November 6, 2010

Men Of Tradition

By Amy Martin
Special to GoHolyCross.com

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the definition of tradition is, "The transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation." For senior wide receivers Luke Chmielinski and Freddie Santana, the notion of tradition has had a major impact on their lives.

From a young age, Chmielinski, an Economics major from Walpole, Mass., had been "preached to that Holy Cross was a great school." It didn't hurt that these praises were being sung from his uncle and great-grandfather, who had attended Holy Cross. His elders were always quick to tell the young Pop Warner star about the rich tradition of football on the Hill. Gordie Lockbaum, one of the most famous players in the history of Crusader athletics, was a name that Chmielinski heard often.

Although he was a three-sport athlete in high school, Chmielinski was urged by his high school coaches to focus on football. For Chmielinski this was an easy choice. He loved the work ethic and team camaraderie that was necessary to be successful on the football field, "My best friends were always the football players, plus it was the one sport I thought I could excel in," said Chmielinski. After coming on his official visit to Holy Cross, he knew that he had found his home for the next four years. "It was the perfect fit… I liked everyone around me," Chmielinski reminisced about those he met during his visit.

Santana on the other hand, has started a tradition of his own by coming to Holy Cross. The team captain and Sociology major from Staten Island, N.Y., is the first in his family to play football. "I started a new wave in my family with football," Santana said.

Although he grew up playing baseball, Santana harbored a desire to play football. As a child, he and his friends would come to school at 6:30 in the morning to play pickup football. But Santana was limited to these pick up games because his mother was always too afraid to let her son suit up for an organized team. "I was always the number one pick," Santana said of his days of school-yard football, "Always pretty good at it." Then finally as a freshman in high school Santana was able to put on the pads and take to the field for the first time.

The football field isn't the only place where Santana has blazed a new trail for his family. As the first person in his family to attend college, Santana has begun a grand tradition of excellence in the classroom, made possible because of his hard work on the football field. "Holy Cross was the best option that I had, and financially it was the best place for me to go," Santana said. "Plus it's the best of both worlds, a prestigious school with a curriculum that matches any in the nation, along with the athletics."

Freddie Santana However the journey to the Hill was not smooth sailing for Santana. When he first applied to Holy Cross, he was not admitted. With local college C.W. Post as his only other option, Santana committed to attending a school much closer to home.

But this was merely a roadblock for Santana on the way to Worcester. Several days after committing to C.W. Post, Santana's football coach came to find him during the school day — there had been an interesting development over on Mount St. James. "He had tears in his eyes, and he kept saying 'You got in, you're in,'" Santana recounted. He was quickly released from C.W. Post and officially became a Crusader. "My family, my school, my community, everyone was just ecstatic," he said.

Since arriving on the Hill both Santana and Chmielinski have been vital members of the Crusaders offensive unit. As juniors the duo earned second team All-Patriot League honors as the team marched to their 2009 Patriot League title. In 2009, Chmielinski led the team with 63 catches for 807 yards and four scores, while Santana totaled 46 receptions for 601 yards and a team-best eight touchdowns. Both players have continued to be key parts of the Holy Cross offense during the 2010 campaign. So far this season, Chmielinski has brought in a team-high 36 receptions for 340 yards and two touchdowns, and Santana has recorded 23 catches for 248 yards and four scores. Santana also ranks among the top punt returners in the nation this year, averaging 18.2 yards per return.

Both Santana and Chmielinski look to preserve the tradition of winning they have worked hard to establish over their four years. "Defending the Patriot League title is the biggest thing on everyone's mind," Chmielinski stated.

While achieving the repeat is a task that requires hard work, it is a goal that the Crusaders feel motivated to achieve. "I'm really pushed by the guys around me, my teammates," said Chmielinski. "From the kids on the sidelines to the other starters next to me, everyone motivates each other to work hard. We are fighting for every inch."

Santana too agreed that there are plenty of people to inspire the team to do their best. From the position coaches to coach Gilmore, Santana stated that the coaching staff is always pushing the Crusaders, "I am always going full speed and giving it my all, leading by example," Santana said. "We're all tough, we work hard, we work as hard as anyone else in the nation, and we live by that," the captain added.

Leading their teammates to accomplish their goals would allow Chmielinski and Santana to keep the winning tradition they have started burning brightly for years to come. That is a mark the two senior Crusaders would be proud to leave behind on the Holy Cross football program.

This story originally appeared in the November 6 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Lehigh. To order a copy of the program, visit the online store.