Sunday, January 13, 2013

Three years in and it keeps getting better for these 'Cats.

Upon the completion of the 2010 season I thought it would be interesting to follow the path of a group of freshman during their careers as Linfield Wildcats and what the transition was like from High School to the 'Catdome.  After their 2nd year as Wildcats, we again talked to this great group of young people about getting deeper into the 'Catdome.  It's little strange to be back again as these players will be entering their senior seasons (sans Steven Schultz who took a medical redshirt in 2010) and finding out how time in the 'Catdome has impacted their lives.  What's below are their own thoughts about being a Wildcat.  The only question I asked them is what they would say to themselves as high school seniors.  It's a great look into the minds of of what makes this program tick....the players.  Thank you to these five Wildcats for continuing to share their journey in the 'Catdome and we'll be looking forward to it one more time in 2014. Go 'Cats!

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

I remember my first day on Linfield’s campus as if it were yesterday. It’s crazy how time flies. I‘ve got to say that the time I’ve spent with this team are times I have truly cherished. To reflect on the past years has been tough though, I keep thinking about the next season, my last one here at Linfield.

The past three seasons have given us sort of a “thick skin”. The very first Linfield game that I was a part of was a loss down vs. Cal Lutheran, and ever since then, every loss we’ve had has ended our season early. The loss to Oshkosh was tough, but I think it fueled our fire even more for the guys in my class. We’ve been able to win games in conference and make it to playoffs and we built off that this past year, but still haven’t been able to finish the way we want. On the bright side, we have another crack at it. What the loss really tells us is that we have to work that much harder this time around, stay consistent for that much longer, and come even closer as a family and a program. It is definitely easier to say than to do, but we have to be willing to do it to get to where we want to.

We have this big group of to-be seniors coming back and being upperclassmen we have the opportunity to set the tone for the work we need to put in. Luckily, we have upperclassmen on both sides of the ball. It allows us to have those leaders spread out within the different position groups. It’s something to take pride in and I believe we can raise the bar even higher. Something that stands out about being an upperclassman is seeing the big picture. When I came into this program I just wanted to follow what the older guys did and follow the example they put forth. Now, being in that “older guys” shoes, I, as well as the guys in my class, want to be an example to a guy who is coming into this program or growing up in this program.

Linfield is a right place for me because it has challenged me day in and day out. I would tell my high school self that exact thing. Maybe back then, I somewhat enjoyed when things were easy and I settled for being good or just okay. I’ve learned when you have to work for things and have to put in extra effort to make things happen, things fall in your favor. This program also talks a lot about family. I would also tell my high school self the importance to do what you can for the people who are working hard around you. On the field, I have ten guys around me who are working hard to make my job and assignments that much easier. It makes it even more important for me to hold up my part for those guys. Off the field, I have teammates and coaches doing what they can to make this program better, all I have to do is work hard and improve in the areas I can to help this team. When we are working hard together, it’s tough to break us down.

-Dominique Forrest

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

Before I begin, I just want to take the time to thank the Catdome family for all the support and love we got from you this past season. From a player’s standpoint, it means a lot to have such a supporting and loving family through thick and thin.

This past season was a fun one. It was a big stepping stone for us; we had many things to prove, both on and off the field. I couldn’t be prouder of my fellow brothers in the blood, sweat, and tears in what we put into this game we play. The junior class as a whole had to step up in many ways, mainly to fill the void of the departure of leaders that has graduated and left from the previous years (Fish, Kalae, Nish, Hedin, Bubs, etc.). It was time for us to take the initiative and be the leaders of the team.

It was a weird transition from being the second year players to team leaders. We have been blessed to have the past leaders do what they do and pave the way for us and show us how to play and lead the team to success. It definitely is bitter realizing that I just finished my third season playing for Linfield and that I have one more year remaining. Time really does fly.

Towards the end of this past season I would remind myself that time is running out for me and that I would only have a certain amount of opportunities to leave my mark in this system. I began to embrace every moment because I won’t have the opportunity to compete and go to war with my brothers every Saturday, as quoted from Coach Vaughan. I am blessed to be a part of a wealthy tradition and given the opportunity to play with that name across my chest.

