Sept. 24, 2007
EASTON, Pa. -
Lafayette has a lengthy history of throwing the football, and with great success. Throughout the years, talented quarterbacks have thrown to talented receivers, making for spectacular plays and winning results.
The Leopards have put a talented corps of receivers on the field again this season. The group who will see the majority of the playing time consists of mainly junior and seniors and at the end of the season, each will know that his play on the field had an impact on the team's season.
The appreciation for any success this season, however, will not be felt more than by the senior members, and it's the members of that group who stand out, for both their approach to football and outlook on life.
The four -- James Dixon, Duaeno Dorsey, Kevin Logan and Kyle Roeder -- have been grouped together since they stepped on campus. Not only did they come to College Hill together as freshmen and not only did they all come to Lafayette to play football, but all also wound up playing wide receiver.
In what was a mixed blessing for the program, a strong receiving corps was already in place their freshman year, meaning they weren't going to take the field any time soon. In fact, with the exception of Dorsey, they saw limited action or no through their junior seasons.
Head coach Frank Tavani knew the talent these four possessed, but also knew the talent he already had in place when they joined the program would keep them off the field for several years.
"All four guys were in the same circumstance," he said. "They were very talented receivers but, unfortunately, because of the upperclassmen already here, they didn't get an opportunity to make an impact on the field as early as they would have liked."
They came to Lafayette to play football and yet, because of circumstances beyond their control, they didn't play. Frustration or anger could have been the emotions they felt, as no student-athlete would prefer to watch the sport he loves from the sidelines. But the group that came in as freshmen has stuck together as sophomores, as juniors, and now as seniors, and rather than complain about their situation, they used it to better themselves as players and, more importantly, as people.
The positive outlook they've maintained over the years is now paying dividends. They're seeing time on the field and have become the epitome of what it means to be a quality individual.
"Finally playing this year is definitely gratifying because we've been around the program for three years now," Roeder said. "This year we have a chance to contribute and that makes it that much better."
Dixon echoed similar sentiments, adding that all the winning the team has done over the years makes it hard to complain about his situation.
"We all trust the decisions the coaches have made," he said. "It obviously would have been a lot tougher not playing if we hadn't been winning, but the championships speak for themselves."
That level of maturity about a situation beyond their control isn't what one might expect from college students and it extends far beyond the football field. All four know how valuable their years at Lafayette are, as their years following graduation will correlate more to the time they've spent in the classroom than on the football field.
"I'm majoring in biology," Logan said, "and it's taken a lot of time management. But I know when I leave here that the rest of my life is going to relate to the work I've done in the classroom, so I know I have to work hard on that."
They've also taken lessons they've learned from Tavani and applied them to the real world they will soon be entering.
"The biggest lesson I've learned from coach is that effort is huge because you just don't know when your opportunity is going to come and you have to be ready every second," Dixon said.
Roeder used a football analogy to express what he'll take with him once he leaves College Hill.
"Coach always says the ball is not round and it takes funny bounces and you can certainly apply that to life," he said. "You're not always going to get the right break and things aren't always going to go your way and you have to overcome that adversity."
While all four players have similar outlooks and approaches to life, they are all unique individuals who bring different qualities and attributes to the team.
Roeder actually spent one of his previous three seasons recovering from an injury he suffered his sophomore season. While he admits it was frustrating to not being physically capable of competing for playing time, he worked on his rehabilitation and has now become a dependable player for Tavani and his staff. He may initially seem soft-spoken and reserved, but his tremendous work ethic and dedication to the sport speaks loud and clear.
"Kyle has great speed and quickness and excellent hands," Tavani said. "He's also our backup punt returner and while that sometimes gets overlooked, I sleep better at night knowing we have another guy we can rely on. I'm looking for him to have the kind of senior year he's waited for."
Dixon, by his own admission, is intrinsically more quiet and reserved than some of his classmates, but his work ethic is second to none and his intensity is reflected in his play.
"James is just a terrific kid," Tavani said. "He finds himself in a situation where he's behind a few kids on the depth chart but he's accepted his role and has a great attitude. He works extremely hard and is an incredibly positive part of this senior class."
His impact has been so positive, in fact, that he won the team's Unsung Hero Award in 2006. While Dixon was modest when speaking about the honor, he knew that the more positive his outlook, the more positive an impact he could have on the team, even if he was seeing limited time on the field.
"I know that going out and working hard may not show on the field because of limited playing time, but I know it shows through my impact on others," he said.
Meanwhile, Logan's background coming into Lafayette is part what makes him stand out from the other wide receivers. Logan hails from Toronto, Ont., and the adjustment to the rules of American football wasn't easy at first.
"There are a lot of rules in Canada that are different than they are here. For example, here there's no motion allowed before the snap which is different from Canada so I got called for a lot of false starts in the beginning," he said with a laugh. "The field here is also smaller so I had to get adjusted to playing in a smaller space."
His build is made for the wide receiver position, however, and any adjustment period was not bound to last very long. Logan has also shown continual improvement, despite limited playing time, and is ready to make a statement in his final season. In fact, he's already begun to do so, recording five catches for 60 yards through the team's first three games of the season.
"He's got great hands, the biggest I've ever seen on a wide receiver," Tavani said. "He catches the ball and this year in particular is doing things after the catch and gaining additional yards on the play. He's a big, strong kid who's tough to tackle after he makes the catch."
Dorsey saw significant playing time as a junior, playing in all 12 games in 2006 and catching a touchdown in the Leopards' NCAA playoff game against Massachusetts. His experience is what makes him unique from the rest of the group.
"Duaeno did see playing time last year," Tavani said, "and he impressed me back when I watched him play basketball in high school because he's just very athletic and very smooth."
Those qualities earned Dorsey playing time before his classmates saw any, but despite having stats the other three didn't, this group is all about unity. That attitude was reflected perfectly in the answers each gave when asked to describe the ideal ending to their Lafayette football careers.
"It would be great to hoist the national championship trophy," Dorsey said.
"Not only hoisting it," Logan interjected, "but hoisting it together."