Oct. 8, 2001
EASTON, Pa. (www.lafayette.edu) -
In every great football team exists a core of leaders. For the Lafayette football program, that unit consists of senior linebackers in Nick Boccagno, Matt Bourdon, Adriel Linyear and Chris Partridge. Four very unique student-athletes, but when it is time to step on the football field they have the same idea in mind: lead Lafayette to victory.
"They are all very dedicated and hard working players," said Head Coach Frank Tavani. "They have demonstrated on the off-season and in preseason camp that they have leadership qualities to lead the defense and the team.
Boccagno enters his senior year as the Leopards' leading returning tackler. His teammates and coaches describe him as a "silent engine" who leads by example and never stops working.
"He's one of the hardest working guys on the team," said linebacker coach Matt Hachmann. "He is always hustling and refuses to be out-played by anyone."
Boccagno is emerging as one of the most consistent players on the defensive side of the ball for Lafayette. He was in on five tackles versus Towson on Sept. 8 and nine versus Penn on Sept. 22. In 2000, Boccagno started all 11 contests for the Leopards and earned linebacker of the year award from his teammates. He finished second on the squad and 11th in the Patriot League with 79 total tackles. He recorded a career-high 12 tackles at Columbia and followed that strong performance two weeks later with 11 stops in a win over Holy Cross.
Boccagno is aware of the time his team has sacrificed in an effort to place Lafayette among the best in the league, and is the first talk about the squad's dedication.
"It's a great opportunity to be able to play with these guys who have worked so hard," Boccagno said. "It's been a rough start, but we've sacrificed a lot over the past three years to get here, and we're not going to quit."
Bourdon made an immediate impact when he stepped on the field as the starting middle linebacker in the final three games for Lafayette last year. He has become the kind of player the coaching staff relies upon as a consistent performer for the Leopards.
"Matt has a great sense of the game and has the ability to be a play-maker on the field," Hachmann said. "We can always count on him to get the job done."
Bourdon picked up where he left off last year and has placed himself among the top tacklers in the Patriot League. He is currently second in the league with 21 tackles and a 10.5 tackles per game average.
"We push each other to work hard on every play," Bourdon said. "We know that if we put in 100 percent every time, we have the potential to be some of the best linebackers in the league."
Linyear is the most vocal leader of the bunch on the field. The Air Force Academy transfer intended to make an impact on the Lafayette football program when he first arrived on campus, but suffered a broken foot and had to exercise some patience. Once healthy, Linyear found himself being shuffled from several different positions before Tavani settled him at linebacker this season.
"Adriel is an overall player in that he brought speed and size to linebacker and he's done very well for the team," Hachmann said. "In terms of athleticism, he is probably one of the most talented on the team."
Linebacker seems to suit Linyear, who is currently third in the Patriot League with 19 total tackles while posting a 9.5 tackles per game average.
Partridge knows all about climbing over obstacles and defying adversity. The Paramus, N.J. native missed most of the 2000 season after suffering from a torn anterior crucial ligament in his knee. He started the first three contests before getting injured at Penn and managed to record 25 total tackles including a career-high 12 stops in the season opener against Towson. Partridge was one of the team's leading tacklers at the time of his injury and has worked hard to get into shape for his senior season.
"Chris is an intimidating player to be up against," Hachmann said. "He's such a tough player and plays hard every time he's on the field."
Partridge possesses a tremendous knowledge of the game and has recorded 11 tackles so far this season.
"We're glad to have him back and healthy," Bourdon said. "He is an important element in completing our defense."
Tavani opened the 2001 season talking about his senior squad and will depend on this group to lead the team through its tough start to the season.
"It's a strong an overall linebacking group as I've seen since I've been at Lafayette," Tavani said. "They are all very different individuals, but they have come together on the field every day and give 100 percent all the time."