Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Road Less Traveled to The 'Catdome.

For the great majority of Linfield football players the path to the 'Catdome is a familiar road. During high school, our future 'Cats start talking to coaches from various programs, go on visits, narrow choices, and finally choose to don the Red and Purple. Heck, that was my story 17 years ago, and one that hold ups time and again, year after year. Developing players over a 4 year period is a key component to the success of Linfield football during the past 56 consecutive years but there's another story on the Linfield roster.

They are the stories 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.

I asked three players that transferred to Linfield to share their experiences and story in a three part series we'll be posting over the next week. Leading us off is Linfield running back Josh Hill. Josh came to the 'Catdome in 2010 and after a year of finding himself, the running back exploded with a banner year in 2011 that culminated in being named 1st team All-NWC running back and voted the team's most valuable offensive player. I'm very thankful for Josh sharing his story and I think you'll enjoy hearing about his road to the 'Catdome.
Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson.  Photo Courtesy of Brad Thompson. View Brad's photos here..
#7 Josh Hill, Running Back, Junior (Portland, Oregon)

 For me, I have taken a different route than most in becoming a Linfield Wildcat. As my senior year wrapped up at Westview High School I was being recruited more as an athlete than at QB, but my dream had always been to play quarterback at the division one level and most of the schools that had offered me only wanted me to play DB or a hybrid/slot type. Then about two games into my senior year, the Air Force Academy offered me a scholarship to play QB and an opportunity to get a world class education. It seemed at the time to be the perfect fit for me and that is where I decided to commit and play football.

After completing a 2 month basic training I received word from home that my grandfather had been diagnosed with cancer. This is where things really took a turn for me and I was forced to make some of the toughest decisions I had ever been faced with. My brother Ray was overseas in Afghanistan fighting in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at the time and there was no other immediate family that lived in Oregon who could help my grandparents. My grandparents, who had raised me since age 1, were in need of some help and it was agreed that they were going to move closer to family so they would could get some help. Being two people that had given me so much and sacrificed so many things in order to help me succeed growing up, I felt obligated to find a way to be closer to them so I could help them in any way possible. As soon as I could, I called my grandfather and informed him of my decision to leave and move to California with them in order to help make this process easier on my grandmother. The conversation didn't go so well as he did not want me to give up everything I had worked for and accomplished just to help them out. So, after a long and in-depth conversation, I decided to stay at the academy and finish out the year.

After that conversation I found myself not being able to give my all as a cadet and as a football player. The game that I loved so much, as far back as I could remember, began to be an afterthought. Due to my grandfather's condition he was not able to travel and that meant he was never going to be able to see me play. My grandfather had been at every single game I ever played in my life. It didn't matter if it was basketball, football, baseball, wall ball at recess, my grandfather found a way to be there. After a big scrimmage one Saturday right before the season was about to start I found my interest for the game at that point had diminished. I stopped working hard during lifting, couldn't pay attention during film and team meetings and often found myself counting down the minutes until practices were over. I was not happy knowing I was far away from home, unable to do anything for my grandparents. At that point I knew it was time to go. I submitted my resignation and after a lengthy and tedious process I was on my way to California to meet up with my grandparents and figure out a way I could continue my education and play football, along with help and support them.

After I arrived in Redlands, CA it was decided between my grandfather and his doctor that staying in Oregon was his best so he could be monitored closely and because the climate was better suited for his condition. So I finished out the term, packed my things, and was headed home to Portland. Once back in Portland I enrolled half-time at Portland Community College and picked up jobs at 24 hour fitness and the Nike employee store to help with financial needs resulting from the medical burden that was now placed on my grandparents due to my grandfather's cancer. At this point I had pretty much accepted that I was no longer going to play football again and that I needed to start thinking about what I was going to do next school and career wise.

A few weeks rolled by when I received a call from a close friend and old trainer, Matt James. He called to see how I was doing and wanted to know how things had been going since high school etc... long story short he made some phone calls to a few schools he was pretty connected with(Linfield being one) and generated some interest for me. After some things fell through with Portland State I received a call from Coach Fendall. He told me they were interested in me as an athlete and wanted me to come down and visit. At first, I wasn't all too excited about traveling to McMinnville and had no idea what to expect. I met up with an old high school teammate and a Linfield all-time-great, Paul Nishizaki. We toured the campus and caught up on what had been going on since he left high school. I met up with a few coaches from the coaching staff to talk about what their plans for me would be and made it a brief trip. I liked the coaches and the few players that I met were really nice and welcoming and I left Linfield with a good experience but was not yet sold on attending.

Some months went by and I dealt with some tough family situations regarding my grandfather so it was important to me to find a place to go to school that made me feel comfortable and made me feel like they were out for my best interest as a person and a student, not just a football player. The months went by and I periodically received phone calls from Coach Fendall just asking how I was doing and how my family was. Not once did he mention football. This meant a lot to me because after going through the whole recruiting process in high school then again after my first year in college it was important that I felt comfortable and connected to the staff that I was going to play for. The next fall as a sophomore I showed up to campus not knowing what to expect.

