In The Shadows

The fall season has come to a close on the Dordt campus.  Cross Country had its national meet a few weeks ago and the volleyball team’s trip to Sioux City came to an end in the quarterfinal round.  

Football season wrapped up in mid-November and the team has gone into a bit of hibernation.

As I traveled to cross country nationals and the national volleyball meet I couldn’t help but think of all the behind the scenes people who make these events possible and run smoothly.  On a much smaller level I look at the events we host on the Dordt campus and all the individuals who work outside of the limelight, allowing others to bask in the applause.

Those people are the offensive linemen of the world.  They prepare and work incredibly hard knowing full well that when things run smoothly they won’t be noticed and when things don’t go well they’ll probably have to shoulder the blame.

And they don’t mind it.  It’s what they were built to do.

I sat across from Devin Eekhoff, Dordt football all-GPAC offensive lineman, earlier this fall and asked him to put down on paper what an offensive lineman does to prepare for a season and what the in-season preparation for a season and game look like.

I’m intrigued by the offensive lineman mindset, and I know this, when it comes time to pick council members, board members and people who are willing to do the hard things in life, I want more than a couple offensive lineman in those groups.

For those who toil in the shadows…..this one’s for you.

mbyk

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Being an offensive lineman is a special job. It takes men who want to do their job for the guy next to them. It takes a man who doesn’t need the recognition of others and is willing to take criticism and constantly strive to get better.

It takes a man who doesn’t need the recognition of others and is willing to take criticism and constantly strive to get better.

Preparation is everything in the game of football if you don’t prepare your body or your mind throughout the winter and spring seasons it can be detrimental to the results during the playing season.  I am going to take you through the preparation of an offensive lineman both physically and mentally in both the winter and spring seasons and the playing season.

When a season ends, there is a week or two where the players get to rest and relax. After that week, preparation for that next season begins. As an offensive lineman, those weeks are critical, resting your body and giving it some time off is essential when your job for the entire season is to physically move someone against their will every play.

When the time is up, there is a shift in mindset and the mindset turns to improving your body.

The weight room is a place where the next season is made. The weight room can take a freshman offensive lineman who didn’t get to play because he wasn’t physically ready and turn him into a man who is ready to play dominant football. The lifting season turns the mindset into one of constant improvement. Each player goes into the weight room three times a week and gets a chance to improve the player that they are. An offensive lineman needs to look at these opportunities and take advantage of every one of them. When playing against teams in the GPAC, we play some of the best defensive lineman in the nation so if you aren’t constantly getting stronger, working on feet, and working on mobility, than those guys are going to get better than you and there will be no chance for you to be a dominant player.

The weight room can take a freshman offensive lineman who didn’t get to play because he wasn’t physically ready and turn him into a man who is ready to play dominant football.

The next season is the spring season. This is a time for an offensive lineman to look at his technique and perfect it. Every step, every movement, and every assignment is broken down and perfected. This is a time to focus on the details and really improve technique because there is no other team to prepare for and there is no new assignment to learn so each man can have a lot of reps and a lot of chances to get better. This time is a time of improvement and the mindset that a player has is imperative to what he is going to get out of this time.

An offensive lineman has to be ok with getting criticism and fixing things and then getting more criticism and then fixing that thing.

An offensive lineman has to be ok with getting criticism and fixing things and then getting more criticism and then fixing that thing. There are a lot of movements and hand placements and assignments for offensive linemen to perform and they al need to be done at a high level on Saturdays during the playing season, therefore,  during this spring season, If an offensive lineman doesn’t come to practice with the mindset that he  is going to get better every single day, it is going to hurt  him when it  comes  time to play actual games.

There is not much room for not working hard when raw talent alone can only do so much for you.

Work ethic is something that can make or  break an offensive lineman. There is not much room for not working hard when raw talent alone can only do so much for you. There is so much in the form of technique and assignments that need to be practiced and learned and made second nature that as an offensive lineman that work ethic needs to be extremely high.

Finally, after a summer of workouts and conditioning and technique work, there is fall camp. Players all report back at the beginning of fall camp and there is a period where the O Line needs to spend time simply gelling. Unity and trust are pivotal in an O line unit. If you can’t trust the man next to you, the ability to do your job goes way down because you are worried if  the man next to you is doing his job and that can kill an offensive line. So this time in fall camp is used not only for installing plays and teaching steps and assignments but it is also a time where the upperclassmen and leaders of the offensive line need to help create a cohesive group where the expectations of the year are very clear. From there the offensive line spends the rest of fall camp and practices perfecting things that need to get better and preparing for that upcoming team.

When preparing for a team during the season, the process starts on Monday. Film from the past Saturday is watched, broken down, and critiqued. This can be a hard time for some because every movement and step that is taken in a game is on film and if it is bad, it’s going to be brought up and addressed so that it can be fixed. After film there is a short practice that consists of fixing things from the week before.  Any blocking schemes that we messed up and any technique that wasn’t good enough in the game is worked on during this practice. Tuesday is the day that we get our scouting report. The offensive line gets to study who the opposing front seven will be. We look at their skills, their weaknesses, their tendencies, their formations. Anything that can help us play to our potential on Saturdays or that could possibly give us a problem is brought up and addressed in front of the entire O line.

We get to go through the preliminary game plan and if we are going to run any new blocking schemes and what plays we are going to most likely run during the game. Tuesday is the beginning of the entire preparation process. Wednesday is a day where we do a lot of team scrimmaging. We get to run our plays live and get our blocking schemes down. By Wednesday every offensive lineman should know the new blocking schemes and have all of their assignments down so that they can start to perfect them during this practice. Thursday is our morning walk through. This is the time to make sure every person knows what their assignment is and where they are going on every play.

Thursdays are about focus and attention to detail, each player should be locked in to everything we do for the hour that we are there. Alignments and plays are run through to make sure that every person knows assignment and proper technique. Friday is our last chance to perfect things before game day. We run plays and go over our special teams, we go over every play that we are planning to run in the game against a scout team and O line makes sure that every technique and movement is precise. Finally comes game day, working all week makes game day special because  you have waited for it and put all the work in and prepared yourself. Then when you think back to the preparation that happened in February lifting at 6 a.m. and in April out on the practice field in 20 degrees, everything becomes more special.

For an offensive lineman you need to be tough, you need to have tough skin and be able to take criticism and not get much praise for what you are doing. We work all year for ten games and there is no taking days or weeks off. There is constant work that needs to be done because if you aren’t improving than someone else is and they are going to be better than you.

Offensive lineman work all year around to give other people the opportunity to make plays.

In a way, yes it is a thankless job.

The mindset of an offensive lineman is one of love and caring for those around us. It’s about making them the best they can be and when they get the glory and fame we stand in the back and congratulate them with joy in our hearts, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yet, in another sense, it’s the most rewarding job anyone can ever have. Every squat, every sprint, every rep, is done to make your brothers better. It’s not about glory, it’s not about personal fame, it’s about that guy next to you and behind you, it’s about helping them to be the best that they can be and when there is success, even if it isn’t our names in the paper, we know we had an large part in it. The mindset of an offensive lineman is one of love and caring for those around us. It’s about making them the best they can be and when they get the glory and fame we stand in the back and congratulate them with joy in our hearts, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

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