Aggie Seniors Stick Together

 

 
 

Nov. 23, 2011

LOGAN, Utah -

By Megan Allen / USU Athletic Media Relations

2011 Aggie Seniors
Front Row (L-R): #33 RB Josh Flores, #30 S Nick Vought, #29 S Alfred Bowden, #24 WR Austin Alder, #20 RB Michael Smith, #15 LB Reuben Willis, #11 WR Stanley Morrison, #10 S Chris Harris, #9 LB Bobby Wagner, #4 S Walter McClenton, #1 WR Xavier Martin.
Back Row (L-R): #88 TE Tarren Lloyd, #82 WR Eric Moats, #81 TE Kellen Bartlett, #79 OL Robert Hill, #76 OL Funaki Asisi, #68 OL Philip Gapelu, #47 DE/LB Levi Koskan, #43 LB Kyle Gallagher, #37 DE Quinn Garner.
Not Pictured: #83 WR Josh Johansen, #14 QB Taylor Hughes.
Note: #81 TE Kellen Bartlett is injured and redshirting, so will have another season of eligibility.


The chemistry and camaraderie among members of a group or team makes all the difference in their happiness and success. It is clear when you look at or talk to any members of the USU football team that there is something there. These guys are not just teammates. They are friends, even brothers.

"The best part about these years have been the people I've gotten to know and be around," said Bobby Wagner, senior linebacker (Ontario, Calif.). "There have been different personalities I've gotten to be around."

Senior defensive end Levi Koskan (Smithfield, Utah) agreed. "The best part for sure is the people you get to be around," he said. "If you aren't close to your teammates, you have no one to celebrate with. Here, we're winning with our friends."

That friendship is not something that is just there on the field, but continues after practice.

"We're together through the ups and downs," senior offensive lineman Funaki Asisi (Provo, Utah) said. "I always know I can turn to anyone on this team for anything. The experiences we've had have been great."

The Aggie football class of 2012 has had a lot of those ups and downs. As they have worked to build a better program for Utah State, there have been a lot of experiences they have gotten through together.

Through heart-breaking losses, injuries and miraculous comeback wins, these seniors have given everything they have to the team. It is not just a game, but a way of life.

Junior running back Robert Turbin said the younger members of the team have learned a lot from this group that he hopes to carry over into future seasons.

"Those guys worked hard all the years they've been here. They keep a positive mindset and always work hard to get through stuff," Turbin said. "This year's group has tremendous leadership for the team. They have really stepped it up."

As the seniors reflected on their time at Utah State and thought ahead 30 years from now, the things they said they will remember most and will always make them smile, didn't really have anything to do with football. It is all about the relationships they have built and the memories they have created.

Being a part of the high school class of 2008 has made the difference for Wagner.

"There aren't many of us left, but those experiences, the trouble we got into, that's what I'm going to remember," Wagner said. "I could tell stories for days."

Smith will remember the fun times had amongst his teammates.

"We had a lot of pranks and stuff," senior running back Michael Smith (Tucson, Ariz.) said. "Matt Austin and I were always getting into stuff."

"I think it's apparent that the things we're going to remember are the little things," Koskan said. "It's the little things that didn't seem to matter when they happened, but have played a huge part."

"It's all about the experiences," said senior defensive end Quinn Garner (Santa Cruz, Calif.).

The chemistry this team has is very obvious. The way the team supports each other and the way they celebrate each others' successes has created a tangible feeling of happiness and love, (in a manly tough football player sort of way of course).

"If you're on the field with people you hate, you're not going to work as hard as you possibly can," Wagner said. "You wouldn't really care if you let those type of people down. Chemistry is important so we can play well."

This year's senior class has played well, entering Saturday's final home game with the possibility to do something that hasn't been accomplished since the 1997 seniors: winning six games and becoming bowl eligible. That success is based on the team's trust with each other.

"If I can't trust the guy next to me to do his job, I can't give my job all the attention it needs," Smith added.

Chemistry is what gets the team through the tough times and the disagreements.

"Chemistry is energy," Koskan said. "Energy is huge. It is what carries your team."

In addition to dealing with all the positive energy, there are a few times that negative energy is present and needs to be dealt with. This year's seniors have been leaders on the team to make sure that the energy remains positive through the highs and lows of the season.

"We can fight about something, but then two minutes later we're hugging and making up," Garner said.

This senior class is the last full class to have been recruited by and played under former head coach Brent Guy. Dealing with coaching changes is not something many Division I players have to go through. It isn't an easy thing, but the Aggies agree that the changes needed to be made. The changes made the team who they are today and have been for the better.

Garner said the biggest lesson he has learned playing football is being able and willing to grow and adapt. The overhaul in the coaching staff was a perfect opportunity to do that.

"I don't think you have to ask even what the differences are. I think they're pretty obvious," Koskan said. "The differences are observable in the way he treats his players, where we're at mentally as a team."

Head coach Gary Andersen brought a new style and mentality to Aggie football, and that is what the team needed, Asisi said.

"Coach Andersen puts more responsibility in the players' hands," Garner said. "He tries to emphasize that it's about the players. Players make plays and plays win games."

While Andersen treats his players well and makes sure they have the things they need, the team returns the favor by doing their best and giving everything they can back to him and the program.

This game is important to the outlook of the rest of the season. If things go the way the team wants them to, they are bound for a bowl game, for the first time since 1997.

"These guys have been through a lot of wins, losses and tough times. This year we have an opportunity to do some special things, hopefully get them to a bowl game," Turbin said. "We want to be able to have that special moment with them and enjoy being a part of that."

Just as Andersen tells them over and over again, these seniors know that making plays is the only way to win games and get to a bowl game.

"That's really all there is to it," Garner said. "We have the talent to beat any team on our schedule, but if we don't make plays that isn't going to happen."

As the seniors get ready to graduate and move on from Utah State, they leave behind a group with a lot of potential and dedication.

"We want to leave, not necessarily a legacy, but a footprint for these younger guys," Wagner said.

As the players with experience, the seniors are full of advice and guidance for the younger guys on the team who are looking to fill their shoes next season.

"Be the kind of person and the kind of player you want to be. You may have to do things to make those changes, but you can't just not do anything," Koskan said. "You have to make an effort and a commitment to become the person and player you want to become."

That effort, whether positive or negative, will end up showing its face somewhere along the line.

"What you do in the dark will come to the light. If you're behind closed doors doing bad things, it will come to the light," Garner said. "At the same time, if you're behind the door doing good things, that will also come to the light."

As they have worked through the tough times and the easy times, the wins and the losses, Wagner said the most important thing is to stay level headed.

"Never get too high; never get too low," Wagner said.

No matter what the outcome of a game or even a whole season may be, Asisi said it is vital to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you.

"Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself because you might not get it again," Asisi said. "Whether it's on the field or just at Utah State in general, you don't want to look back on your time here and see missed opportunities."

At the end of the day, the overall message these seniors had was to just have fun. The memories they have created and the relationships they have built with those around them are what have made all the difference.

"Just have fun," Wagner said. "Life is for fun."

-USU-
 

 

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