From day one, the upperclassman showed me a lot of love and support and made the transition to a new school so much easier. I moved to RB when I first came here and was introduced to Taylor Avritt, Simon, and Awill and from day one all of them made an extra effort to make me feel accepted and catch me up to learn the offense.

My first year at Linfield was difficult. I was dealing with family troubles along with juggling a new school and a new offense and often felt myself falling behind in both school and football. I didn't play a whole lot my first year at Linfield and was frustrated. I had a “mad at the world” type of attitude. I had not yet learned what it meant to be a Wildcat. For some reason when I came to Linfield I felt entitled to something, like the team owed me because of what I had accomplished in high school or where I had been previously. This was a constant battle for me as the season went on and for awhile I had given up. I wasn't doing well in the classroom, my family situation wasn't looking promising, and I wasn't receiving a lot of playing time. I clearly remember this day and it will probably be a day I won't forget anytime soon but I remember running out to practice late one day angry, and annoyed. I couldn't even tell you what was bothering me. Taylor Avritt pulled me aside and asked what was wrong. After a brief discussion he told me he was going to call me later and we would finish the talk.

That night Taylor called me up and we met up to talk. He heard me out and gave me some of the best advice I could have ever received. He broke down what it meant to be a Wildcat, what it took as a person, athlete, student, and all the characteristics this program had been built upon for years and years. That talk really helped me see and understand the true colors of the program and gave me a whole new outlook on the role that I was playing and what it was going to take to change that. I finally realized that it wasn't about me anymore, it didn't matter what I had done before I had got here. The only thing that mattered was the team and the success of the team. It wasn't my time yet and it was going to take a full-out commitment to the four Linfield football pillars to have an opportunity to make it my time. That talked changed my life and I owe a lot to Taylor and the rest of the Catback family of 2010 for the success I had in 2011. None of 2011 would have been possible if it wasn’t for the upperclassmen that pulled me through the tough times and supported me when I wanted to give up on everyone and everything around me. From that point on I knew I had come to the right place and I knew that I was in good hands. The support from the coaches, community, and teammates helped me during a very tough time in my life and because of their support I have been able to overcome and push through a situation that I’m not sure I would of overcame if it wasn't for guys like Taylor, Coach Fendall, and Coach Smith.

This past year for me was a reflection on the struggles that I have had to overcome. That is why I changed my number from 3 to 7. My grandfather’s first and last names both have 7 letters in them and I wanted to somehow represent his battle and fight with cancer with my play in the Catdome on Saturdays. He is one of the most amazing men I've ever met in my life, so it only seemed fitting, and it has been a symbol of perseverance for me that I wanted to represent for the rest of my football career. It reminds me every day I step on the practice field, head into the weight room, or suit up for a game that I can't quit, I can't stop working hard and that there is never an excuse to give up. In my short time at Linfield I have made some of the closest friends and have learned many valuable lessons.

- Josh Hill

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sometimes it's best to let the crowd tell the story.

Photo Courtsy of Brad Thompson: View and Purchase Brad's Photos here

I was cleaning up my files the other night after wrapping up the 2011 highlight DVD and I ran into the raw crowd audio from the CLU playoff game and started to give it a listen. As you may know I'm a big video person and love great sports photography but there is something so visceral about closing your eyes and just letting the sound of the Linfield crowd and the voice of Linfield public address announcer Craig Singletary tell you the story of the 'Cats 30-27 playoff win over CLU.

This audio was just too good to let to collect virtual dust in the catdomealumni.com archives so I cut together some of the high spots of the win and loaded up them up via our Soundcloud account. Just hit play and give it a listen.

Linfield vs CLU Playoff Crowd Audio by Wildcat11

Monday, January 23, 2012

The 2011 Linfield Football Highlight DVD is in the can!

Last weekend, I popped a blank DVD into the computer and burned a master copy of the 2011 Linfield Wildcat Football Highlight DVD. It felt good to have another production in the books and to drop it off with Coach Vaughan to do his magic. As always, there is a mad dash to have a version of the highlight film ready for the annual banquet but I never considered this process completely done until after I tune up a few issues and wrap up a few other elements included with the main highlight. You never know if you have a winner or not but I’m feeling pretty good when one of the players texted me after the banquet and said the 2011 version is the “best highlight DVD” we’ve put together. I’ll take it.

We stuck to our traditional format as if "it’s not broke then why fix it"? The highlight spans over 11 games and has a total run time of 1 hr 10 min and 49 seconds. That may seem long but when you’re putting up 40 points a game and leading the NCAA in sacks and tackles for loss there's a lot of action to cover. Working on the highlight DVD is such a big challenge to compile but the quality of the video is dictated heavily on the level of play on the field. This program makes it so easy with their style of play, emotion, and togetherness. It’s so easy to feel all of those emotions while watching the video and that isn’t because of some sort of special editing, no, it comes from the players in the locker room and on the field of play. I need to thank the players for accepting my camera in their personal space and allowing me to be the fly on the wall. Don’t think I take for granted the willingness to allow me to be in that locker room while you’re getting ready for the task at hand.  Thank you.

