By Kelsey Horton
Special to GoHolyCross.com
The Crusaders' contest against Lehigh will mark the final home game at Fitton Field for the members of the senior class. These student-athletes will be honored for their dedication to the Holy Cross football program for the past four years, which head coach Tom Gilmore stresses is no easy feat. "I expect everyone to be the best they can be in the classroom, on the field and in the community," said Gilmore. "This requires much commitment and effort, but it is something that we tell each of them during the recruiting process."
When a team dedicates so much of their life to their sport it is no wonder that leadership for the senior class is so important. "The quantity in the senior class is relatively small, but the quality is very high," said Gilmore. "The seniors that have remained healthy have been great leaders and have remained positive under very adverse circumstances."
It is because of their commitment that this class has a lot of success they can look back on. Here are their thoughts on a number of subjects surrounding Holy Cross football as their collegiate careers begin to approach the end.
Expectations of a Division I Student-Athlete: Seniors Kyle Pedretty and Nick Mercurio talk about what it takes to be a part of the football program.
Pedretty: Coach Gilmore expects everyone to do as much as they can do to ensure our team's success.
Mercurio: The commitment to be a Holy Cross football player is greater than any other I have ever made. Football is considered a fall sport, but there is no question it is a year round commitment needed in order to compete at this level. There are always weightlifting and conditioning workouts when we are not in season. A large amount of the team also dedicates our whole summer to stay here in Worcester and train for the upcoming season. I personally have spent my last two summers in Worcester. They have been difficult summers, but it has also been a lot of fun getting closer with all my teammates and it is necessary to have summer commitments in order to reach our potential as a team.
Captains for the Crusaders: Among the leaders in the senior class are captains Tom Mannix, Gerald Mistretta, Roman SanDoval and Sean Whited.
Mannix: As captains we have to make sure that everyone is focused and continues to work hard to improve. We have to make sure that everyone is doing things the right way on and off the field, so that the coaches have less to worry about. I like to lead the team through actions more so than words. By doing things the right way you set a good example for the rest of the team to follow, and that is what I try to do.
Mistretta: As a captain, it is my responsibility to set a standard for the speed and intensity that should be practiced daily. Whether this occurs through example or through words is up to the individual. Off the field, it is my responsibility to act as a "coach" by making sure players are following team rules and are fully dedicated to the team.
SanDoval: I like to lead by example.
Whited: Being a captain is a huge responsibility. It requires total focus everyday at practice and a dedication to detail. There are no days off as a captain. It is our responsibility to lead by example and speak up when necessary. It is an ongoing challenge that we take seriously as a group. Being a leader is a learning process that takes effort and enthusiasm.
Stepping Up: Jack Maliska has stepped up as a leader this season, playing on both offense and defense because of the large number of injuries.
Maliska: It has been interesting to say the least playing both offense and defense. Having played defense for the past few years, I have been able to focus more on learning the offense and the different techniques that are required for the position. There are a lot of different things that I need to know at any given point in the game, whether it be on offense or defense. The team needed me to play on offense this year, and I am always willing to do what is the best for the team. I just try to do the job that has been asked of me to the best of my ability and try to always stay on top of what is going on, on both sides of the ball.
Not Wanting to Leave the Game: Now as the season is winding down, many of the players have begun to think about life after college football. For some, this is the time where they realize they are not ready to leave football just yet. This was the case for Alex Schneider who missed his entire freshman season due to injury.
Schneider: I chose to return for a fifth year because it was a rare opportunity to play the great game of football a little longer. I was very lucky to even have the opportunity to play college ball, and I could not pass up the chance for an extra season. I couldn't be happier with my experience.
Life After Football: Quarterback Kevin Watson is another player who has returned this season as a fifth year senior, but was unfortunately injured in the second game of the season. Despite the hard ending to his career, he remains positive about his experience and shared an extreme appreciation for the Holy Cross alumni.
Watson: The support begins once you enter the program as a freshman, and gets even stronger as you get older and closer to graduation. Larry Doyle is the greatest asset to any Holy Cross football player in terms of thinking about life after football and how to achieve what you want. He set up the mentoring program, organizing over 100 alums to be paired up with each player on the team based on their professional interests. However, the list of alums is given in spreadsheet format to all players to access and communicate with the alumni. We have an annual meeting with him and other alums such as Craig Cerretani, Dominic Blue and Bill Maloney. They explain their views on the job search, summer internships, etc., which helps us get a perspective from someone who would be looking at our resume. Our alumni also do a great job in things such as helping to fill Fitton Field for big games, and supporting the community by setting up a ticket program where people bought tickets for thousands of Worcester kids for the New Hampshire game.
Lessons Learned: In addition to the superb alumni support, Matt Bellomo knows he will take a lot away from playing a sport in college.
Bellomo: I will take away the team mentality and commitment that the sport requires. I will also take away the hard working attitude and discipline it takes to be successful in the sport.
Memories: Sam Auffant, Pat O'Connell and David Herman talk about some of their top memories of being on the football team.
Auffant: Winning the Patriot League in 2009 will definitely be my most memorable moment.
O'Connell: I'm going to miss playing with my teammates on Fitton Field in front of the home crowd and being with my family after the games.
Herman: It has been special being a part of something bigger than yourself, and the hard times were easier knowing that there were other guys going through it with me.
Legacy: Not only was this class able to start their college careers by winning the Patriot League title in 2009, they were able to keep the bar set high. They were able to follow up their championship season with two second place finishes in their sophomore and junior years. They are also a part of Holy Cross history, playing the first ever night game at Fitton Field. They will be remembered for their accomplishments and perseverance, and missed for all the excitement they brought to Fitton Field over the past four years.
This story originally appeared in the November 3 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Lehigh. To order a copy of the program, click here.