.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Road Less Traveled to The 'Catdome. (Josh Kay)

We're concluding our "Road Less Traveled" series with one of my favorite stories out of the 2011 season.  Josh Kay transferred from Whitworth College before the 2010 season with a big leg and looking to make a major impact for the Linfield kicking game.   In all honesty, Josh struggled in 2010.  There was no question he had the leg but he was inconsistent with his accuracy and you could tell Josh was wrestling with his confidence.  However, 2011 was a different story.  Josh put his work in during the off season and came into camp this past fall as a different player.  The result of his work is that he compiled one of the finest seasons a Wildcat placekicker has ever registered.  That's saying something considering some of the talent the 'Cats have had kicking the ball over the past 15 seasons. 

Josh was always meant to be a Linfield Wildcat.  It just took him a little bit longer to find his way to the 'Catdome, but once he did, he's been a prime example of if you embrace the experience and trust in the culture of the program, the sky's the limit.

His story is one of a small segment of Wildcats that took the road less traveled to get to Linfield. Each of these stories are different, but with each, you'll learn about the adversity, perseverance, and self-discovery and that these players faced in both their journey to Linfield and during their time as a Wildcat.

#7 Josh Kay, Place Kicker, Junior (Salem, Or)

During my Senior year of high school, big decisions were on the table. The common apps, the recruiting visits, the unpredictable phone calls from coaches. While attempting to juggle these new tasks, trying to make the best of my remaining days of my adolescence and high school was difficult, even overwhelming at times. However, I knew it was necessary if I was going to prosper the way I envisioned after high school. I have great appreciation for all of the administration, teachers and coaches at South Salem High School for helping me along the way. They prepared me for the academic demands of college and equipped me with the tools I need to succeed in life.

I understood how important my college choice would be for my future and I wanted to choose a school that wouldn’t just help me grow as a player, but would best facilitate my road to success (both on and off the field). I was beginning a new chapter in my life and I was in control of my own destiny. I knew two things indefinitely, I wanted to play at the next level and I wanted to do it somewhere that I would love. Primarily, I wanted to pursue place kicking at the division 1 level. It wasn’t long after that I realized that I couldn’t do without golf. I had been playing all my life and it’s something I couldn’t live without. I ended up looking into schools along the west coast that fit into my three A’s: Academics, Acceptance, Athletics

A- Academics: First and foremost, the school had to have a high standard and emphasis on the educational experience. I wanted to be somewhere that offered various disciplines and studies, as I wasn’t sure I wanted to do in life at 18 (most people don’t, I’ve changed my major twice now!). Given this, I deemed that a liberal arts school would be an ideal choice, since these schools have so many options. This helped me narrow down my college search tremendously.

A- Acceptance. I needed to be able to accept the college I chose fully. I knew that no school would be perfect, but I understood even more so that if my heart wasn’t completely committed to the school, the community, and the program, they weren't worth my time nor was I worth theirs. For me, it was all or nothing and I discourage all cases of being on the fence. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Lombardi,
“There’s only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything”

A- Athletics: The college of my choice also needed to have a program that was competitive, and would give me an opportunity to play and to win. I desire to succeed, it’s in my blood. I wouldn’t want to play somewhere where I didn’t feel confident.

In the end, it boiled down to Whitworth University and Linfield College. They fit my three A’s and I had been accepted into both schools with very comparable financial aid packages. I had known about Linfield all my life. I grew up in Salem Oregon, which is only about a 20 minute drive from the campus. I remember reading about the 2004 National Championship team in the paper in middle school and thinking about what that meant. To be a National Champion? I couldn’t quite conceive that at such a young age, I needed more reps, as Coach Smith might say. I wish I would have realized earlier just how special that is.

In the end, I decided to go with Whitworth and it is an experience I will always cherish. It taught me a lot about myself and I met great people who will be in my life forever. I went with the ambitious decision, and decided to part with the family ways (both my sisters are Linfield nursing program graduates). The decision left me 9 hours away from home in Spokane, Washington where I assumed kickoff duties for Whitworth the third game in. Along with the football season, I managed to win a NWC golf championship with team. Without a doubt, I had an interesting and successful experience at Whitworth.

Although I had enjoyed my time at Whitworth, I felt that something was missing in my life. I didn’t quite feel the same passion for training, I stopped day dreaming about clutch kicks, and my involvement with the school and community seemed to be going nowhere. To make matters worse, my mother had undergone some medical issues that made me feel the need to be closer to her. I love my Mom with all my heart, the things she has done for me and put up throughout the years seems insurmountable. I didn’t want to live my life with any regrets, and so I trusted my instincts and decided to pursue a transfer. Naturally, the first school that came to mind was Linfield, and it was the best decision I have ever made.

Everything I had been wanting in a college, in a program, in a team was all here. I had been too caught up in the excitement of leaving for college and my ambition to seek truth early. Since my time being here at Linfield, I have discovered my true calling in life, met some of the most incredible friends you could ask for, and most importantly found I've found God. The program and its structure facilitate a steady path to living a true Christian life, and I couldn’t be more blessed to be apart of this all.

