Senior class has Johns Hopkins football team on brink of record

With win over Gettysburg on Saturday, Blue Jays would break program's record for consecutive wins with 12

October 21, 2011|By Chris Eckard, The Baltimore Sun

He's the program's all-time leading passer and winningest quarterback, but to most on the Johns Hopkins campus, Hewitt Tomlin is just another student with a name usually buried in the school's weekly student newspaper.

Most fall Saturdays, the 6-foot-2 Tennessean is found on the football field, taking snaps from All-American center Ed Rodger. A small minority know them as two stars of the school's football team, both four-year starters who are part of one of the best classes the Johns Hopkins football program has ever seen.

But few have any idea that the Blue Jays are 6-0, ranked No. 14 in the country with some of the best players in Division III football.

With a win Saturday at Gettysburg, they would break the program's record for consecutive wins with 12.

"Not many people even knew that Johns Hopkins even had a football team," said Michael Milano, a two-time first-team All-Centennial Conference safety.

The Blue Jays don't just field a squad -- they win. Since 2000, Johns Hopkins has won more games (88) than any other college football team in the state of Maryland.

"The school as a whole, especially in comparison to other programs, I don't think there's a lot of recognition going on to, tell you the truth," Tomlin said. "It's not really an athletically oriented school."

Still, Tomlin and his senior class are just four wins away from tying the record for wins by a class (36). Alongside Tomlin, Rodger and Milano, the Blue Jays seniors include wide receiver Sam Wernick, the Centennial Conference Player of the Year, and linebacker Ryan Piatek, one of the nation's finest at the position.

"There's not a weak spot on our football team," Hopkins coach Jim Margraff said. "Our top players are our hardest workers."

Members of the senior class hail from eight states, and they excel in the classroom -- a trademark of Margraff's teams during in his 22-year tenure. Of the 24 seniors, 18 have GPAs better than 3.0 and five earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors last season.

"They're tough and smart," Rodger said in describing a typical Hopkins football player.

Former Hopkins wide receiver Wes Moore, who graduated in 2001, was on the cover of Time magazine in August as part of its "The New Greatest Generation" cover story.

"That's why they come here," Margraff said. "There's no reason you can't be good at both academics and football. … But come Saturday, [football is the] most important thing they do."

This year's team has taken that message to heart. Despite an early-season injury to Tomlin, the Blue Jays are averaging more than 40 points. In their six contests, the senior-laden defense has allowed just five touchdowns.

They set two goals at the start of the season: win every game and win the Centennial Conference. An outright conference championship guarantees the team a spot in the Division III playoffs. Two years ago, the Blue Jays advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals and there's no reason the team can't get there again, the seniors said.

"It's a great feeling that you can trust every single player you're out there on the field with," Milano said. "You don't have to worry about doing anyone else's job."

With tough tests against Gettysburg (4-1) and Ursinus (4-1) upcoming in back-to-back weeks, the Blue Jays said they aren't looking ahead.

"We're just trying to have the best senior season that we could have," Milano said. "If we go out and play our game, we can beat anyone."

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