Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Henderson has a fantastic blog entry for us today. His story will ring true for many of us former players that came up through the ranks of the scout team and eventually earned their way onto the field. I can remember after an Alumni/JV game was played and the question was asked to the Alumni team “How many of you guys played on scout team while at Linfield?” About 90% of the Alumni players raised their hand and among those with their hands up where guys who started multiple-years, All-Conference players, Conference MVPs, Team MVPs, and All-Americans.
Ryan will one day get to raise his hand years from now when he’s asked that question as the hardnosed slot receiver jumped on his opportunity to play and didn’t let go for the remainder of 2009.
Reporting to camp and coming into your own in a place as unknown as college for an 18 year old kid is pretty nerve racking, especially when you don’t know what to expect. All the freshman have their expectations of what the school or football will be like, but most of these guys like myself, find out that it’s a lot different. I had never came to a Division III football game when I decided to come to Linfield. I had a pretty skewed idea that it wasn’t that competitive as far as what kind of athletes there are and what level of football is being played because it was D3. With this in mind I thought that I would be able to come down to Linfield and get a fair amount of early playing time and be able to have a successful career.
I think it was sometime freshman year training camp in between: getting destroyed by Rod Booth in the Innertube wrestling, watching WR John Torsey run a ‘4.3somethin’ 40 yard dash, seeing Saftey Keone Tawata kill people on the highlight film at the fieldhouse sleepover, watching Aaron Boehme throw the ball 70 yards and thinking to myself “damn, and he’s only second string”, watching Masters just do what he does, and listening to Coach Nagel talk about the most complex offense I have seen, was when I realized that Linfield football program is the real deal and if I ever want to play I better work my ass off and step my game up.
I think that my hardest time at Linfield would have to be my time spent on scout team. I was down there for all of my freshman year and the first week of my sophomore year. Scout team sucks. It’s hard work with no game time, its hundred and hundreds of reps while getting thrown into the air by Drew Ragan or trying to trying to block Andrew Woods. I remember after every practice the defense would break down the huddle with something like “thanks scout team” or “keep up the hard work its making us better!” Maybe it was cause was too tired to think, but to me those words or our actions on scout team never really felt like they meant that much, until the game against Willamette. I remember P.j. Sequiera and I were running hundreds of Willamette’s fly sweeps directly into Jeff Denny or Taylor Summers waiting to kill us all week preparing the defense for Willamette. And on that Saturday in 2007 down in Salem I was watching the play and I saw the man who I would have been on scout team come in motion and I knew exactly what was coming, it was a fly sweep to the right and I think it was Summers but I’m not sure, just blasted him for a 3 or 4 yard loss and I just went nuts. I truly felt that I had something to do with making that play.
Sophomore season came around and I felt like it was my turn to make my name as a Wildcat. I had worked hard and had a pretty good training camp. But when it came down to Coach Yen calling out who was going to stay with the 1’s and 2’s I wasn’t called. This time for me was probably hardest of my entire athletic career. I watched as the offense practiced and I still had to run hundreds of plays while listening to Coach Rombach scream. This time, although hard for me, taught me a lot. For one, I really found out what the Linfield program was about. So many teammates like Gus Morrison, Reggie Ford, Taylor Avritt, John Torsey, Travis Masters, Haberly, Bubba, Chris Saunders, lots more and even coaches all came up to me and talked to me on a personal level like a family would. They made it so much easier for me to look past my frustration and realize what I need to do. Which was work hard so the team can get better and through the hard work prove to coaches I could play.
I think my happiest day as a Wildcat was when Coach Yen asked me to stay with the 1’s and 2’s. I felt like my time on scout team was all worth it and I was ready to work even harder to keep moving up. It was the third week of the year we were practicing for Menlo and during the Thursday practice Gunnar Cedarburg got a concussion, and coach Yen came up to me after practice to tell me it was my turn to make it happen. I thought to myself about how many times Coach Smith talked about how people get one shot and sometimes that’s the only shot they get so naturally that just made me more nervous.
Saturday came along and I was nervous and pumped because it was a bright sunny day in the Catdome. The first play was an outside zone right to Reggie, I lined up, Bixenman snapped the ball and I don’t remember it until I got up after cut blocking some safety and saw Reggie 15 yards downfield, I had the biggest smile on my face jumping up and down and played like that the rest of the game. I think that is the most I have ever loved football in my life. This season to me was so much fun and helped me grow as a person and a football player. I don’t think I could have made the plays I did this year without practicing every day against people like Brian Mehl and Woods, the love I got from all my teammates and what I learned on scout team. Almost everybody goes through scout team and it only makes you a better player if you go through it with the right mindset. Playing against the best defense in D3 will only help you when you get the chance to make your name on the field. This is what Linfield is made of, we’re a family and we’re ready to do big things next year. CATDOME!!!
-Class of 2011
Action Photo Courtsey of Brad Thompson Linfield Action Photos