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Friday, October 3, 2008

Making it the Hard Way

For the past few weeks, I had been looking for a good in-depth feature to work on during Georgia's bye week. After Jeff Owens hurt his knee in Week 1 and Corvey Irvin landed the starting job at defensive tackle, I started thinking about doing a story on Georgia Military College, where Irvin, along with Jarius Wynn, Akeem Hebron and Vince Vance had transfered from.

The more I thought about it, however, I decided I needed someone still at GMC to focus the story around. That choice was easy. Macon-area native and former Georgia player Michael Lemon is playing at GMC now after being dismissed from the Bulldogs by Mark Richt over the summer, and he seemed like the perfect candidate for a story.

By the time I did the reporting, I wasn't exactly sure whether I wanted the piece to be a story about life at GMC or a story about Michael Lemon. As it turned out, I ended up writing the latter.

It is running in Saturday's Macon Telegraph, or you can find it online HERE. I hope you'll take the time to read it. Lemon isn't perfect, but his story is one worth telling.

In any case, I also ended up with quite a bit of other info from GMC head football coach Bert Williams that was more general about the program, rather than focusing on Michael. I think much of what he had to say was quite interesting, and given the liklihood that Irvin, Hebron, Wynn and Vance won't be the last Bulldogs to transfer from GMC, I thought it was information worth posting.

In any case, please try to check out the story on Michael Lemon, and then read up on Williams' thoughts about GMC. You can also find my original story on Corvey Irvin HERE.

Bert Williams quotes...

On the challenges of bringing players into the culture of GMC: "Getting them to understand what they need to focus on to make it to where they want to go is the biggest hurdle. Getting them to get acclimated with the regimented lifestyle. One of the main ingredients to our success is the regimented lifestyle that the cadet corps has in place for all our football players here. It is obviously different from what they were used to growing up in high school. They have to be in bed at a certain time, they have to be up early in the morning, there are various places and appointments during the day they are required to make, and being late or not being there is not an option. It's a strict day in that there's a schedule you've got to adhere to."

On dealing with players who don't want to follow the rules: "The fact of the matter is that if they could take care of their business, they would've, and they wouldn't be here. The fact of the matter is, they need that structure, they need the discipline to help get them focused on getting their academic credentials to where they need to be and to change some of their personal habits that have probably held them back in succeeding academically. I've been here since '97 and I can count on my hands the number of guys we've had that truly couldn't get it academically. Almost all of them come in here with the ability, they just have terrible habits or have not been made to work, not been instructed on how to study, how to manage their time. The structure of what we do just helps make that lesson a little bit easier."

On what the GMC experience does for his players: "We teach them a lot about being successful, and it's a lot of little things. Sometimes it seems very mundane. The fact of the matter is by the time they're through here, a lot of those things become habit, and they're good habits to have as they go through the rest of their lives."

On how GMC's skills translate to Division I:
"When you're used to working hard and you're used to being accountable for what you're doing and what you're not doing, and you're used to accepting responsibility, it's going to be an easy transition. Learning the scheme and learning to play football is the easy part. It's the other things that get in the way of young men accomplishing what they want to."

On the military training players receive at GMC: "Everything they do over there is military training. Every second they have their uniform on, they consider that military training. It's a lot more about accountability and responsibility. Actual military stuff, marching, they don't spend a lot of time on that. But they do spend a lot of time on learning how to handle and accept responsibility and accountability, and it pays dividends for these guys."

On the differences between GMC and DI: "Our guys learn appreciation for things they're given. We work very hard to make everything we do as first-class as possible. We do travel on buses everywhere. They're nice buses, clean, they've got the videos on there, it's not like you're on a 50-year-old school bus driving across country. Now we do drive across country a lot. But it's pretty nice accommodations. We stay in good hotels, we feed them good, we've got a nice facility here. We've got a super nice dorm now. That's a great improvement. We have very nice facilities, especially for a junior college, but these guys do learn to appreciate things. And one of the biggest differences that I see when you have guys that come from a Division I program is that they don't appreciate what they get at those places until everything's just not handed to them."

On the GMC experience: "A lot of times they are ushered through in high school. The way is paved, so to speak. Certainly they're working hard on the field, working hard in the offseason and all that stuff, but you have to pull your own weight here. You will clean the locker room. You will clean your own room to a certain standard. It's part of what they have to do in the cadet corps. Really the whole process is like a 24-hour team-building process, and not just with the football team but with the entire corps of cadets."

On Michael Lemon:
"I don't remember a tough day for him as far as getting in line with what's going on. He's been an upbeat guy. The one thing that did impress me about him is he never made excuses for the mistakes he made in Athens. He accepted responsibility for what he did and where he was. He was very committed about getting on board with whatever we were doing whether it be on the football field or in the cadet corps."


Anonymous said...

Great story, David. Very well written and very powerful.

ChicagoDawg said...

Excellent piece on Lemon.

Anonymous said...

Is Lemon coming back to UGA after a season at GMC?
Hell we'll need him