Along with that, there are a number of people that helped contribute to this project and I want to be able to publicly thank them for their contributions

Video: A huge thanks to 2010 All-American offensive tackle Aaron Heston for reaching out to WC11 when I was scrambling for a 2nd sideline cameraman at the beginning of the season. Aaron stepped in and worked the visitor’s sideline for the LaVerne, UPS, PLU, Lewis & Clark, and at Willamette. It was his first time shooting football video like this and I thought he knocked it out of the park. His understanding of the game and the Wildcat system gave him a great feel and his shots added a perfect element to the footage. Thank you Aaron! Also, I have to thank Joe Seifert, another former Wildcat player and fellow defensive lineman (2008), for pitching in and shooting during the Pacific game. Joe stepped up huge and I appreciate him providing a needed help to old WC11. I couldn’t make the Menlo game due to work but former tight end Nick Safir (2010) filled in and captured some great footage for the ‘Cats win over Menlo. Thank you Nick for the help! Another resource at home games is the video board camera operators and I need to thank Dan Paulino (crow’s nest) and Spencer Crepeaux (sideline) for their contributions to the footage. Thank you guys!

One thing we did differently this season is use much more of the program footage than in previous years. It was a nice change up to have those wide side angles and the end zone footage that you see in most highlight DVDs. I wouldn’t have been able to get that footage together without the help of Coaches Yen and Haberly who were the guys that made sure I was hooked up after each game. Thanks guys for the help!

I also need to give a big thank you to Linfield Sports Information Director Kelly Bird for always taking care of our camera crew with field passes at the ‘Catdome and on the road. Kelly has such a good reputation around Linfield and the nation as a top SID and it’s for a good reason. Kelly is on top of everything.

Photography: The use of photos has been come a big part of the yearly highlight DVDs. I use a game photo as the transition between the offensive and defensive highlights of each game and I’m so grateful that Linfield SID Kelly Bird (Linfield Sports Football Photo Gallery) and Linfield Professor Brad Thompson (Brad Thompson's 2011 Linfield Football Photos) are so willing to share their work at no cost in the name of the program. We used shots from Kelly during the Whitworth, Menlo, and Wesley highlights and shots from Brad during the CLU games, La Verne, Willamette, Pacific, UPS, PLU, and Lewis & Clark. Also, thanks to Brad for passing along stills to use on our Monday game recaps throughout the season. They make those posts come alive. Please, go to both of their photo gallery sites and purchase a picture for yourself or a loved one. They shoot these games because they love small college football/sports and a printed photo will last much longer and look better than just keeping an electronic copy on your CPU.

Music: One of the hardest things for me about the highlight DVD is the music. I’m 35 years old and my taste in music rooted in the 90’s but I know it’s 2011 and the music of the highlight DVD needs to reflect the current players the best I can. I get A LOT of help along the way in the form of suggestions and I’d like to acknowledge those people. Former ‘Cat All-NWC linebacker Jaymin Jackson has been a HUGE help to me. Jaymin passed along so many good suggestions and bailed me out when I felt like I was hitting a brick wall on music choices. Thanks Jay for looking out. Mrs. Wildcat11 was my go-to person on the country music front and she gave me two winners (as always). Current players, Christian Hanna, Nate Dixon, Kala’e Parish, and Aaron Hire all gave me great suggestions that I used and a great find was by former All-NWC wide receiver Tyler Kaluza (2007). Tyler passed along the suggestion of a great Johnny Cash song. At first I was thinking “Johnny Cash and football?” but when I put the track down it work perfectly. Thanks Kaluza on that great find!

Radio: I can’t thank ‘Cats play-by-play man Bill Johnson enough for his help during the season. This was Bill’s second year of the call for the ‘Cats and he has developed such a passion for the program in short amount of time and it’s evident with the passion in his call. Bill, his wife Laurie, and Dave Hanson (the ‘Cats longtime color man) are a great group of people to work with. They treat me so well and are always willing to go above and beyond to make sure we have the sound we need for the highlights. Thank you so much.

Special thanks to Jen and Chuck Wert and Mark Funk. On the trip out to Wesley, Jen and Chuck (son is offensive guard Drew Wert) were nice enough to let me hitch a ride with them down from Philly to Dover. The Wert’s are awesome, treated me like a family member, and I had a great time getting to know them a little. Mark Funk (son is ‘Cats DB Brandon Funk) picked me up from the Spokane airport the night before the Whitworth game. Mark and I hit it off right away over a few cold drinks at a local watering hole. Mark is a great guy with a lot of passion for the game of football and I’m thankful for him making my trip to Spokane a welcoming one. Thank you again Jen, Chuck, and Mark. Go ‘Cats!
I also need to thank Linfield’s head coach Joseph Smith, athletic director Scott Carnahan, the ‘Cats Offensive line coach Doug Hire, linebacker coach Phil Rombach, and the entire football staff. Coach Smith and A.D. Carnahan provide incredible support and access to the program for me and this project wouldn’t be nearly as robust or in-depth without their continued support. Coach Hire’s work with me on getting me updated with equipment and access to older footage is very appreciated, thank you to Coach Rombach in all the help with the travel, and the whole staff with being willing to help me out at every turn with the blog and video. You guys make it look easy but I know the commitment is incredible.

