According to Kennedy, the demands are usually the toughest on plebes (freshmen) and youngsters (sophomores). "It's a shock to the system for them…especially for varsity athletes. They need to learn how to manage their time – quickly." One player who Haney remembers knew how to really focus on the plane was no stranger to success on the field either.
"I remember sitting next to Reggie Campbell on the plane ride to Air Force with Reggie Campbell when he was a plebe. Reggie worked on chemistry from wheels in the well until we touched down. I was amazed at his level of concentration," recalled Haney. .
Dowd said that some players are hesitant to start studying on the first couple of road trips because they are so zoned in on the game, but he cautions his younger teammates against taking that path because it could eventually catch up with them. .
"I always try to make sure that (the underclassmen) know that it isn't high school anymore. They do not have teachers anymore – they are professors and they need to understand the difference. The professors are not here to teach you. They are there to help you learn it yourself," said Dowd. "And because of the way our curriculum is here, the courses just build on each other. I probably sound like a broken record to some of them by now, but (I tell them) if you are struggling in Calculus I, how do you think you will do in Calculus II and III? It's a process but you can get through it if you set yourself up and work hard." .
Of course the plane ride on Friday is just the beginning of the road trip. Once the team arrives at their destination, they are taken immediately to the stadium for a walkthrough. Depending on the exact timing of the schedule, after a quick visit to the stadium, the players have a little bit of downtime after checking into the hotel. .
For some of the players who are not struggling academically, this is the time to catch up on that other important pastime – sleep. And make no mistake - getting a power nap at a pretty nice hotel is a far cry from the accommodations back in Bancroft Hall. .
"It's a hotel bed…it's quiet…there are no plebes doing chow calls (traditional yelling of the menu) outside in the hallway. It's easily the best sleep you get every week. Some of these trips you'll sleep for a few minutes and wake up and think it's the next morning," said Dowd. .
For other student-athletes, after they get settled in their room, it's another chance to hit the books. .
"When we get to the hotel and guys are done checking in, the next thing you know when you come down to the lobby before dinner and there is a math tutor with two or three students huddled up," said Haney. .
Dinner follows and is over at about 7 p.m. Then the team takes part in offensive and defensive meetings. Position meetings come next and can run until about 8:30 p.m. .
After that there is about 90 minutes of free time before the mandated team curfew. For most players the only rule of thumb for this opening in their schedule is to be sure that they are off their feet. Since as Dowd says, "they will need them the next day." .
When asked if he ever missed a curfew, Dowd, who is ranked 32nd in the class academically, got serious quickly saying that being in the room for lights out is "no joke." .
"Once you start going to bed, that's pre-game," he said. .
And while Dowd says that "Fridays are all about school work and sleep," Saturdays are all about relaxing and getting prepared for the game, which in some cases can be challenging. .
For example this week with a 6 p.m. start time against South Carolina, there is a lot of time to kill between breakfast and departing for the stadium. Sometimes Dowd said the team goes on mini-excursions near the hotel chaperoned by the coaches just to keep guys from hitting their heads against the wall from being wound up too tight. .
For the players boarding the bus for the ride to the stadium can't happen soon enough on Saturday. .
The team usually arrives at the venue three hours before kick-off and once the game is over, it's literally a race back to Annapolis. Without a doubt, no part of the road trip is more planned to the second than the time between the end of the game and the arrival back on the yard. .
According to Haney it takes the team about 90 minutes from the end of the game to shower, eat dinner, get on the buses, and then the airplane. .
"It's uncanny how fast we get back (to Annapolis). If we play a noon game on the road, on the East Coast, I'll be back sitting in my room in Annapolis by 6 p.m. unpacking," said Dowd. "After the Ohio State game (in 2009) I got back to my room by 5:45 p.m. and was like, wow, what happened today?" .
The quick turnaround is by design said Haney mainly due to what is facing the players once they return. .
"The academic pressure – just knowing what they are coming home to (after a game)…I just don't think there are many guys coming home on a Saturday night after playing division one football who are staring at a full day of studying on Sunday if they have any hope in being prepared on Monday. I just don't think you are going to see that at any other school," said Haney.
"It's tough being a varsity athlete here, regardless of the sport. It's like taking another course. They work hard, both on and off the field. They have no choice…they have to," added Kennedy.
Home or Away, It's All Academics for Mids- 2
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