By Erik Green, Contributing Writer
Here’s one for you: name the greatest offensive lineman of all time. No luck? How about one offensive lineman on your favorite team?
If you went 0-for-2, don’t feel bad. It’s not a glamorous position. There aren’t any meaningful stats for kids to memorize. You’d be hard pressed to find any bronze statues erected in honor of an offensive linemen. The only time you hear about them, generally, is when they’re slapping themselves on the head for committing a penalty. However, if you follow the NFL, you know that they are often some of the highest paid players and the best are selected early in the first round of the first year player draft. They’re often monstrously large, and while some are gentle giants, others would be your worst nightmare in an alleyway. It’s traditionally been a position for slow, chubby kids, but if you’ve ever seen La’el Collins of the Dallas Cowboys running out on a lead block, you’d know that is just not true anymore. Though largely anonymous, an offensive lineman is one of the most important, and increasingly skilled, players on the field.
“Coming out here, we’ve got so many weapons on the field,” said offensive tackle Cameron Shook. “It starts up front, though. If we get things right on the line, we’re golden.”
Head coach Preston Poag had this to say about each of his starting five offensive linemen:
Center Aaron McCurdy (SR): “It starts up front with “Boots,” Aaron McCurdy. He’s a good player, a smart player. You have to have a smart player at center.”
Guard Alex Dixon (SR): “Alex started last year. He’s a little under sized but plays hard.” Dixon’s dad Bob has been a long-time North Murray community coach.
Tackle Hayden Jones (SR): “He played guard and tackle some. He can play both. He’s a high energy guy that gets after it. He’s going 100 miles an hour.” Jones’ father Casey has been a community coach for a long time as well.
Guard Carter Reynolds (JR): “Carter is a new starter for us. We started him after a couple of games for us this year and he stepped in and played really well.”
Tackle Cameron Shook (SR): Cameron has played a lot of football. He has grown so much toughness-wise since he’s been here.”
“Most of them have been playing together all four years,” Poag said. “I couldn’t be happier. They grind. Boots plays both ways all the time and that’s hard to do on the line. They all work good together. They’ve played a lot of games together and they work hard every day. One thing is they know how to practice. They’re good leaders for the team, too.”
At North Murray, the superstar is quarterback Ladd McConkey, who will be playing on Saturdays somewhere next fall. He would be the first to tell you, however, that his veteran offensive line is, at least, partially responsible for his success.
“They’ve come such a long way,” McConkey said. “All of them are so close, like brothers. Even if I get knocked down or they mess up, they pick me up (and take the blame). That goes a long way with me knowing that they’ve got my back. They hate messing up and they’re going to fix it.”
D’Ante Tidwell is North Murray’s featured running back, an elusive runner that is dangerous when he gets into the open field. He attributes his success to the big guys up front as well.
“They’re wonderful,” Tidwell said. “Best offensive line around. They put in the hard work and dedication in practice.”
The Mountaineer offensive line has paved the way for three runners to eclipse the three hundred yard rushing mark so far this year, according to stats provided by North Murray. All running backs combined have accounted for more than 1,500 yards on the ground, which equates to better than 180 yards per game. Four quarterbacks or running backs have thrown passes this year for the Mountaineers and have accounted for more than 1,000 yards through the air, another testament to the offensive line’s ability to protect then man with the ball.
Offensive lines are often reflections of their position coach. The same can be said for the Mountaineer front this year. Offensive line coach John Seabolt is a bit reserved, a bit soft spoken, much like the members of his unit, none of whom would be called out for being a blabbermouth. Seabolt is deliberate in his expectations for his players and his lunch-pail work ethic is characteristic of the young men in his charge, he said.
“Their effort has been great all year long.” Seabolt said of the senior laden offensive line. “I’ve been proud of this group so far. They’re a bunch of selfless players. Really, the whole team is selfless. I’ve been really impressed with everything they’ve been doing.”
The day in and day out preparation can be a grind, but the Mountaineer line has been together for so long, they enjoy the chance to work with one another.
“We come out with a lot of enthusiasm,” Shook said. “We don’t really dread practice. We do what has to be done to get better every day.”
As the Mountaineers close in on the first region title in school history and, undoubtedly, the best record in school history, fans will, no doubt, remember the contributions of a veteran offensive line that paved the way to success.
“We’ve got a great group of seniors,” said Seabolt, who played his high school ball at Rome High and is in his first year at North Murray. “They’re doing a good job of leading the team and setting the example and standard for North Murray in the future.”