Last but not least the biggest thanks go to my wife Kelly. There is so much time involved in this process and there is NO WAY I could pull it out without someone as supportive and loving as Mrs. 11. We have had such a big change in our lives this past year with the arrival our wonderful baby girl (Baby14) and even with the sporadic sleep for both of us Mrs. 11 was phenomenally supportive of making every game I could and traveling with the team. Mrs. 11 had my back at every turn in getting this project done and it feels great to have someone always in your corner. Thank you honey, I love you.  Go 'Cats!!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The passing of a Linfield Great: Dr. Norm Goss (1923-2012)

Photo Courtesy of Linfield Athletics
This past Wednesday, Linfield Sports, passed along the news that Dr. Norman Goss passed away earlier that day at the age of 88. Norm suffered a stroke the previous weekend and was taken to Oregon Health Sciences University. Linfield Sports said it perfectly that Norm was a fixture of Linfield athletics for the past 50 years. Norm was a rock for the athletic department for so many years as the football and basketball programs' timekeeper. He was someone the department could always count on to support and help out the programs because of his love for Linfield.

I didn't have a personal relationship with Norm but each season at home games when I ran into Norm we would chat about the 'Cats. Every time I would walk away from those too brief of conversations my first thought would be "I hope I'm able to be a part of this for as long as Norm has." I have such great respect for what Norm was doing for the football program. Season after season, Norm was able to serve an institution that he loved greatly. Dr. Norman Goss is at the very core of what makes Linfield so very special to so many. It's not just the wins, big plays, facilities, traditions, etc. It's the people and our shared love to pitch-in and try to provide our small contributions to make the very best environment for the Linfield student-athletes.

Tom McFadden is one of these great Wildcats that had the honor of spending countless hours with Norm in press boxes and score tables. Tom was gracious enough to share some thoughts about a man and Wildcat that will truly be missed.

To our Wildcat family:

We have lost the example of what I can only hope to be when it comes to
service to Linfield athletics. Norm sat next to me for 23 seasons in
basketball and down the aisle in the press box from me at Linfield
football. And in that time, we not only shared our service time, but we
traveled together often to football and basketball games on the road. And
those weren't exactly trips to George Fox...we went to Eastern Oregon
University, Pacific Lutheran....even a trip up to Simon Fraser back in our
CFA days....and many of the shorter trips.

And during those trips, I can never recall him being critical of anyone at
the College, its' coaches or student athletes. It was always about the
game. I can only hope to match his love of the Linfield College, the
student athletes who wear the cardinal and purple and the coaches who
guide them. We will not have anyone quite like this man again.

-Tom McFadden
Left-to-Right: Adriana Sleigh (Norm's granddaughter and shot clock operator), Norm,
Tom McFadden, and Ronald Berg (public address).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coaches reflect on 'Cat All-American/All-Region Awards

2011 was another standout season for YOUR Linfield Wildcats as the 'Cats 10-1 season was recognized with four 'Cats received post-season accolades from D3football.com. All four of the Wildcats selected are not only great players but they are TEAM players first and foremost. Very little ego and that attitude was reflective throughout the program. As usual, Linfield Head Coach Joseph Smith puts it best when asked about these players: "As it typically the case, an All American Award is an individual award that is often dictated by the team’s overall success. So our entire program takes great pride when one of our own is selected, as it reflects on us all, not just the tip of the spear. This group is special in many ways, but one thing that jumps out at me is that they are all Oregon boys; now men. These guys put the goal of a National Championship right out in the open, daring for greatness. More importantly, they installed the mindset into this team that we would work so hard, that we would be able to stand toe to toe with the best in the country, anywhere, anytime. All are intense competitors and embody the spirit of this program. No short cuts. Shut up and lets work. And when its game time, run to the battle and leave it all out there." -Joseph Smith Linfield Head Coach

#4 Drew Fisher, Senior, Safety - 1st Team All-American 
(2x All-American)

76 Total Tackles (45 solo, 31 ast.), 10 Tackles For Loss, 2 Sacks, 5 Int's, 4 pass breakups, 1 Fumble Recover, 1 Forced Fumble, 1st Team All-Northwest Conference (3x 1st team All-NWC), rated top defensive back in NWC (x2 (2009))  NWC Defensive Player of the Year, 1st Team All-West Region (D3football.com)

Defensive Back Coach Neil Fendall: "I have talked a lot about Drew and to a lot of people over the last 4 years. We've spent many hours around practice and meetings and I've gotten to know him fairly well. The truth is, we knew he could play. There's no way to predict that a guy would have the amount of success he had however. He truly performed. It's common to recall guys like Drew and it sounds like they are perfect players. That is never the case. However, I don't think you could ask for a better teammate than Fish. Aside from all the recognition and accolades, he was a guy who showed up every day. I am pressed to recall Fish missing a practice over the last 4 years. The way we practice, that's hard to believe. He was pushed very hard both by myself and the demands of the position he plays. Recently I was talking with an alum who played the same position and he stated how impressive it was to see how Drew performs in games especially knowing how much is put on his plate mentally at his position.