This past year at Linfield I have really grown to love the players, the coaches, and the school. It’s a great feeling waking up every morning with a purpose and a commitment to something bigger than yourself. I’m enjoying my classes and am working towards a degree in business management. I will strive to transfer everything I have learned as a Linfield football player into my professional life because I trust that it is the recipe for success. Being at Linfield is a special opportunity l and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

Sometimes in this life situations work out in the most inconceivable ways. If I can give advice to anyone who is questioning their acceptance of their current situation whether its a iffy college choice or just a pickle you're in. I would recommend trusting your instincts and pursuing your best chance for success. Doing this will add a direction to life impacting decisions.

“We are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live.”

-Josh Kay

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rest In Peace, Coach August

Coach Ron August 1941-2012
As Linfield sports reported last week, and what most of the Linfield community knows by now, is former Linfield Special Teams Coordinator Ron August, passed away on Saturday, January 28th in Salem at the age of 70.   Coach August was a tremendous coach and even a better person.  I was fortunate enough to be playing at Linfield when Ron to joined the staff in 1996.  Coach August made an immediate impact on the program with his organizational skills, prowess as special teams coach, and his legendary sense of humor.  Coach August had many other qualities as a coach that made him excel but his attention to detail is what made Linfield produce one standout kicking unit after the next.

From 1997 - 2007 the list of Linfield 1st team All-Conference specialists was robust:

1997- Andy Ward (Kicker)
1998- Tim Tackett (Punter)
1999- Scott Cannon (Kicker)
2000- Scott Cannon (Kicker), Alex Rix (Kick Return), Sonte Wong (Punt Return)
2001- Ryan Cruz (Kicker), Josh Thomas (Kick Return), Mike Cooney (Punt Return)
2002- James Wilson (Punter, All-American), Mike Cooney (Punt Return)
2003- James Wilson (Punter, All-American), Garrett Wales (Kicker), Eric Hillison (Kick Return), Josh Armstron (Punt Return), Brandon Hazenberg (Punt Return)
2004- James Wilson (Punter), Brandon Hazenberg (Kick Return), Brandon Hazenberg (Punt Return, All-American)
2005- John Daily (Kicker), Clint Laguemi (Punter), Brandon Hazenberg (Punt Return)
2007- Scott Birkhofer (Kicker, All-American), Travis Masters (Kick Return)

24 1st-Team All-NWC special teams selections under Coach August's 12-year watch.  That's remarkable number and strong testimony about the quality of coaching Ron provided to a number of Wildcats players during his tenure. 

However, Coach August's impact on the field didn't start at Linfield. Ron's legacy was well established before he came back to his Alma Mater. Coach August spent 25 years in the High School ranks with McKay and then Dallas High School. From 1970-1995, his combined record as a HS head coach was 183-75 (71% winning percentage), with 16 consecutive playoff births, and he led his 1986 Dallas team to the Oregon 3A State Championship.

Beyond the numbers and accolades the bottom line is that Coach August was a great guy. He loved a good joke, was a standout role-model for his players and peers, was a great family man, and he enjoyed life. So many of us Wildcats feel fortunate to have been coached by Ron and we'll be forever grateful to him.

If you can, please join us on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1 p.m. at Dallas High School to celebrate his life. I'll let Coach August have the last word. Rest In Peace Coach.

Linfield Sports: Beloved football alumnus Ron August passes away
Statesman Journal: Peers, former players remember coach August

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Road Less Traveled to The 'Catdome. (Lucas Jepson)

In 2011, Lucas Jepson was a newcomer to the Linfield Wildcat roster. No, Lucas wasn't an 18 year old right out of high school, but the 2006 Aloha High graduate finally found his home in the 'Catdome after a long and winding road.  All that Lucas was looking for was an opportunity to prove he could make an impact after years of dealing with a personal loss and for a program to call home.

Lucas didn't come into the year as a starter but once his number was called early in the season, the WR took the opportunity and ran with it. In fact, Jepson's impact was so strong during 2011 that his teammates voted him "Newcomer Of The Year" after leading the 'Cats with 9 touchdown receptions and was selected as an NWC 2nd team offensive performer.

His story is one of a small segment of Wildcats that took the road less traveled to get to Linfield. Each of these stories are different, but with each, you'll learn about the adversity, perseverance, and self-discovery and that these players faced in both their journey to Linfield and during their time as a Wildcat.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson.  View Brad's 2011 Linfield Photo Gallery Here.

#2 Lucas Jepson, Wide Receiver, Junior (Beaverton, Or)

All throughout high school I knew about Linfield. I had a handful of coaches play and coach here, so it was always well known around Aloha. I graduated in 2006 from Aloha High School and had originally planned to go to Cabrillo Junior College in California where one of my coaches had played. I went and visited with two of my friends and teammates, but some things fell through and it ended up not working out. Then, I headed to Mesa State College in Grand Junction Colorado with a friend of mine to play. It was a decision that was made very quickly and not thought through all the way. I just knew I wanted to play, and there was an opportunity in Colorado. I spent one term there, and just couldn't see myself spending four years there and ended up coming back home.