If there is one thing I could tell myself about Linfield 4 years ago when deciding what college to attend, it would be the bonds I made with my teammates. This is a bond you can’t find anywhere else. In my opinion, football is the closest sport to war. Definitely much less violent though. You train and prepare yourself for that one day and you take on that one day with your brothers by your side. The bond I made with my teammates is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. If I knew this was promised to me when I was in high school, I would have no question in coming to Linfield. Linfield is definitely the place for me and I am glad I made the decision to come here, it was meant to be. I can’t wait to get the off season rolling and play again this coming fall! Catdome.

Bang bang,
Kel Poomaihealani 49

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

Year three has come and gone, still can't believe that I will be entering into my senior season at Linfield. I also thought that when people told me, "Enjoy college because it goes by fast" that they were exaggerating a bit. Now I want to go back and tell myself to not take for granted a single day.

Looking back at my three years in the Catdome much has changed; positions, physical appearance, coaches, even practices. But one thing has always stood out to me and that is the type of guys that play football in this program. I can still remember meetings with Ness and Comfy. I recall being scared to go in on scout team freshman year because Bubba might rip your head off if you don’t echo the call, or Hedin and Nish balling out in making this game look so easy. The reason I remember those guys is because they took their senior season and embraced what it meant to play for Linfield. They didn’t just play for themselves; they brought up us young guys because they knew we were the next Wildcats in line.

The entire junior class and I have been blessed with the guys who played in front of us. So many leaders on the previous teams; Fisher, Krieger, Kal'ae, Nish, Bubbs, etc the list can go on and on. It was those guys who made me want to play better, those guys who helped me become the player I am today. I want to thank them for everything they have shown and taught me whether they knew it or not. Little things they did like invite the young bucks over for hot seat or sit next to us in film to help us out, or even just coming to Dillin with us to help us build better relationships. Whatever they did, they did it not just for themselves, but for the team.

As I approach my senior season in the Catdome I want to leave a mark on the young guys, just like the guys that left a mark on me. That's how Linfield has the national record for consecutive winning seasons. Yes the coaches have a great deal to do with it, but if it wasn't for the type of players and leaders we have year-in and year-out from this team, we would not be nearly as successful. My fellow classmates and I are part of a special class. The biggest class ever brought into Linfield. It’s loaded with talent and leaders, but best of all, personality. We all get along so well, always having each other’s back and playing like a tight knit group. We have a tremendous opportunity to do something at Linfield that hasn't been done in almost 10 years. But it doesn't come from us, it comes from how well we can show the younger guys on this team what it takes and more importantly what it means to play Linfield Football.

Looking back at my high school self, I wish I had known about Linfield sooner, because I think that I could have gotten some quality guys from my area. Having said that, I am extremely grateful that Linfield found me (thanks Haze), and I have the opportunity to play here. To this very day there is no doubt in my mind that Linfield is the place to be for me. I want to tell all of the recruits that come here that if you are looking for a place to play football, but also make lifelong friends and relationships with the best guys out there, you need to be a Wildcat. I have had a great three years at Linfield and can’t wait to see what my senior season has to offer our team. We’re hungry for that championship and I know the team is ready to work. Catdome!!

-Tyler Robitaille

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

Undoubtedly, over the last three years Linfield football has been, just as Coach Smith guaranteed, the most influential class I have taken at Linfield College. Many lessons have been learned, most notably punctuality, determination, work ethic and, most importantly at this junction in my life, taking care of my body. I found over my career at Linfield that my ability to play is based on how careful I am with my body. Which leads me to the topic of this post, in that if I were able to talk to my freshman self right now I would tell myself two important ideals to live by in the Linfield football family: first, take care of your body (i.e. stretch every day, take ice baths frequently, and do NOT stop working out during the season) and second, it goes faster than you think. Before I know it, my senior season will be upon me and at times I still feel like I’m in my sophomore year of school. However, now it is my time to truly step up as a leader on this team and help lead us to our ultimate goal, a national title.