The beauty of coaching is watching a guy develop year to year and become a young man. Drew worked through our system, dealt with differences in opinions with myself, and continued to lead others and accept the responsibilities that entails.

Fish will be remembered for clutch interceptions and some of the biggest hits one will witness watching this game. I will remember the character and poise he showed at some of the most crucial moments of his career. I will remember him helping the kids in our community and coaching little league. I will remember arguing with him when he didn't think things were the way they should be. All these things stand out in my mind about Drew. He's a good man and has made this place a better one for those around him. He has guts and courage. He looks you in the eye. I'd love to conclude with a sarcastic shot across the bow, but instead I will commend him and thank him for the last four years. Only a young man with his wit and humor understands how difficult that can be!

Lastly, I would be remiss to talk about him as an All-American without mention of the others in his class. Testa, Biege, Krieger, Skore, Hanna, Dixon and Parish played a large part in this award as well as all the linebackers and defensive linemen who played in front of him. I know he would say the same thing."

Coach Smith on Drew: "We have had very few defensive players voted by their teammates as the Team MVP. Drew is in a very special class of players to have received that honor. He not only dominated on the field, but he was a tremendous leader for us, a rare player that makes everyone else around him better. I am not sure we have recruited a player for as long or as hard as we did Drew, I even called him from on top of Mt. Bachelor while skiing with my family. We were that sure he would be an impact player here and that he had everything we desired: integrity, poise, vision and anticipation, hip strike, and consistency. However, Drew’s ability to rise to the occasion during games is what separates him from the rest. He is truly remarkable at making a big play when it is needed the most. In the time I have been here, we have had 3 All American Defensive backs wear #4 (Hughes, Rix, Fisher). All were defensive MVPs of the league, all were among the top to have ever played their position here at Linfield. Halvorsen in the 80’s, Bolin early 90’s, Capdeville late 90’s, Lions early 2000’s, Ort mid 2000’s, and Fisher the last 3 seasons. In my opinion, those are the best to have played the Deep Middle at Linfield for the past 30 years. Fish is in rare company."

#59 Tyler Steele, Junior, Defensive Tackle
3rd Team All-American

49 Total Tackles (28 solo, 21 asst.), 18 Tackles For Loss, 13 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 1 blocked kick, 1st Team All-NWC (2x 1st Team All-NWC),  rated top defensive NWC defensive lineman, 1st Team All-West Region

Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Jackson Vaughan: "Tyler really had one of the most dominant seasons I have seen a Defensive Tackle have in my time at Linfield. Having started since the first game of his freshman year, Tyler has a tremendous amount of game experience and that really started to work to his benefit this season. In past seasons, Tyler was very good but was solely focused on doing his job, controlling his gap, and not getting tricked or fooled by anything. This season, with the added game experience Tyler had a great understanding of game situations and offensive tendencies which allowed him to take a lot more chances and make a lot more plays. For a defensive tackle to lead the team with double digit sacks and finish third in total tackles is certainly a very impressive feat and one that I don’t believe I have seen in my 18 years at Linfield.

The other factors that I feel have made Tyler successful on the field are his continual drive to get better every day at practice. He has established himself as the hardest working and toughest player on our defensive line and certainly leads by example every day. It is truly a lot of fun when you see someone that does it the right way have the kind of success Tyler had on the field this past season. This is especially amazing when you see his messed up feet and wonder how the guy can even run straight and then see you see him go out and dominate on the field!"

Coach Smith on Tyler: "Defensive Tackle is all about desire and toughness. If you can’t take a pounding constantly, and still keep coming with everything you have, you can’t play that position. Tyler has the true “motor” and desire that every defensive line coach covets, but few are blessed to coach a player with it. Tyler has everything you want as a DT. A great strike, great knee bend and flexibility, and able to learn and master the physical moves necessary to be great against the run and the pass. He is definitely one of the best DTs in the Country, and certainly one of the more dominant DTs to have played at Linfield. He was a wrecking ball this year versus every team we played. CLU and Wesley, two of the elite teams in the nation flat could not block him. Tyler is excellent in all that he does. He is a man of character, a true gentlemen, a complete team player, and a joy to coach."

#70 Jordan Barnes, Senior, Offensive Guard
Honorable Mention All-American

20 knockdowns, 5 pancakes, 1 sack allowed, 1st Team All-NWC (3x 1st team All-NWC),  rated top offensive lineman in NWC (x2 (2009)), 1st Team All-West Region

Offensive Line and Assistant Head Coach Doug Hire: "Impressive from the start, the first day I met him. He had a look in his eyes that perhaps only I could see and will never forget. A look that was somewhat serious, very confident, and yet humbling. I saw the potential future of an All American- without a doubt. Jordan lived to that expectation through his work ethic, commitment to excellence, and willingness to learn.  No question one of the most physical and confident players I have coached, a testament to the time and commitment in the weight room and training.

