Gordie Lockbaum

I’m sure all of campus is expecting another Patriots’ article to close out the semester. Well, all of campus is wrong. Why change it up now, you may be asking? Simple: just to keep everyone guessing and to prepare everyone for the near future in which I won’t write anymore and you won’t be able to count on extremely biased Patriots’ articles every Friday.

But that’s not the whole story, here. The truth is I don’t want to have to write another article about a Rob Gronkowski season ending in injury. I’ve done it before and it’s not something I had ever wanted to do again; so I won’t. It’s sufficient to say that I’m not happy about it and that I don’t know if this team is still a Super Bowl team without him. In the words of the great philosopher Forrest Gump: “that’s all I have to say about that…”

Now, with that behind us, we can move onto the real purpose of this article, which is the ESPN 30 for 30 short “The Throwback,” about two-way college football sensation Gordie Lockbaum. The short premiered Monday night at Seelos Theater followed by a Q&A session with Lockbaum himself, as well as the Holy Cross Sports Information Director during Lockbaum’s time, Gregg Burke, and ESPN senior editor Mike Philbrick.

Through the ten-minute short and the Q&A session, all those in attendance were able to gain a true appreciation for what Lockbaum did during his time at Holy Cross and what makes Holy Cross so special, too. As we all know, for worse now and for better later in life, the academics here are no joke and the course-load is no joke either.

Free time is hard to come by on the Hill, especially if you are, say, an editor for the sports section of The Crusader. Being an athlete, I would imagine, would present similar struggles for time.

As they mentioned in the short, learning a defense or offense for football is equivalent to an extra course in itself. That’s certainly not easy. Learning both—in other words, taking two extra “courses”—seems just about impossible. However, that’s exactly what Lockbaum did, in a time when no one played both ways.

So, yeah, what Lockbaum did was practically impossible from a logistical standpoint. And to do it as well as Lockbaum did? Unfathomable.

In college football, you don’t see two-way players anymore (aside from the occasional Jabrill Peppers). Players don’t have the football smarts or the time to learn two systems with just half the practice time for each side of the ball. Nor do they have the durability to play over a hundred snaps in a single game as Lockbaum usually did.

A two-way college football player is as rare as a Heisman candidate coming from our own College of the Holy Cross. To attract the national spotlight from atop a hill in Worcester is not easy to do (I would know after writing for this paper for four years and never amassing an audience of more than three people), but as “The Throwback” shows, Lockbaum captured the attention of the whole country.

Reporters such as Rick Reilly flocked to Mount Saint James to interview the young Lockbaum in between his classes and practice (you know, all the free time I mentioned earlier). And throughout all of this, Lockbaum remained humble, team-oriented, and driven both on the field and in the classroom.

To highlight all of those characteristics, Rick Reilly said that at the time Lockbaum was the only athlete to ever write him a thank you note after interviewing him, and every feature of Lockbaum included a photo of him in the classroom and a mention of the entire team. In this way, Lockbaum represented the best of Holy Cross: driven beyond belief, yet humble.

For those who pay attention or are above the age of 65, Holy Cross has a legendary history in sports. Some all-time greats have come to play for this small school on a hill in Worcester.

Their reasons for playing for Holy Cross are varied, but, I’m sure many had similar motives to Gordie Lockbaum, who, when deciding between Syracuse and Holy Cross picked The Cross due to its small, personal feel and commitment to making sure you were a student-athlete and not just an athlete.

The other Heisman candidate from Holy Cross in the 1980s, Gill Fenerty, transferred from LSU for these same reasons.

This school doesn’t have an amazing athletic complex (even when the Hart Center is finished it won’t rival the Carrier Dome of Syracuse), nor does it have a national fanbase, nor does it play nationally-televised games on a regular basis.

Yet, that didn’t stop legendary athletes such as, Gordie Lockbaum, Gill Fenerty, Togo Palazzi, Tommy Heinsohn, Tom Kennedy, Bob Cousy, Ronnie Perry, and William Osmanski, to name a few, from wanting to play at the Cross. They believed in the importance of a world-class education at a school surrounded by a small group of passionate, driven, and humble students who, whether they play a sport or not, are destined for success.

We may not have another Heisman candidate or athlete like Lockbaum at Holy Cross, but that world-class education and driven group of students remain. And I am proud, like so many others, to call myself a Crusader.

Categories: Sports

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