October 19, 2010

Coaches with a cause

More news about: Franklin and Marshall

A nurse tried to draw blood yet again from Lauren’s arm. The 13-year-old has been in and out of hospitals her entire life, and she knew the process well.

A good vein, however, couldn’t be found. Twelve times the nurse stuck Lauren. Amid the apologies, Lauren grinned and took the pain. Noticing the nurse’s discomfort, Lauren turned to the nurse and said, “Can I give you a hug?”

If only every football player on the field were as tough as this 13-year-old girl.

John Troxell and Lauren
Franklin and Marshall coach John Troxell gives his time and commitment to pediatric cancer causes with Lauren's First and Goal Foundation.

Franklin and Marshall head coach John Troxell is one of about a dozen people who serve on the board of directors and actively participates in Lauren’s First and Goal Foundation. Lauren has had tumors on her brain and spinal cord and has undergone a double craniotomy. The money raised through the First and Goal Foundation goes to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, much of it helping to fund research. A portion also goes to local cancer services and to families in need who can’t cover their rent or medical bills.

Lauren, the daughter of John Loose, an assistant football coach at Lafayette, is the inspiration for this movement. Since 2004, the foundation named after her has given nearly $700,000 toward cancer causes.

Before coming to F&M, Troxell used to work with Loose as a coach at Lafayette. Troxell and his wife went through two high-risk pregnancies of their own, so “there was no way we could turn our back” on the cause, Troxell said.

“If it ever happened to one of my kids,” he said, “I’d want people to help me out.”

Troxell dove head-first into the cause. The First and Goal Foundation is built around football camps held every summer. The skills-enhancement camps focus on drills and techniques for players, and draw on a wide range of expertise. In the beginning, 57 coaches, most of whom were friends of John Loose, took part. Now, the foundation has 276 volunteer college coaches from all over the country.

The growth is also reflected in the number of kids who take part. Only about 325 were there that first year. It has ballooned to nearly 1,800 at multiple camps.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Troxell said. “The kids get to come and get evaluated by over 100 colleges, and the college coaches get to evaluate kids, and it’s all for a good cause.”

About 92 cents of every dollar raised from registration fees and other sources goes to research or cancer services. The remainder is used to buy things that donors don’t usually offer, such as insurance for the camp or stamps or office supplies. None of the coaches get paid for their work.

The camp began at Lafayette, and the board tried expanding to a second camp at the University of South Florida. Their goal was to bring the camp to different parts of the country and find people there who are willing to take the reins.

But they hit snags in South Florida amid the competitiveness of Division I and some staffing changes. Instead, the board turned its sights to Ohio and, for the first time this past summer, set up a camp at Otterbein, where Cardinals defensive coordinator Allan Moore and his wife are leading things.

In Pennsylvania, Troxell has gotten his own players involved in the camp. Many volunteer their time over the summer, working food stations, manning the information booth or making sure coaches and campers have water.

“When we look at football, coaches plus players, we have an opportunity to do something different in the world,” said Troxell, whose community efforts helped get him nominated last year for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award. “We are out there in the world a little bit, in terms of being in the media and being public figures in our communities. As coaches, we always talk to our kids about getting involved. College football is about molding kids to go on and give back to their communities. For us, it’s a way to lead by example.”

Troxell and the others involved have received such overwhelming feedback that they are looking for new ways to raise money while also promoting football and sportsmanship. They are discussing the possibility of an invite-only 7-on-7 championship, and they are hoping to find sponsors to help cover the costs of shirts and other items.

“Lauren’s name is tagged to this,” he said, “and we’re never going to do any event that’s not done the right way.”

To read more about Lauren and her medical journey, go to www.caringbridge.org/visit/laurenloose.

To donate to Lauren’s First and Goal Foundation, go to www.laurensfirstandgoal.org. Click here for dates of the 2011 camps.

Parity, plain and simple

Just a couple of weeks ago, this column addressed the perception of parity in the Old Dominion. But it is perhaps in the neighboring USA South where the reality has a firmer hold than does the perception.