Offensive line coaches love physical and tough players up front, characteristics that will allow success in the trenches, every down, every game, and throughout the season. I believe toughness is not how much you dish out or give, it's how much you can take physically and mentally. Jordan is tough both mentally and physically and he played that way, persevered through adversity especially when he was hurt.

You hear of guys who are gamers, guys who get through practice during the week and show up on game day. Not Jordan, he practiced and prepared like a champion and expected perfection in everything he did- drills, team sessions, and one on one drills. He always came ready to practice although at time he was slow getting ready for practice (I gave him a hard time on this issue especially during his sophomore year) but once he finally got all his gear on he was ready to practice. Jordan was the guy who reminded me not to skip the tough drills, the drills that made the guys tougher and work harder (chutes, sled, yo-yo, and line drills).

Jordan will be missed and I can only hope for more Jordan Barnes in the future. "

Coach Smith on Jordan: "Jordan was someone we had very high hopes for, as his high school coaches thought he was of the finest offensive lineman to have played at Lake Oswego. He did not disappoint. Jordan was in the mix right away at Linfield, and has been amazingly versatile for us. He has performed at a steady high level his entire career here whether at Left Guard, or Right Guard, or Left Tackle, or Right Tackle. Jordan is at his best when the action starts for that is when his competitive nature is drawn out the most. No matter versus who or where, when the action started you knew Jordan would be ready and able."

#7 Josh Kay, Junior, Place Kicker 
2nd Team All-West Region

Field Goals: 16 out of 19 (84.2%), Long of 49 yards, 55 out of 56 on PAT's, 5 out of 5 FG attempts in playoffs, 61 yard average on kickoffs, 1st Team All-NWC, Fred Mitchell Award Finalist

Special Teams Coordinator Brandon Hazenberg: "As a team, we couldn't be prouder of Josh for the season he just had on so many different levels. Josh decided to fully commit to the team sometime this off-season and it showed in his performance this fall. After what we would both call a disappointing season in 2010 for him, Mr. Kay developed consistency in all aspects of his game. From start to finish Josh worked on not only his physical skills, but his mental game as well. His time as a golfer throughout his life has prepared him for the big moments of place kicking, which are the moments that actually happen during a game, not practice! The largest change for Josh was creating practice habits of taking each PAT/FG kick as seriously and individually as the next, preparing himself for pressure kicking situations. With this routine we developed, he really found a comfort zone with each situation, trusting his teammates and putting it "up and through."

In terms of his Kickoff game this season, we lengthened his approach about week 3 of the season which really allowed him to get some more athleticism into the kick. Josh is a very fast and explosive kicker, so giving him an opportunity to attack the football with speed paid some dividends. For him, letting the approach and his speed do some of the work for him was different, which forced him to again rely on changing things mentally. Just like a golf swing, just like a high jumper, or even a javelin thrower would know..... your approach coupled with an explosive and sound contact/plant/jump leg is the key to maximum exertion in any athletic movement, any sport, period. If he continues to challenge himself and his limits, he could be very good next season.

It was very fun to see the way Josh committed to the team this season and the way I think everyone else committed back. Josh is a funny dude sometimes, but our team trusted this guy and that is a big time compliment to any kicker in my opinion. Heck, the guy lives with our JHill & Domo, two First Teamers! If he can hang with them, that's a good deal.

As he already knows, our biggest challenge lies ahead in working to get better and trying to become the best possible kicker we can. It's going to take the same patience, the same routine and the same commitment it did this year and more. This season, while it was amazing and deserving, sets some high standards for Josh to strive for this off-season. Our staff trusts that Josh is going to work very hard this off-season and will come back next year ready to start over. It doesn't matter if you've done it a 1000 times already, each year, each game and every kick is new in it's own right. Josh knows you have to approach it that way, assess your surrounding, relax and rely on your routine.

My only problem with the guy is that he's getting too comfortable in his own skin. He is probably gonna drive us crazy this year with jokes, dances and weird kicker antics.... but for a guy like that......we wouldn't trade'em for anybody.

Congrats again on a great season to Josh Kay, MY 2011 NWC Special Teams POY!

(*Quick Sidenote---We have a great group of kickers/punters. Tons of competition going on in there, but these guys are awesome to work with! Big shout out to Repp, Kuni, and Walk.)

(Quick Sidenote #2---To Chopp, Biege and Anderson....you guys helped change the way we as a team view Special Teams play. Can't thank you guys enough. It will be a lasting impact. Best of luck fellas.)"

Coach Smith on Josh: "I am so very impressed with how Josh came out and won the kicking job this year. After having an inconsistent and unfocused year last year, he worked on some things and came out and really performed well. He had as good a season as we have had from a kicker. He was dominant in his kickoffs, and his accuracy in his field goals was exceptional. Josh was a big factor for us this year, and it was not accident. He was usually the first one out on the field, and you could find him mentally going through his approaches from various spots on the field. His mental focus and toughness was commendable this year, and combined with a lot of intentional work on the little things, he developed into a real weapon."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

These second year 'Cats are all in.

