Eyes On The Prize

By Meredith Cook
Special to GoHolyCross.com

The decision of whether to come back for a fifth playing year weighs heavy on a lot of student-athletes looking to make an impact both on and off the field after they complete their college curriculum. With big dreams and goals in mind after graduation, sometimes it takes something special to get a player to return to the team for just one more season. Such was the case for senior offensive lineman Chris Poole, who took a medical redshirt as a freshman and was faced with the choice to come back for one more year at the end of the 2008 football season.

As many can remember, the Crusaders came up just short of taking home the Patriot League championship title in the final game of the season in 2008. The 28-27 loss to Colgate became the exact reason why Poole decided to come back for a fifth season. Coming just within grasp of a Patriot League crown was familiar to Poole and the rest of the Holy Cross team, as they just missed the championship title in 2007 as well. "We're so hungry for the championship," said Poole. "When the decision of me coming back for a fifth year came up, there was no doubt that I wanted to stay for another season and help lead the team to a title."

Poole made a huge impact on the offensive line last year, earning second team All-Patriot League honors for his efforts. His leadership and athletic ability helped pave the way for Holy Cross to lead the Patriot League in scoring (34.4 points per game), total offense (455.4 yards per game) and passing offense (348.9 yards per game). The line also allowed only 16 sacks (just one sack for every 33.7 times the quarterback dropped back to pass). This season, Poole has hopes to make this his best yet, with a professional playing career in mind for the future. "I'm looking forward to playing every game," said Poole. "For me to have come back and play one more year, I'm making sure that I improve as a player in all aspects and be the best I can be."

However, the path to a successful playing career wasn't easy for Poole. "It's been a bumpy road," said Poole. "There was always an uphill battle." On his second day as a Holy Cross football player, Chris needed season-ending surgery after injuring himself in a practice. After recovering from that, Poole spent his sophomore year battling with weight issues. "I just wasn't gaining the weight I needed to be a successful lineman," he said. "Once they discovered what was wrong, it became easier for me to put on the weight, but then I had to re-learn all of the playbooks because I wasn't able to play for so long. It was definitely tough."

Thanks to a great support system within the coaching staff at Holy Cross, Poole regained his strength and began to thrive on the field. When asked about his favorite part of being an offensive lineman, he emphatically said "There's nothing better than being in [offensive line} coach [Jeremy] Bandy's bunch. We have a really great group that is led by an awesome coach who makes sure we play hard but have a lot of fun doing it. We've improved even more in the offseason and I really don't feel like there's much that can stop us from getting what we want."

Including Poole, this year's offensive line returns four out of five starters. Each of the four returners started at least nine games in 2008. The abundance of experience had head coach Tom Gilmore boasting them as "the best offensive line we have had since I have been at Holy Cross." The chemistry between the players is unmistakable as they have played side-by-side for so many games together. Poole sees this as one of the best parts of being on the team. "The guys on the offensive line, hands down, have a really good thing going. We do everything together, whether it's at practice, around campus or off campus."

What people, besides his football teammates, may not know is that Poole has a few side hobbies. "I really like deathcore music and boating," he said. Since coming to Worcester, Poole has been able to see some of his favorite music groups right in town. "Surprisingly or not, I have had the chance to see a lot of great shows. I even saw one of my favorite groups filming a concert that was distributed live. It was awesome." Growing up in Scituate, Mass., which is located on the coast of the state, allowed Poole to enjoy boats. His father, John, was actually a member of the Dartmouth sailing team. And like most college students, he enjoys the social atmosphere outside campus.

Looking back over the past four years, Poole had some reflections about being a Holy Cross student-athlete. "Along with my playing days, I have to say that there's a special feeling when you stand out on this campus. I gained some valuable experience, whether on the field or in the classroom, and I have to say that I'll be taking with me some of the best experiences of my life. I've made some great friends that I will have forever." And for the reason he chose Holy Cross in the first place, Poole described it as "not just the best fit, but the perfect fit for me. As soon as the team told me that they wanted me to come and play, I immediately said yes."

With his final campaign now underway, Poole has all the drive and want to make the reason he came back for one more season a dream come true. "I can't begin to describe how important this year is to me. With my personal goals of being the best player I can be and making sure I help my team win is all that I think about. This is the year, for all of us."

This story originally appeared in the September 12 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Sacred Heart. To order a copy of the program, visit the online store.