USAC standings
  Conf.
All
  W-L Pct.
W-L Pct. PF PA
Averett 2-1 .667
4-2 .667 176 94
N.C. Wesleyan 2-1 .667
3-3 .500 148 107
Chris. Newport 2-1 .667
2-4 .333 107 170
Ferrum 2-1 .667
2-4 .333 151 167
Shenandoah 2-1 .667
2-4 .333 99 148
Maryville (Tenn.) 1-2 .333
2-4 .333 64 144
Methodist 1-2 .333
2-4 .333 126 210
Greensboro 0-3 .000
1-5 .167 62 178

Two teams that entered the field this past Saturday with one win apiece, Christopher Newport and Maryville, each knocked off the USA South’s top teams, recordwise. CNU came out guns blazing in a 23-15 road win against North Carolina Wesleyan. NCWC didn’t even get on the scoreboard until the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Maryville, led by a 208-yard effort from quarterback Dustin Williams, was also on the road when it took down Averett to the tune of 21-14.

These unexpected wins open up the conference title race, but more was still to come from Saturday’s results. Ferrum and Shenandoah each gained their second conference wins in a row, leaving five teams -- ones that struggled through nonconference play with a combined 3-12 record -- at the top of USA South standings. I say that not to point out any mismatch between the conference and its early opponents but instead to highlight how difficult it is to project conference standings from nonconference performance.

Some teams clearly take on tougher teams in the first three games of the season, but it’s what is learned from those games and the subsequent health of the players that factors in heavily come conference time. Early struggles aside, these five teams that are now 2-1 in conference play have opened up a range of possibilities for the USA South -- and have left a lot of guesswork as to who might represent its members with the automatic qualifier in the postseason.

The Generals’ charge

By halftime, Washington and Lee had built up a 28-14 lead and never looked back in a 42-28 win over then-ranked and undefeated Randolph-Macon. The Generals jump to 4-2 and are undefeated in conference play. Saturday’s 42 points were the lowest W&L has scored in a victory all season, showing just how potent this offense has become. Luke Heinsohn, who posted 147 yards on just 17 carries against the Yellow Jackets, has burst out as a star player this season. Heinsohn’s family has a strong athletic pedigree at W&L, and the sophomore is making his mark with 807 yards already this season. He’s certainly not the only breakout player the Generals have: Sophomore Jake Pelton has become a strong factor in the secondary. He got his third interception of the year (one of three the team snagged on Saturday) and is second on the team in total tackles with 46. The Randolph-Macon loss leaves W&L and Hampden-Sydney, who just throttled Emory and Henry 48-10, at the top of the ODAC.

Ursinus has its claws in the conference

Ursinus continues to roll through the Centennial slate this season, most recently knocking off defending conference champion Johns Hopkins 26-17. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Bears broke open a tie game with a Michael Bennett field goal and, later, a short 17-yard touchdown drive that was made possible by an interception from Ursinus junior Joe Henry. The Bears defense held JHU to just 17 yards rushing and seven first downs. The defense also allowed the Blue Jays' offense only seven points. Ursinus is joined by Muhlenberg, both undefeated in Centennial play, in the conference driver’s seat.

The blitz package

Muhlenberg kicker Michael Katz nailed three long field goals (40, 46 and 44 yards) in the first half to help the Mules to a 29-0 win over McDaniel.

Salisbury maintained its one-loss mark with a 45-21 win over Huntingdon. The Gulls were led on offense by quarterback Dan Griffin, who rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns. Want to know why the Gulls’ offense can be so potent? Look back at last week’s Around the Nation column for the answer.

Moravian sealed its win against Franklin and Marshall with a 31-yard touchdown run by Joe Tegan. The 24-17 final was helped by Allen Petros who notched 2.5 sacks on a defense that also held the Diplomats to just 31 yards on the ground.

Biased for and against you

At D3football.com, the phrase “we are biased for and against your team” is a familiar one. And it’s one rooted in perception. In many cases, perception isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just different among different people.

Since I began writing this column in 2007, I’ve had people email me and say a lot about bias one way or another from me or others at D3football.com. The reality of things may depend on where you’re sitting and how big of a picture you’re willing to take in.

Part of the fun of this job is when perceptions can lead to meaningful discussion about the teams, the region or the national landscape. I enjoy facilitating and taking part in such discussions, and I am happy to do so well before the emotions behind any such discussion turn ugly. A discussion will start with a simple “why.” Evolving from there will hopefully lead to a better understanding for everyone involved.

Don’t let feelings about anything I or my colleagues do simmer needlessly. We are all professional journalists and take our work seriously. I’m not offended by someone thinking I did something wrong. (Sometimes I do err.) I am offended by those who assume my motives and criticize me or the others on staff based on those assumptions.

All of us at D3football.com, including myself, strive to be balanced in the teams we discuss and the presentation afforded to each. If something doesn’t seem right, the door to my inbox is always open. I’m at ryan.tipps@d3sports.com.

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