Lion pride gone to the ‘dogs
Five reunite on the field at Texas Lutheran University
By LPR Staff
For many students, going away to college for the first time can be daunting. In addition to the new pressures of tougher classes and balancing class with social activities, many college freshman find being away from home – even just a few miles away – a difficult adjustment. Stud
ent athletes also see the additional pressure of practices, training and performing for crowds larger and more passionate than they have ever witnessed before.
In the midst of all that, it helps to have friends around.
Fortune smiled on four Lockhart Lions as they entered college this fall – they found that not only were they tapped to play college ball at Texas Lutheran University, but that they would be surrounded by friendly faces.
Karl Greiger, Dominique Hardaway, Jeffrey McCoy, (Class of 2010) and Kody Zimmerhanzel (Class of 2008) turned in their Lion maroon and white for Bulldog black and gold. At the same time, they discovered Kory Robbins (Class of 2009) transferred from Blinn to TLU and would be on the field with them.
Texas Lutheran Head Coach Danny Padron admits their situation is rare. Not only do most high school athletes not go on to play collegiate ball, but those who do rarely get playing time their first year. Almost none have four lifelong teammates on the field and on the sidelines cheering them on.
“We love these guys,” he said. “They bring a different feel to the team, and while sometimes a coach will get two – or maybe at the most three – guys from the same high school, it’s rare for one team to wind up with five. Especially five players of the quality we have in this room.”
During a casual meeting with Padron and four of the five players (Robbins, a sophomore who has been on the injured list for most of the season and could not be reached to participate), the teammates talked about their experiences in college ball, and how continuing to be a team after high school has changed them.
“It helps a lot,” Grieger said. “You have people around you that know you. They’ve been around and know your story, so they know what you’re going through, and they know what you’re thinking.”
That kinship helps both on the field and off, they said.
“[Having teammates and old friends] means you just have that many less people to get to know,” McCoy added. “ And it comes in handy on the field, because you already know what to expect.”
Padron said the five have already begun to gain a reputation, not only among their teammates, but among their classmates as well, because the group is, comparatively, so large.
“They’re starting to recognize us, because we travel in a pack – in a pride,” Zimmerhanzel said. “We’re Lions.”
Three of the five earned starting positions on the Bulldog squad, with Hardaway at running back, Greiger and Zimmerhanzel at tight end playing in nearly every game this season. As an offensive lineman, McCoy didn’t get as much playing time as the others, and Robbins, a linebacker, was put on the injured list before the first game of the season.
Still, the men have a long way to go and a lot of football left to play.
“We’re a very young team,” Padron said. “Of our 44 on the roster, 33 are freshman. Even though we’ve had some challenges this season, we’ve had some successes, as well, and we’re going to keep working on getting bigger, faster and more agile.”
The team went 4-6 on the season, winning all but one home game, but ending with a crushing 81-3 loss to Mary Hardin-Baylor. That record is in improvement over the 2009 season, when the Bulldogs went 0-10.
Padron was tapped to lead the squad for the 2010 school year, and with a very young team behind him, he has the opportunity to build the Bulldogs into whatever kind of team they want to be.
Much of his focus, though, is on his men as complete humans, not just as athletes.
“Even with these guys, we had some grade scares during the season,” he said. “But whatever it is that they need, with their study habits, with tutors, we’re going to help them with that. We are interested in caring for them as athletes, but we’re more interested in caring for them as people.”
Caring for them as people, as it turns out, might be just a little bit easier than Padron originally expected, since so many of his players have longtime relationships as teammates and friends.
And, of course, Padron is eager to add to the Bulldogs’ “pride.”
“I’ve known Coach [Robin] Rapp for a long time,” he said. “And we’ll be watching. If Lockhart keeps grooming players like these, and young men like these – well, send me all you’ve got.”
Hardaway seems to prefer making his statements on the field. Nearly silent throughout the meeting, the business major rushed for 298 yards, received for 119, and scored five touchdowns for the Bulldogs this fall.
Having just tied up a tough season of their own, the “pride” had a few words of wisdom for the Lion teammates they left at home.
“It’s a tough time right now, but keep your chin up,” Zimmerhanzel said. “Those of you that are seniors, you had a great year last year, and the rest of you can hope for a good year next year.”
McCoy invited the Class of 2011 to come to Seguin and check out the Bulldogs’ program.
“We need a few more familiar faces at TLU.”