Linemen establish bond on and off the field

Their motto before every game is “150-no sacks.”

And the Florida A&M University Rattler offensive line practices hard four times during the week to make sure they meet that goal every Saturday.

On the field the unit has to establish a bond to accomplish its weekly goals, but the unity goes beyond the game.

“It’s a family atmosphere; everything we do is for each other, both on and off the field,” said Rattler Head Coach Rubin Carter.

The offensive linemen agree that their line is more than a team; it is a brotherhood.

“We go to (Jim & Milt’s BBQ) and eat chicken wings after games. It’s just a time for us to chill,” senior offensive lineman Lenard Black said.

The players said they felt the family atmosphere provided by the team helps them on and off the field.

Carter said: “It’s absolutely important for players to be productive. The challenge for them (the offensive line) is Monday through Friday; they have to be able to manage their schoolwork, practice and games.”

The players learn in the classroom but also take away a series of other lessons from the field.

“Football teaches us that if we practice hard we can accomplish goals,” redshirt junior offensive lineman Richard Koonce said.

“There is nothing like the feeling of winning a game.”

This year the offensive line only allowed nine sacks in the first nine games of the season and has helped the Rattler rushing attack gain more than 1,300 yards this season.

In spite of the offensive line’s stats, the players still make mistakes on the field.

“Missing sacks comes with the territory,” Koonce said. “If you do the job well you get a pat on the back; if not, you get kicked.”

The coaches also aid in the players’ focus by giving away the coveted Syrup Awards after every game.

These awards include the Pancake Block, the Knock Down Block and the Cut Block.

“The Pancake Block award is given to the player who lays the opponent flat on his back,” offensive line coach Kevin Thompson said. “The Cut Block award is given to the player who cuts the defendant’s feet from underneath him.”

Although the O-line tries to focus on the field and bring home a win, it still manages to have fun.

“Sometimes we Harlem Shake in the huddle,” Koonce said.

In spite of the fun the players have on the field they know when to put their game face on.

“It’s all about knowing when to laugh and when to be serious,” Koonce said.

“We really appreciate each of the players,” Carter said. “Winning is an exciting feeling, and there is always a high level of energy. We motivate the team with the expectation of winning, but they have to want it. Faith without works is dead.”

When the pressure to perform on the field is high, some members of the Rattler offensive line have to focus before heading onto the field.

“I listen to gospel music sometimes, and I mix in a little Rick Ross; whatever gets me in the zone,” Black said.

Despite their hulking size, the players on the offensive line manage to keep a low profile around the campus.

“On the field we are mean, tough guys, but the students should look at us off the field,” Black said.