In the Locker Room with Anthony Allen and Avery McThompson, Football Captains


Photo courtesy of OC Athletics

Senior captains Anthony Allen, number 66, and Avery McThompson, number 54, represent the Yeomen for the coin toss in their 24–6 season opening-victory against Kalamazoo College Sept. 2. The Yeomen will play the Denison University Big Red tomorrow in Granville, Ohio.

Julie Schreiber, Sports Editor

This week, the Review sat down with senior football captains Anthony Allen and Avery McThompson to discuss the team’s performance so far, as well as the state of football as a sport. The Yeomen are currently sixth in the North Coast Athletic Conference with a conference record of 1–1 and an overall record of 2–1.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The team started out the season 2–0 this year for the first time since 1989. Why do you think the team was able to come out this way this year?

Anthony Allen: In mid-August, we came into our preseason camp very focused after our extremely disappointing season last year, when we went 0–10. Before preseason in last spring’s off-season practices was where the growth really started, actually. We worked really hard so we wouldn’t have to repeat the embarrassment of being a team that didn’t win for a full year. We all remember what it felt like to be on a losing team last year, with no energy in the locker room or intensity at practices. This year feels different; people are always hyped up and energetic, even at 6 a.m. practices.

Avery McThompson: This year we defintely have a different type of swagger about us. Last year, it felt like people didn’t expect us to win at all, even the people on this team. We just didn’t have confidence, but coming out so strong in our first two games shows how much we’ve reversed that.

Why was the team able to win so easily and definitively in the first two games of the season, against Kalamazoo and Kenyon?

AA: On the defensive end, we really prepared physically for Kalamazoo’s shifty quarterback. He was definitely the best player on the team, and we planned to keep him “inside the pocket” and try to stay outside as much as possible. Kenyon is a good team with a great quarterback as well, but they play lots of strange formations. Our preparation for the Kenyon game was more strategic and less physical, because if we didn’t figure out how to line up with their weird formations they could easily find our weak points.

AM: For the offense, we tried to establish a running game against both Kalamazoo and Kenyon. In Kalamazoo, we did a really good job running the ball, and we struggled a little bit in the first half with Kenyon, but by the end we were really able to play the offensive game we know how to play.

How do you guys shape up for the harder competition within the conference, like Wittenberg, and possibly Denison this weekend?

AA: When you know the opponent you’re about to face is really talented, maybe even ranked, … you need to have a really intense week of practice. The coaches, captains, and leaders of the team have to promote that this won’t be a week to float through practice, and it’s really important that we practice how we play. We did a decent job of that leading up to our game against Wittenberg, but they’re a really good team and ended up blowing us away in the fourth quarter. We’ll face Denison this weekend, and they might have the best offense we’ll face all year, so practice this week has been intense.

AM: For all of our big games, we need to remind ourselves that we can play with them. When we lost to Wittenberg, we really just beat ourselves. We were making great plays on offense and defense, but weren’t able to believe in ourselves to the end.

AA: It’s important to focus on the opponent, but most of these games are determined by whether or not we believe in ourselves and how we carry out our assignment.

How do you build a culture of the football team? Do you take from leaders in the past or try to create your own team bonding exercises and pre-game rituals?

AM: We’re a team unit on and off the field. Every time you go anywhere on campus and you see a teammate, you stop and say hi, hang out for a while, study together, eat together; the list goes on. We’re building a team that’s interconnected, where everyone cares about everyone, and we’re trying to squash the individual mindset.

AA: Any time I’m sitting in a public space, my teammates see me and immediately come join me. In study spaces we’re always together, in Stevie we’re always together, and in the weight room we’re always messing around with each other. When you’re here for two weeks before the school year even starts, you have lots of bonding times that help foster team friendships.

How has the recent news about the death of Clayton Geib, a senior football player at The College of Wooster, impacted your involvement in football? How does this news resonate with you?

AA: With all the contact and collision in this sport, something I’ve learned is that the more you play afraid, the more likely you are to get yourself into a bad situation where you can get hurt. Playing in the absence of fear of physical injuries or hurting someone else is one of the best ways to protect yourself. As a football player, you have to be confident and assume nothing bad is going to happen, or else you definitely won’t carry out your assignment and you might get hurt as well. This is not to say that Clayton, and the other football players who died, were playing with fear — sometimes real tragedies occur — but we can’t let those tragic accidents affect how we think of the game and how we prepare for it. Recently, a lineman from Midwestern State died from injuries sustained from a tackle. I’m in a position where I make about eight to nine tackles in a game, but I can’t think of them as a potential death sentence every time. You have to be cognizant of the danger, but you can’t let it affect you. It was a scary week for football.

What do you think about increasing game safety in light of recemt-injuries?

AM: In high school, I did a lot of research on equipment safety and safety in football in general, and most of what I found showed me that when equipment is modified to be safer, it actually backfires and becomes more dangerous. Football is a game that involves risk, and if you don’t want to confront that risk, you don’t have to play. And if you do want to play, you have to accept that risk.

AA: A way to reduce that risk can be to teach proper tackling strategies to football players. Instilling these strategies, especially at a young age, will help reduce the chance of injuries. Equipment might be up in the air, but proper form and technique can definitely reduce risk. We can’t just keep adding fancy new helmets and assume things will resolve themselves.

What direction do you think the future of football, on every level, might be headed in? Do you think America might be slowly turning its back on the sport?

AA: The same thing that happened to boxing in the late 1800s is happening to football right now. Just like how people found a way to box, people are always gonna find a way to play football. You can go outside all across the country and find six- and seven-year-old boys in backyards with a ball, tackling and blocking each other, inherently enjoying the sport. I don’t think there’ll be a time where football doesn’t exist.