By Brian Johnson
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Holy Cross senior football player Mike Fess (Caldwell, N.J.) was recently named the 2013-2014 Crusader of the Year. Fess became the all-time leader in receptions in Holy Cross history this past season with 75 total catches in 2013 to set the record with 209. Over the last two years, Fess has been one of the top receivers in the Patriot League. As a junior, he caught 80 passes for 795 yards and two touchdowns. His 80 receptions on the year were the second-most ever by a Holy Cross player in a single season. Fess was the Patriot League leader in receptions and fourth in receiving yards. This year, Fess did not slow down, as he led the Holy Cross receiving corps once again with 75 receptions for 893 yards and nine touchdowns. Fess broke the Holy Cross career receptions record this year with seven catches against Fordham.
This season, Fess had nine catches and 138 yards in a win over Dartmouth on Sept. 28. Fess finished the game one yard short of tying his career high for yards in a game. As a junior, Fess had 139 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns against Fordham. Fess followed up his strong performance against Fordham the following week with 11 catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Harvard on Oct. 5.
Fess has also found success off the football field, both in the classroom as well as with volunteer work. He currently holds a 3.39 cumulative grade-point average and will graduate in May with a degree in history. In addition, Fess volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Massachusetts and Friends of Jaclyn, while taking part in Holy Cross Cares Day, Working for Worcester, and the Be a Match bone marrow donor program.
Recently, Fess talked to GoHolyCross.com about his four years at Holy Cross and on winning Crusader of the Year.
GoHolyCross: What have you done in your career each year to get better and become a better leader for the team?
Fess: First of all, as a freshman, I had great upperclassmen on the team and specifically in the wide receiver corps who set a great example for me. They showed me the type of work ethic needed to succeed, how much time I needed to put in to get on the field and stay there and how to lead by example. Putting in hours and hours in the weight room with Coach (Jeff) Oliver and in the film room with Coach (Kosciolek) and my teammates helped me tremendously. Working with teammates on our own to get better was also crucial in getting better. I think a huge part of getting better comes with experience. I was blessed enough to play in every game but one during my time at Holy Cross so just getting more snaps and playing more games helped me grow as a player.
GoHolyCross: How have you balanced an extensive football schedule with a rigorous academic course load?
Fess: For me it was a challenging transition from high school to college, as school and athletics became more demanding and more time consuming. The first semester of freshman year was the most difficult for me. However, I learned how to prioritize my time and how to use the great support that Holy Cross provides its students. Time management is something that is crucial as a student-athlete and after going through many challenges early on, I learned from experience and continued to get better in that area.
GoHolyCross: What other schools were you being recruited by out of high school and why did you choose Holy Cross?
Fess: Other Patriot League schools such as Lehigh and Lafayette, and also a couple of other FCS programs recruited me. However, I chose Holy Cross because of the family-like atmosphere of the football team, paired with the great education and sense of community that Holy Cross provides. I felt most comfortable here, but I also wanted to challenge myself in the classroom and on the field so that I could be the best that I could be and I believed that Holy Cross could do that for me. After four years here, I can say that it was everything that I thought it would be and more.
GoHolyCross: What does the record of most receptions in Holy Cross history mean to you?
Fess: It was something that I wanted to achieve, but it always came secondary to the team's goals and wins and losses. As a team the last two seasons, we did not achieve goals that we set and it still bothers me and personally it overshadows any individual accomplishments. For me, team accomplishments are much more rewarding than individual ones and I would trade that record for more wins any day. With that being said though, I would not have been able to do as well as I did if it was not for my teammates doing their jobs out on the field. Having the most receptions in Holy Cross history is something that I appreciate because of the long and storied history of the program here and I think that I will become more proud of the accomplishment down the road.
GoHolyCross: What are your plans after graduation?
Fess: In June I'm starting a two-year service program called the PLACE (Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education) Corps at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. In this program, I will be teaching at an under resourced catholic school in the LA area, while simultaneously taking graduate classes and receiving my Masters in Education from Loyola Marymount. I will be teaching sixth, seventh and eighth grade social studies and religion classes.
GoHolyCross: Off the field, what has meant the most to you within the Holy Cross community?
Fess: The friendships and bonds that have been created over the last four years definitely mean the most to me. I know that these will be relationships that will last a lifetime and the memories that we share will never be forgotten.
GoHolyCross: What was your most memorable game/experience you have had as a Holy Cross football player?
Fess: The most memorable game that I was a part of at Holy Cross was the Harvard game my sophomore year. Harvard was a great team, but we won because we played a great team game in all phases. It was a huge victory for us and it was great feeling knowing everyone contributed to the win. However, overall the most memorable experience I've had as a Holy Cross football player is getting to know all of the teammates I've had over my four years here and the camaraderie we shared. They have all have been like family to me and I know that I can go to them for anything and they gladly would help me out. As a football team, we shared a special bond and I'm going to miss spending time with them every day.
GoHolyCross: Considering a lifetime commitment thus far, do you see yourself as a potential football coach?
Fess: Football and athletics have always been such an important part of my life so I could definitely see myself getting involved in sports somehow in the future. I seriously cannot picture my life without athletics, so coaching is definitely a possibility. I've had so many great coaches over the years that have helped me to become the person I am today. Coaches and athletics in general have more of an impact on building character on and off the field within student athletes than I think some people give them credit for. I think it would be awesome to be able to positively influence someone the way my coaches have throughout my life.