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Arizona?s Secret Service
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 09/16/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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By Caity Kain

Arizona Athletic Media Relations

 

Tanner Bell, Adam Hawes and Erick Levitre are all seniors on the Arizona football team, yet all three offensive linemen are virtually unknown by many fans.

In total, there are 15 players listed as offensive linemen on the Wildcats’ roster. For this group of guys, the lack of attention and intense competition for so few spots is what is drives them to be better.

Hawes, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds, explained how the competition among the guys is helping the line: “We have constant pressure to do well.”

Sophomore Joe Longacre added: “The competition brings out the best of everybody.”

And while they don’t get a lot of attention from the fans or media, the guys have found ways to keep themselves motivated.

“It is something that you learn to deal with,” said Hawes. “We celebrate a lot amongst ourselves. (Playing in a low-profile position) drives you to do better because you do want to get noticed.”

Celebrating is not the only thing the guys do together. They spend a lot of time together during the week and on the weekend hosting barbeques and doing other non-football related activities. This has all paid off because as a unit, even with all the competition, the guys always look at themselves as a whole, not as individuals challenging each other for spots.

Other positions on the team are much more focused on the individuals and their success that those units don’t have the sense of brotherhood that the guys on the offensive line do.

 “We are a really close-knit group,” the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Longacre mentioned. “There are not a lot of other groups who are as close as we are.”

The sense of brotherhood helps them to have fun and enjoy themselves on the line. When asked what the best part of playing on the offensive line is, the consensus among Longacre, Hawes and junior Peter Graniello was getting to play and work with guys who they are so close to.

Continuing in the true style of the offensive line, the leadership role has been assumed by the three seniors. The trio helps mentor the younger guys, who are competing for the same spots as they are. The competition isn’t a problem, though, because the focus of the group this year is to help the team get to a bowl game, and they will do whatever is necessary for that to happen.

Since linemen don’t have individual or group statistics in the box score for their position, they look at things that the team does to analyze their game performance. To measure their success, the guys not only look at wins and losses, but also the running yardage and the number of sacks from each game.

With its lack of glitz and glamour, the offensive line might not seem like somewhere a little kid dreams of playing. It’s more of position that you are put in because it is where you can help the team the most, not because you are looking to win awards or accolades. This group of guys has to agree with that.

“Nobody grows up wanting to be a lineman,” said the 6-foot-6, 296-pound Graniello.

 “(The offensive line) is the end of the line. If you can’t play the line, you can’t play anything,” expanded Hawes.

Graniello, Hawes and Longacre all appreciate and enjoy their spots on the offensive line, but they do think of what it would be like to play a more high-profile position for a game.

If each could pick another position to play for a game, Graniello envisions himself out in the slot as a wide receiver, while Hawes would like to play on the other side of the ball as a defensive end. Longacre perhaps has the biggest dream of the three, as he sees himself as, “the next Willie Tuitama.”

While Longacre imagines replacing Tuitama, he also knows that the responsibility of the line is to protect Arizona’s highly-touted sophomore quarterback. When Tuitama gets time to throw, the line might not get credit, but if he is sacked everyone will be looking to see which lineman missed his block.

“Protecting Willir is our job and we take pride in what we do,” Hawes said.

They take so much pride in it that they have developed a nickname for themselves: the Secret Service. The nickname reflects upon one of their most important jobs; protecting the quarterback at all costs.

Like in all groups, each player has different personality and fills a different role on the team. Hawes provides the humor, while Levitre, a 6-foot-1 senior center, is the serious presence who keeps the guys focused and motivated.

Each player may fill a different role, but Hawes believes that they all share his sense of humor on different levels. Having a great sense of humor is vital to being a part the offensive line.

“You have to have a good sense of humor to play on the o-line,” commented Longacre. “It’s a tough position and you have to know how to have fun.”

The fun and comical group of Longacre, Hawes and Graniello did take a moment to be serious and discuss the most overlooked thing about the offensive line: their good looks.

As Hawes cracked, “we are the best looking people on the team.”

Fans and media can continue to overlook the contributions of the offensive line because it just serves as motivation. They have all of the support they need within the line and they will keep celebrating their successes and learning from their mistakes, with or without the outside attention.

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