After the 2010 season I asked four Linfield freshmen to write about the transition from High School football to their 1st year in the 'Catdome.   I was curious about what brought them to Linfield and what they experienced during their Freshmen campaign and the players responded with a great view into the program. A year later and why not check in with these four again and find out what changed from year one to year two? Thank you to those four players for writing again and we added one more player, Steven Schultz, to write about year 2 as a Linfield College Wildcat.

#23 Dominique Forrest, Linebacker, Portland, Or. (Jesuit High)

Send ‘Em Up, Send ‘Em Up, Send ‘Em up… another year in the books I’ll tell my grand-kids about. Looking back, man it was a fun one. Going from a crash course in the level of play of college football last year to having a little experience under the belt was a good transition going into this season. I felt more comfortable with not only the players around me, but with the defensive scheme and the preparation steps necessary to understand a game plan for any given opposing team. That all started freshman year with the senior leadership we had in the LBC, and improved even more this year with the senior leadership we had on the defensive side. These guys really know how to show the way, the “Linfield way”. And to me, that simply means the way to just get it done.

Last year I was a role player on special teams and got in the mix throughout the season as backer. This year I was fortunate to have a starting role and contribute that way. It’s a lot different when you go from hearing all that calls and knowing just one position, to having to make the calls and know what the whole front is doing. With practice, coaches help, and just more focus really, day by day things started to sink in and I took a lot of good steps toward become a better player. This year I felt more at ease playing, the game seemed to slow down and my vision of the formations improved. I don’t want to feel content with my improvements and I know there is still a lot of work to be done for me to be the player I want to be. Physically and mentally. This off-season will be important as we prepare for next season.

You know, another year playing for this team has fostered a lot of my growth not only as a player, but as a person too. Playing for/with people who have become some on my best friends and guys who I have strong relationships with or mad respect for is something that makes these times special. The silent message this team has, the pillars we follow, the ambitious attitude we have will do wonders for us. I’ve bought into it and trust these coaches to take this team and myself on the right path. We just got to keep working for that goal. There is something special in this program and with the right work we can do something legendary.

-Dominique Forrest

#84 Jacob Priester, Tight End, Patterson, Cali. (Patterson High)

After completing my second season of football at Linfield College, one thing that has not changed has been the atmosphere of outworking our opponents. This year, even more so than last year, our team relied on the strength of the team as a cohesive unit that worked hard together, both on and off the field. This season really beat the idea into my head that the path to success is paved with nothing but sweat, hard work and dedication. This reoccurring theme throughout the season only made our successes that much sweeter as it seemed like our constant grinding on the football field was being fairly rewarded. And like Coach Smith reminded us at the end of the season, the pain of failing to reach our goal of a national title was made exponentially worse due to the level of work that this team put in throughout the season.

Between my first and second year of football at Linfield, I felt like I came into my own as a player and was no longer swimming to remember the schemes and plays that the coaches through at us. Coming into camp and being able to focus on technique as opposed to remembering plays was a huge weight off of my back. Further, the best feeling about coming into camp this year was feeling like I was part of a team, rather than an individual fighting for my survival on the roster. But I think the most significant change in my eyes for the program from year 1 to year 2 of my career was the relationships I built with the senior class. This past senior class, more than any other senior class that has been above me, made themselves available to me not only as mentors but as friends. Some of the senior linemen like Jordan Barnes and Hayden Mace stand out in my mind as friends that I will stay in contact with for many years to come.

On a personal level, I felt like I became a much more mature football player this year, able to take a step back from my role as a player and start to see the big picture that this program is working to. This team has taught me how to think of myself as a facet of a very complex machine working toward one goal. I no longer have any aspirations of becoming something like the “T.O. Show” because I know that only a true team can achieve great success. And as a person this team has forced me to learn how to mange my time very precisely because the consequence of a lack of organization is the suffering of my focus in either the football or academic departments of Linfield. This program is training me how to be a professional human being, able to take on the challenges of a professional career. I am very excited to continue my career in the Linfield Football program because I believe that it is one of the most successful organizations of any practice in the entire nation. As a sophomore I began to appreciate the magnitude of this team’s success and I am very proud to be a part of it because I know that no matter what happens in today’s world, Linfield Football will never settle for anything less than the best.

-Jacob Preister

#49 Kel Poomaihealani, Def End, Kahalu'u, Hawaii (St. Louis)

This is my second year at Linfield and I find myself more appreciative to go here than I did last year. I realized how great my professors, coaches, and friends are. It seems as if everything is starting to slow down and I'm beginning to get used to the "daily grind" of class and football. Whereas last year, everything was moving in a fast pace and almost hectic.

I feel I'm improving in my work ethic both on and off the field. I struggled a little in class last year as a freshman, especially in spring semester. I got distracted and didn't make use of my time which resulted in bad grades. Lots of poor life decisions (as coach Vaughan would say). This year, I used my time wisely and was not lazy with academics and finished the fall term a lot better than the previous fall term.

