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A question-answer session with the football captains

A football head coach and his staff teach the X's and O's, while the captains help define team culture. For 2005, their teammates voted as captains (from left to right) Joe McDermott, a history major from Walpole, Mass.; Jason Moody, an economics major from Moody, Maine; and John Pambianchi, a psychology major from Saugus, Mass. The players recently sat down with Bates Magazine editor Jay Burns. 

How do football captains' responsibilities differ from other sports?

Joe: You're trying to bring together a team of 50-plus guys. It's harder to get everyone on the same page in football, so the captaincy poses more of a challenge.

John: It's more intense. You're trying to motivate the team during the season for practices and games, and off-season for workouts. You try to be a leader on and off the field, like other sports. You see a freshman walking to class on the Quad, and he has a question, you are always there to answer him.

How do you set goals for the season?

Jason: The goal is to have a successful season, but you don't say, "Let's go 5-3." You have to take things week by week, trying to win each game you play. Ever time you step on the field you try to be successful.

John: On Sunday, we watch film of the previous game. As soon as the film stops we talk about the next opponent. On Monday, we come in to watch film of Saturday's opponent with as many kids as possible. The focus just increases all week. You find out what offense they run, their defense. The coaches develop a game plan, and we try to execute it as well as we can.

Is there a distinctive type of Bates football player?

Joe (left): Our program hasn't always been the most successful in wins, but Bates football players come to practice every day with a positive attitude, looking forward to the next game, looking to improve themselves to make the team better.

John: Bates football players play with great heart, regardless of their talent level. Everyone gives 100 percent no matter what the game situation is. That's what is special about this program.

We notice that a few of the seniors have changed positions over the years.

Jason: We've had quarterbacks play linebacker. We've seen running backs play defense. It goes back to what it means to be a Bates College football player. You accept your role.

Joe: If coach feels that you can serve the team better at another position, most kids are happy to say, "I'll do what's best for the team."

What will you miss the most when you leave Bates?

John: Football gave me great friends, true friends, people you can hang out with and be yourself. That's what I'll miss.

Do you remember your transition from high school to college football?

John: I was scared. I thought the upperclassmen would be jerks. But I walked into the locker room, and it was a great atmosphere. Everyone went out of their way to introduce themselves. The captains were Sean Atkins '03 and Paul Tenney '03, and they made a huge effort to make us feel welcome, making us all realize we're all on the same level. That made me realize what Coach Harriman has done for this program.

Jason: It's overwhelming when you first get here. It's equally overwhelming how people make you feel accepted.

Joe: My locker was next to Nick Markos '04 and he introduced himself right away — unbelievably friendly. He called himself "the Dean" because he was always giving advice about classes. The second week, he says, "We're all going to the 99. Come on and jump in our cars. We're all going together."

Jason: You know what the program is like the first day you get here as a freshman. You're clueless at that point. But you see what's going on in the weight room, seeing everyone so excited, jumping around. It instills a positive feeling about the program.

How do you do that for the younger players now?

John: Thursday night, we had our traditional offensive-line dinner, at the 99 restaurant, and we brought the freshmen out.

Jason: The defensive backs and the linebackers go to Papa Gino's on Thursdays. Each person has a responsibility: I'm in charge of making reservations and collecting money. Someone else is the MC. We invite a player from the offense — Joe came this week.

Joe: Which was nice. The MC welcomes the group, explains the tradition of the dinners. One kid tells a joke. The MC has lyrics for a song that freshmen can sing. It was "Build Me Up Buttercup" this week.

Jason (right): But you have to volunteer — no hazing. The kitchen staff usually comes out to watch and clap. There have been good singers on the football team but never at defensive back. I once sang Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." Probably the worst rendition ever. I saw the faces on the kitchen staff. It was like they were saying, "We're so sorry."

John: The defensive linemen have their own thing, too. Sometimes they go to Coach [Skip] Capone's for dinner. He also has a preseason cookout at his home in Auburn the Sunday before practice starts. It's great food, and it's a great way for the players to begin meeting people.

Do other people involved directly or indirectly in the program have that attitude? A guy like Jim Taylor, the athletics equipment manager? Or the academic faculty?

Joe: Jim Taylor is always there. He's one of the first people coach introduces, with trainer Mike Verville. They are very good to us.

Jason: He gets everyone's respect. You practice at 7 a.m., he's here when we come in at 6:15, and he's here when we leave at night.

John (right): He makes sure our equipment is right. He fills water bottles. He's making sure we have towels. You have a broken pad, he has it fixed in 10 minutes. He's on top of his game, always. It's great to see a faculty member at the game, or ladies from Commons at the Bowdoin game last year, or when Professor Kelsey wished me good luck at our scrimmage last week. It's good that Bates community supports all the sports programs, not just football.

Joe: When you see professors at basketball games or any games, it helps the atmosphere. It makes it a really good atmosphere to play here. The teams all have faculty liaisons who keep in contact with the players — Dean [of the Faculty Jill] Reich is our faculty liaison.

Joe: Coach Harriman looks for the hard-working kid who loves the game of football. Once you get a few people to guy into that system, it's easy to have a trickle-down effect.

Who's the strongest guy on the team?

All: Bodge [David Bodger] and Pops [Adam Poplaski].

Who's the hardest hitter?

Joe: Maybe [Adam] Kayse. Or Bodge.

John: Pops, our fullback, is good at running into the hole and laying kids out.

What were the academic programs you studied under during your junior semester abroad?

Joe: John and I took courses at the University of Adelaide and traveled Australia and New Zealand.

Jason: I went to England and studied at the University of East Anglia, mostly economics courses. It's a completely different classroom style from Bates. There, you're on your own. Here's professors stay with you.

What is the captain's responsibility to a player who might be discouraged?

John: One of the players wasn't feeling good about his performance. I went to him and said, "You need anyone to talk to, let me know. I will be there for you no matter what." The door is always open.

Who have you gotten to know through football who's different from you?

Joe: Anthony Arger is from Reno, and New England to him is a different world. He hated the Red Sox, the Patriots — he just couldn't figure out why we got excited about Boston sports teams. When the Sox lost to the Yankees in 2003, we all watched in the Village, and he was cheering. We wanted to murder him. But last year, he got into the Sox, so we called him out on it. "What, you want the Sox to win now?" He says, "No, I just don't want to see you guys miserable again."