November 17, 2007

Bringing Back The Winning Tradition

Nov. 17, 2007

By Jim Wrobel
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Every football player entering their first season of college football needs to adjust to the difference in the level of play from high school to college. But in the case of senior defensive back Kent Flanders from Atlanta, Ga., he was able to step right in as a rookie and contribute immediately as he played in all 11 games with eight starts, while he was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week twice. "He is a very good athlete," said Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore. "He was very motivated to learn the system. You are not sure how a freshman is going to adjust to the college level, but in his case he adjusted pretty quickly. It only took him to the third week of the season to put himself into a position to become a starter."

Even though Flanders made it look easy, it took a lot of hard work. "It was a big adjustment because in college you realize that there is a method to the madness, you don't just line up and play, like you do in high school," said Flanders. "Being far from home did not have any affect on my goal to be a great football player. My most difficult task as a freshman was relearning how to play football."

A major reason why he was able to adjust so fast to the hectic life of a college football player, with the practices and the academic schedule that goes along with it, was the strong positive influences of his family that set the groundwork for him to become a successful student-athlete. "My parents, my brother, Takieto, and my cousin, Donald, are positive influences in my life," said Flanders. "My parents always stressed the importance of me being responsible, independent, and a leader, not a follower. My brother watched over me and set restrictions on what I could and couldn't do because he told me that I was the athlete in the family and that he wasn't going to let anything get in the way of me going as far as I can in football. My cousin introduced me to football and wrestling and played a really big role in my efforts to excel at both sports."

With all of his hard work and determination, Flanders was still surprised that he was able to contribute so quickly to the team. "I did not expect to see the field on defense until at least my junior year," said Flanders. "That was just what I expected coming in as a freshman. However, I felt lucky to have the opportunity to compete for and earn a starting spot on our defense because I knew that starting as a true freshman in college is anything but the norm. In the end I was pleased to be able to contribute to the reestablishment of the Holy Cross football tradition."

His football knowledge is one reason why he has contributed so much to Holy Cross football. "He understands our system, but he also understands what it takes to do his assignments on the field," said Gilmore. "I think that is a skill in and of itself. You have to know how to put yourself in a position to be able to stop the opponent's offense. He has a lot of experience doing that which is probably why his level of play has increased so much in each year."

Flanders has started in all but three games he has played in during his career, and his dedication to always getting better is why he has consistently earned his spot on the field. "I have improved in my athletic ability, my confidence in my ability to make plays, my footwork and my ability to cover," said Flanders. "I have also learned how to be patient, read my keys, how to anticipate and not to guess. My goal during the game is to keep the ball in front of me and make the plays that I am capable of making in order to help my team win. Coach Gilmore and coach (Richard) Rodgers have taught me how to think and play like a Division I defensive back."

Playing football at Holy Cross for the last four years has meant that he has accomplished something he always wanted to do. "Ever since I watched my first collegiate football game, I knew I wanted to play college football and someday be able to watch myself on television or even be on the NCAA Football game," said Flanders.

He started playing competitive football at the age of nine and then eventually played at North Atlanta High School with current Crusader defensive lineman sophomore Alex Carson, who he recommended to Holy Cross. "My high school coaches prepared us for playing football at the next level, whichever level that would be," said Flanders. Flanders has always been a great athlete as he was also on the track and wrestling teams at North Atlanta.

When it was time to choose colleges, Holy Cross' strong academic and athletic reputation made it a perfect fit for Flanders. "All of my high school coaches and teachers informed me that it was a great school academically, and I always wanted to play Division I football, so when I came up for my visit I really liked the atmosphere," said Flanders.

Flanders is part of a very experienced secondary that includes senior Casey Gough, senior Obi Green and junior Kyle Mushaweh. Flanders loves playing with such a veteran group. "It's very comforting because we communicate so well to stay on the same page," said Flanders. "I think we work so well together because we communicate well and we know where each other fit in the scheme of the defense, so we trust that we will be where we are supposed to be."

Coach Gilmore knows how great it is to have a reliable secondary. "It has been a great situation," said Gilmore. "The coaching staff and the team have a lot of confidence in the secondary. They are a veteran group that plays with a lot of confidence. It is going to be strange not to have them around. Three of them have been in the secondary for all four of my years here, as well as some of the other guys that play on a regular basis. They have been pivotal players for our program in the last four years."

Flanders lists defeating Harvard for the first time in his college career as his favorite sports moment, has left a major impact on Holy Cross football. Over the last four years, he has been a major reason why Holy Cross football has been able to bring back its winning tradition.

This story originally appeared in the November 17 edition of the Holy Cross Gameday program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Colgate. To order a copy of the program, click here.