ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TIMOTHY HEIN
In the midst of the hype surrounding Tabor College’s winning football team this year is the quiet but substantial contribution of the Bluejays’ offensive line.
Five men arrived at Tabor three years ago to play offensive line for a struggling Bluejay football team.
Ranging in weight from 260 to 320 pounds, Joel Odom from Forney, Texas, Richard Chandler from Houston, Kevin Wahl from Fairview, Okla., Tyler Grantham from West Columbia, Texas, and Preston Neufeld from Hesston combine to tip the scales at almost three-quarters of a ton.
Key to Tabor’s success is that these five men have stuck it out for four years.
“We go out there every day and have done it for four years,” Wahl said. “Nobody has quit on us.”
The five have endured good times and bad times.
“In the beginning, we were struggling to win a game,” Wahl said. “Now we settle for nothing less than a win.”
“In the past, we have been treated as a joke,” he added.
Wahl said it is “incredible” to be a part of something meaningful.
“To get the credit they deserved they had to push themselves to work hard and get better every day,” he said.
“Those front six men are a family within itself,” Wahl said, including sophomore transfer Joe Hernandez and freshman Bobby Hurd in that “family.”
“It is a position you don’t get credit for, but those six men know they get credit where credit is deserved,” Wahl said.
These five agreed the line is vital to the team’s success.
Dave Kroeker, who coaches the offensive line, said, “I teach technique, and the players hear the same things over and over again.
“They understand when they do a good job and when they don’t,” Kroeker said.
“It is a mental game,” he added. “The only time linemen get noticed is when the quarterback gets sacked, or when a running back is tackled for a loss.”
Linemen have to be able to react and know when something needs to be changed during the game said Kroeker.
“My guys know what I want, when I want it,” Kroeker said.
To be successful, all members of the line need to contribute.
“The most important thing for our offensive line is to play as a unit,” Odom said. “It is huge to have three to four seniors that have played together.”
Team unity has been evident this year. The Bluejays are among the top offensive teams in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Odom said it is important for the linemen to make all of their blocks and be able to trust that those around them are going to get their assignments done, too.
“If we maintain our blocks and do our assignments, big time players make big time plays,” Odom added.
Grantham said it is “unbelievable” being a part of the football team.
“It’s a great family,” he said.
“I love playing beside these guys,” Grantham said. “I don’t have to worry about them missing a block.”
The seniors credit a lot of their success to head coach Tim McCarty and the rest of the senior class that stayed for four years.
“We came here together and stayed together for four years,” Grantham said.
Chandler said the guys on the line realize how important it is for them to be “leaders” and to give 110 percent all the time.
“Everybody has to play their role,” Chandler said. “Every little thing counts. Me missing my assignment is just as bad as a receiver missing a pass.”
Tim Hein wrote this article as a reporting assignment for his Mass Media Writing I class at Tabor College.