Like I have mentioned several times, the most important lesson I have learned and the largest mistake I have made involves not taking care of my body properly over the last two years. As a consequence, I am standing at an unfamiliar crossroads in my football career, within two weeks I will be undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. This injury has plagued me for the last two seasons and increased in severity over the last few months. Until this injury, I lived a seemingly injury free football career, and now that such a severe injury has arrived at my doorstep, I will rely on the Linfield football pillar of Attitude in order to smile in the face of this extreme adversity. I aim to make Attitude my personal pillar over the next several months including my surgery, rehabilitation and preparation for my upcoming senior season. The pain and rehabilitation that I will have to go through for this football season will light a fire within me that will hopefully allow me to perform with a tenacity and ferocity that will make me the dominant player that I aspire to be.

In general, the last few years as a part of the Linfield football family have provided me with the most important life lessons I have ever learned. The most valuable part about this is that these lessons will transcend football and allow me to have a successful career out in the “real world” and help me to deal with the trials and tribulations that await me outside of college. And in the end, this family has given me the best friends I have ever had, and that is more important to me than anything. Everyone who is reading this should know that I have no regrets coming to Linfield and that this has been the most gratifying experience of my life thus far. However, I am not, and my team is not, satisfied with how the last three years have ended. It’s time for my class to create our own legacy.

-Jacob Priester

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

Wow three years of college done already. It has been a crazy ride for us so far and it definitely took some time getting over how this season ended. Despite that, it has been so much fun this year. I had a whole new perspective coming into this season. I was starting my junior year here while this was only my second football season. Getting a whole year of playing under my belt helped so much. I was more confident and could focus more on my playing than my playbook. It allowed me to improve on my technique. If someone would have told me back in high school where I would be in three years I would have never believed them. To be a part of something so special has really helped shape me into the man I am becoming.

A lot has changed since I came to Linfield. I was pretty disappointed not being able to play my freshmen year due to injuring my foot. Looking back on it now I think it was a blessing in disguise. I came to every practice and watched every game that year and I really fell in love with this program. This is much more than a team, this is a family. After I was fully recovered, I started training again. I couldn't stop thinking about what was in store for my first year playing. I realized that I would have the opportunity to play so I worked as hard as I could and ended up having a decent year.

This past year I was motivated to be the best I could be. I focused a lot more on my technique and received help from alumni and mentor, Aaron Heston. All off-season I couldn’t stop thinking about winning a national championship. Although we fell short, I still feel very grateful to be a part of this team.

A lot has changed now that I am an upperclassman, and I have realized a lot more. I still remember the seniors my first year of playing, and how they would always keep me motivated. They helped whenever they could and really took me under their wing. Being an upperclassman, I want to give these young guys the same support that I was given when I first started out. I want them to be able to come to me whenever they have a question or need help whether that is on or off the field.

I chose Linfield over all the other schools I was looking at. I did not know what this school was really going to be like. I guess it was faith that brought me here. My high school coach Cameron Rogers had some great things to say about Linfield and thought that I would fit in well down here. My dad and I visited the campus and liked it a lot. The coaches were all great and broke everything down for me. All of these things played a role in me coming here, but ultimately it was something else. It was a feeling. A feeling like this was where I was meant to be. A feeling that I could be a part of something special. If I could go back to my high school self and say why Linfield is the place I should be I would say because that feeling was right. Linfield is everything I thought it could be when I decided to come here. We have over one hundred brothers, have one of the best coaching staffs in the country who sacrifice so much for us, and have a real shot at winning a national championship each year.

The most important thing I would tell myself, however, is that Linfield football prepares you for adversity beyond college. What you learn in your four years here will ultimately help you overcome any adverse situation you might be faced with for the rest of your life. As for next season, I am really excited to see what we can do. We have a lot of talent returning and this is going to be a special group of guys. Until then, however, we will do what we do best, which is work hard, because hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard enough.

-Steven Schultz

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