On The Grind – A Linemen Waits For His Chance
Let’s get a couple things out of the way. First and foremost I love Offensive & Defensive Linemen, plain and simple. Listen RB’s and QB’s are great because they score TD’s. I get it, it’s easy to see their talent when they break a big run or throw a TD. But the life of the lineman is a lonely endeavor.
They toil in anonymity only yards from the QB’s, & RB’s but a world away.
Another thing I just can’t get enough of; guys who work.
There is a quote by John Wooden, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching”.
This rules out those guys who come in make some noise in the weight room, sign in and then make a quiet exit after 20 minutes. Each team has them. No what I am talking about is a guy who is a true gym rat and always finds a reason to be working in the weight room each and every day. The type of individual who works out arraignments with his coach on keeping the weight room doors cracked open and if he does get kicked out by a janitor goes to a rival high school just to finish his workout.
This is the individual I need to schedule our Sunday interview around his workout. And as I descend the stairs at Meadowdale High School I try and pick out the 6’1” 285 lb individual from the various other people and activities on the field. There are 20 or so people playing soccer, another dozen or two people recapturing glory in a pick-up football game, and a handful of people walking dogs and running around the track. And there he is.
Let me introduce you, I need to introduce you because despite being immensely talented he is one of those linemen toiling in obscurity and you’ve probably never heard his name before. He’s the one behind the soccer goal working the Popsicle sled shooting his hands and agilely flipping his hips and finishing strong with a rip move time after time both sides walking through the steps and then executing them quicker and quicker.
While Alkhedairy won’t confirm nor deny the weight room door being open, the 6’1” 285lb NG/DT is an impressive model of hard work benching 360 & squatting 500. When asked why he’s working out on Sunday he replies he “likes to stay out 7 days a week”. Whether it is in advanced math classes or on the field Alkhedairy says “I love the grind” and “I welcome adversity”.
The military academies have a term for loving the grind and welcoming adversity; it’s called “embracing the suck”.
To embrace the suck you take everything that is hard, bad, out of your control, or difficult…ball it up and confront it with a will and determination that is uncanny and unending for the given circumstance(s).
That’s the attitude that good Defensive Lineman must take. Let’s be honest, it gets messy in the trenches. Stuff happens that there are rules against but just don’t get called. Its hand to hand combat every down and you are usually outnumbered; oh and you actually have responsibilities and need to execute.
As the NG in Meadowdale’s 3-4 defense Alkhedairy is asked to take on and defeat double teams, occupy blockers, read the play, get good arm extension and penetration and pursue to the ball; each play with good technique and a high motor. Alkhedairy plays the NG (Zero Technique) or shades the C even to the point of playing the inside shoulder of the G (1 Technique). I see Alkhedairy as being able to play any of the 3-4 DL positions or the 1 or 3 technique in a 4 man line.
Now compared to LB’s tackles aren’t as plentiful on the DL so the best measure for grading a DL besides his own ability to do the things listed above is to look at the play of the LB’s behind him. In Alkhedairy’s case you can measure his success by measuring the performance of Meadowdale’s overall defense as well as the performance of LB Michael Cummings. For the second year in a row Cummings was All Area and this year All State lending some validity that the tandem has worked well together the last two years. With these two guys Meadowdale’s defense has been one of the tops in all Wesco (3A or 4A) for the last two years, this year leading the team into the playoffs after numerous offensive injuries. Sometimes you embrace the suck for the betterment of the team so that you can feel the excitement of winning and the bonds of brotherhood.
The hard work and attitude makes Alkhedairy a leader on his team and the reason he will be a two time captain. Something Meadowdale will be in need of this next year as Cummings graduates and Coach Mark Stewart is moving on to Head Coaching duties at Garfield.
While Alkhedairy is on the committee to help select a successor Coach Stewart is still helping Alkhedairy navigate the recruiting process as the two have forged a tight bond over the years. Alkhedairy reveled to me that Stewart only half-jokingly asked him to come show his new team how to lift and I can only imagine teach them to embrace the suck.
Stewart has been there for Alkhedairy and has taught him to keep his nose down and work and let everything else take care of itself. Following his sophomore season he could’ve been upset when he played well enough but didn’t garner any All Area or even All League selections. Alkhedairy could’ve also been upset when he went to a camp and out lifted, out ran and out played the best defensive linemen in the state and walked away with little recognition.
And while this year he was named 2nd Team All Area accolades are not what Alkhedairy wants to collect. He just wants to get better and prove to all doubters what a few of us know already, that he plays at a very high level and is on par with the best DT’s in the state. In his off time Alkhedairy can be found surfing Hudl watching others DL highlights, comparing his game with theirs or just watching to see who’s legit and how he can get better.
Sitting down and talking with him you can’t help but be impressed with Alkhedairy. The matter of fact no nonsense approach he brings is refreshing. It is evident he wants to get better; he asked what I thought he could do to improve his game. Not that I’m going to give him any great answers but the fact he asks for feedback and is collecting data about his game is proof he is striving to be the best.
Alkhedairy has garnered some interest from Wyoming and a few other schools. This year he is looking at attending the Trench Camp in Oregon as well as the Wyoming camp and maybe a few other college camps.
To me the easiest part of prep football is suiting up on Friday night making memories and having fun. It’s the payoff for working hard during the week. But during the off season that payoff can be 9 months away and staying motivated can be difficult. Now, if you find someone with the motivation and drive to excel in the off season imagine what happens when you suit that guy up and tell him to find the ball!
That’s why I need not look any further than Jojo Alkhedairy to be reminded why I write this blog.