I had a blast this year playing in the Catdome. I came into the season knowing what to expect, and eager to see how our team develops. We had a young team but we all had the same desire. We practiced and played our hardest. The work ethic of our team as a whole was great. We're all anxious to hit the weights and get back in the Catdome.

-Kel Poomaihealani

#24 Tyler Robitaille, Linebacker, San Jose, Cali (Bellarmine Prep)

Two years down, two years to go. Now that my second season has come to an end, I can't believe how much has changed. Going from your freshman season to your sophomore season is a refreshing feeling. During spring ball, you actually know whats going on, it's great! Looking back at my freshman year, two things stick out the most.  First, would be my experience on the field and how it translate to the game play and overall attitude towards the game. Last year, I played Rover but didn't see much playing time as most of my PT came off of Special Teams. This year was a huge change, going from Rover to Will. The position change shocked me because I viewed myself as a pretty undersized Rover, so moving to a linebacker position wasn't my first thought. It ended up being a great move and I enjoyed the position and the opportunity to see the field.

The second biggest change came with my role of the team and the roll of the sophomore class. We were all brought in to be the next generation of Linfield Football, to follow the building bricks Fish, Kreiger, Kal'ae, Hanna, Skore and Dix laid down. Now that they are graduating, the games on us Sophomores going into next season. My understanding of the defense grew tremendously as well. After having a whole year under your belt, it really helps make the game slow down, and you can play more football and less thinking.

Now that year 2 is over it made me just reflect on how lucky I was to be a part of this great tradition. It just makes me thank my mom for pushing me to play the game of football and take a chance not many people take. The opportunity given to Linfield players will never be understood unless one has played here. The streak is merely a number to us, yeah it's fun to talk about, but when we really get down to it, that's not what makes Linfield special. It's the relationships between player and coach. I can only hope that with the next 2 years, those relationships grow stronger and we can reach our goal of a National Championship.

Catdome '12
Tyler Robitaille

 #78 Steven Schultz, Offensive Tackle, Tacoma, Wa. (Wilson)

After my high school football season concluded, I had no idea where I was going to end up the following year and if that would include football. It was not until January that Linfield  contacted me. Before that I really did not even think of Linfield as an option. I had only heard of them through one of my coaches (Cameron Rogers). Throughout the next month I started to talk to Rogers about Linfield because I have always respected him as a coach and person and valued his opinion. He told me to trust him when he said that Linfield would be a perfect fit for me. I kept going through things in my head such as how far away from home do I want to be, which one of these schools has the best education, which will give me an opportunity to play early on in my career? The answer: Linfield.

I came in as a defensive linemen but in early July before the season started I injured my foot which did not healed for 8 months, causing me to sit out my first year of football.  I was pretty down that I couldn’t play but decided to bounce back and get ready for the next season. In the spring I decided to spend my next four seasons at Linfield as an offensive linemen. Since then I have no regrets. Coach Hire put a lot of faith in me early on and that really motivated me to keep getting better everyday.

My first season as a player has so far been an amazing experience. With all the work we put in between the morning workouts and practices (including 12 hours a day of camp for the first two weeks of the season) it’s no wonder why we are a family. We are taught to push each other to get better everyday and spend so much time together that I doubt you could find another team with this much unity.

The seniors were great this year they worked hard day in and day out. Barnes and Mace really helped me throughout the season working with me after practices and helping me out whenever they could. It’s great when the seniors are eager to show you what they know so that you can one day fill their shoes and eventually pass on that knowledge to the new young bucks.

Every player in this program is expected to play their role. Whether that is scout team or starter you are expected to do your role to the best of your ability. Our scout team buys into that concept and gives the starters the best look they possibly can because they understand we are only as good as we prepare. We are able to compete on a national level every year because of how well we prepare. An even bigger part of our preparation is because of our amazing coaching staff. They analyze everything a team does and give us the best possible chance at success.

My first two years at Linfield have been an incredible experience and I am so proud of all that we accomplished this year. I will miss all of the seniors, but am excited to see what’s in store for us next season. Until then we will continue to get faster and stronger because it is in the off season that teams have the opportunity to go from good to great.

-Steven Schultz

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Linfield Wildcat Football: "Send 'Em Up"

Wildcat11 wanted to give the 'Catdome something to start the new year off right so here is a little clip that if it hits you right should give you some goosebumps (or chicken skin for my island brothers).

The 2011 Linfield College Wildcats finished the season with a 10-1 record and a final Division III ranking of #6 in the country. The 'Cats scored 39.9 points per game (11th best in NCAA) while only giving up 16.4 points per game (24th). The Linfield defense also led in the county with 47 sacks on the year and 115 tackles for loss.

Linfield won their 35th Northwest Conference Championship with an average margin of victory of 32 points per game vs NWC foes, had 20 players named All-NWC, 4 players selected All-West Region, and 3 players tapped as All-Americans.

The 'Cats also extended their All-Level record of consecutive winning seasons to 56 seasons (1956-Present) and made their 23rd playoff appearance (8th in Division III since joining in 1998).