During the next year I spent my time working to save up money to go down to Cabrillo and play. That was the driving force because all I ever wanted to do is play. Early in 2007, my grandfather passed away. I didn't go to the funeral because it was too much for me. My brother had my mother put his business card in his grave at his funeral. I didn't have anything to put so I made him a promise he was going to see me play big time college football, not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and that promise. He was with me and always has been because I ended up down in California at the start of 2008 at Cabrillo and in the fall finally got the chance to play again for the first time in two years. I finished my two years down there and looked for a place to play closer to home. I wasn’t heavily recruited out of my Junior college, the two seasons I spent down there didn’t go as well as I had planned, but am thankful for the opportunity and experience that I gained.

The three schools that recruited me were Pacific, Eastern Oregon, and Linfield. I couldn’t see myself at either Pacific or Eastern, but I knew about Linfield from my days in high school. I took a visit and knew that this was a place that I could succeed not only on the field but more importantly in the classroom. Josh Hill and I had a plan to go wherever the other one went. It switched from Portland State to Linfield. I applied, but there were some administration issues with certain courses that I took at previous schools and in turn was not accepted. Josh got in. It was a shock to me and it hit hard but I talked with admissions and they told me what I had to do to get accepted the following year. I then tried to walk on at Portland State but through a long process it ended up not working out.

I spent 2010-2011 just going to school at Portland State. There was a brief time where I didn’t think I was going to play again. I thought I was done. That was a hard concept to grasp considering that an athlete is all I've ever been, all I've ever been known for. Throughout that year, I continued to work with admissions at Linfield to make sure I had the best shot at getting accepted this time. I had my high school head coach Chris Casey who played and coached here at Linfield write my letter of recommendation and to be honest, without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. He has helped me tremendously and I am truly thankful for everything he has done. In May of 2011, I got the packet from Linfield saying I was accepted. The first person I told was Josh, and let him know that I was accepted and that we had work to do that off-season. I let the coaches know and thanked everybody for all the help that they provided me. I had been training the whole time with my brother who has put so much time and effort into me, making me the athlete I am today, and without him I don’t know where I'd be or how I would measure up to the competition. I am truly blessed for him and what he has done for me.

Once the acceptance letter came, I found a new energy for training going into the season. I had no clue how I was going to fit in or how I was going to play being out of football for a year, and this was the second time I had extended breaks between seasons. I started going to 7 on 7's and got to know some of the guys. Deidre Wiersma, who helped me learn the basic concepts of the passing game, helped me out a lot. I was able to come into camp with a knowledge that most of the new guys didn’t have. Once camp hit, the rest played out for itself and I was able to do whatever I could to help the team win. The main reason Linfield was so appealing to me, besides the fact that they are rich in tradition and the ability to get a great education, but it is a place I can play and play in front of my parents who hadn't seen me play in five years before this season. Those two people have supported me through the long path that I have taken to get where I am at today. I don’t know where I would be without my parents in my life. I love them and am incredibly blessed to have them in my life.

My experience here has been like no other. I enjoyed the time I spent at the other schools I attended and learned a lot, especially in California where I grew as a person more than anything. I learned how strong I am internally and the potential that I have in playing football. Being here at Linfield, you see how it is definitely a family environment. The whole team gets behind one another and has only one thing on their mind, to get better every single day, and focus on winning a national championship. We all want it and we all work for it. We all want each other to succeed. The coaching staff is unique to any coaching staff I have ever played for. It reminds me of my high school coaching staff where they are the hardest working coaches hands down. Nobody puts in more time, effort, and work than these coaches.

As a transfer student there is always a big worry about how the guys will look at you, but they took me in like I had been here for three years, like a family member would. My first year was an amazing year and I’m looking forward to what the 2012 year can be for all of us.

Another thing that stands out in Linfield Football is the streak we hold. You don’t really realize the magnitude of the streak until you are a part of it. It's truly something amazing and you realize when you get a group of guys who are more worried about the team and not themselves then anything is possible, and that’s why the streak lives and Linfield is always in the running for a title. This next year will show all those things including a run to that title. No one deserves it more than these coaches, the guys on this team and the school. I've realized that Catdome is a special place and not many places compare to running out onto that field. I truly want to thank again everyone who has helped me get where I am at. I could not have done what I have without any of those people. From my family, all my coaches, all the guys I've played with, the staff and faculty everywhere I've been and especially at Linfield in helping me get in here, I thank you. I try and represent you all every time I step onto that field. I'm more than thankful for this opportunity to be here and be a part of the tradition. I'm thankful for all I've been through, the good and the bad, and it has helped build me into a better person.

To my grandpa, I know you're looking down on us, and I know you've been with me every step of the way. I couldn't have done it without you. Hopefully I am making you proud on this journey. I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep that promise. Before every game after the national anthem I pray and have a conversation with him. I tell him we’re here, tell him how much I miss and love him and that it's for him. Every time I reach the end zone I tap my shoes which have his initials on them and kiss the sky. It's a reminder of him and of where I have come from: To keep fighting, to keep working and to never stop believing. That's the backbone of my last name. That's something I'll never forget. I love and miss you grandpa every single day and always will.

-Lucas Jepson