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Cardinal Corner: Darius Hill

This season, OTP is proud to continue one of the most well-liked and well-read features on the site… Cardinal Corner. It’s our chance to catch up with former Cardinal footballers and sort of bridge the generations of this program. In 2008, we saw guests like Jason Whitlock, Lavar Charleston, David Gater, Blair Kramer, Cortlan Booker, and Chris Allen. 2009 has already seen Trey Buice and Nate Davis visit the Cardinal Corner.

In today’s edition, OTP was honored to touch base with a driving force behind the resurgence of Ball State in the mid 00’s, Darius Hill. Darius finished his career with over 2400 yards and 30 TDs… as a tight end. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he saw the Cardinals make their first Bowl trip in decades along with the following year’s undefeated regular season, MAC West title and second consecutive Bowl berth. Now Darius finds himself attempting to make an impact on the Cincinnati Bengals, and we are fortunate to touch base with our 2nd straight NFLer.

Cardinal Corner: Darius Hill


OverThePylon: Normally in this space we ask about what folks have been up to since transitioning out of Muncie and Cardinal and White. I think most are well aware of your journey to Cincy and joining the Bengals. Can you talk a little about your transition to professional football and the adjustment it’s been to get to that next level?

DariusHill:Since my time spent in Muncie, I have been blessed with the opportunity to be a member of the Cincinnati Bengals organization. The transition has been a little tough but for the most part it has went well. I am on the practice squad which is obviously not my goal but at the same time I feel like the Lord has blessed me because I came into rookie mini camp as a tryout player and was signed right after. Practice squad is a good stepping stone to start moving toward my goals in professional football. I would definitely say that the biggest differences in making that jump to the next level would be grasping the mental aspects of the game, getting adjusted to the speed of the game at this level, and of course adjusting to the business side of things because any day can be your last day with an organization.

OTP: Currently, the fanbase is far from pleased about the results on the field. As a player, do you notice fans that are negative about the program, staff, and administration? Or is it something that a team can totally avoid?

DH: As a player, negative things about the program will always be something that will be hard to avoid hearing or dealing with. Whether you’re in class and you hear some students discussing things about the players or coaches, or you’re just out in public and you hear things it’s just something that pretty much can’t be avoided. But at the same time you have to know as a player that there will always be those fans that stick with you through thick and thin, and those that will be your biggest supporters when things are going good but as soon as things go south they want to say negative things and give up on the program. That’s just how it is in sports on the college and professional levels.

OTP: The MAC and BSU is moving to the midweek game portion of the schedule. As a player who played, and did pretty well, in his fair share of weekday games, does the change in time and day really effect players that much? How is gameday on a random Thursday/Tuesday/Wednesday better or worse than Saturday?

DH: I personally felt like we enjoyed having the midweek games as a team when I played. You are usually the only game on national tv that night so anyone that is a true football fan and wants to see some football will tune in. I also thought week night games brought out more students because some students that will maybe leave on the weekends would be around during the week because of classes and would come and check a game out. As far as a weekday game having an effect on payers i would say it doesn’t matter. If guys are ready to play they are ready to play no matter what day of the week or what time it is. One way that i would say a game would be better on a week day would be you have extra time to study and prepare for your next opponent following your week day game and that can be very helpful going into the latter part of the season where things really start to matter as far as bowl eligibility and conference standings are concerned.

OTP: The constant chatter amongst BSU loyalists is that BSU will be fine once the youth on the roster gets some experience. In your own experience, can you talk a little about the growth and ability to succeed that comes from playing early and freshmen getting the experience they’re getting now?

DH: It’s indescribable how important it is for the younger players to get the most out of the reps they are getting as freshman and sophomores. If you think about it at most big time universities guys don’t even see the field sometimes until their junior or senior years and that might only be on special teams. So to get an opportunity early to see the differences in the speed and talent level of Division 1 football is very important. My first 3 years in Muncie we were pretty inconsistent as a team to say the least, but we were young too. But we also had a lot of guys get chances to play early on in their careers because of that youth and I would say judging from the records of my junior and senior years that obviously paid off big time.

OTP: Do you stay in contact with any of the current staff or players? Any advice or wisdom you could give to either the team or the fans as this season begins to wind down? Seen any games this season?

DH: As far as staff the only people I’ve really been in contact with has been Amara Koroma and Dante Love, two guys who i played with who are helping on the coaching side of things now. As far as current players I’d say that I still keep in contact with about 8-10 different guys just seeing how they are, telling them to keep their heads up, and keep working hard. As this season winds down the best thing that they can keep in mind is something that I’m sure they have been hearing a lot of and that is to finish strong. We have to use the end of this season to gain momentum going into next year to show that we can improve and be a top team in the west division. The only game I’ve had a chance to see was the homecoming game against Toledo. I got there toward the start of 4th quarter and was stunned at the way things ended. We definitely let them off the hook!

OTP: One of the biggest impacts this season has been the change in offensive production. Is that due to only youth? Is there something else that the casual fan may be missing? How can this offense improve?

DH: I would say the biggest problem with the offense is the youth, especially in the offensive line. No matter how big and strong your guys are on the offensive line, if they can’t communicate and bond as a unit your offense will be average at best. To gain the communication and things they need, it just takes time playing together and getting to know each others styles of play. Your offense will go as your o-line goes. They open the holes for the running back and protect the quarterback so he can throw the ball, nothing done without those guys up front doing their jobs first. As you know, Gerb, Rams and Brew all started since their redshirt freshman years and started off kind of rocky but they all worked so hard and it paid off for them individually and the team. If they work hard to get better and grow that mentality that they don’t want to be a middle of the pack MAC team they will improve and get better with time.

OTP: Can you give our readers your favorite memory as a Cardinal footballer?

DH: Without a doubt I would say my favorite moment as a cardinal player would definitely have to be when we beat Western Michigan last year to go 12-0. It was so crazy! The fans rushed the field, there were people everywhere, it really made us feel like we had finally won over all the fans who had doubted us since my class got to BSU. And the party that followed, well we’ll have to discuss that one another time. GO CARDS!

Big thanks to Darius for taking part in this and I hope the rest of Cardinal Nation can join OTP in wishing him well on his journey to the top of the ranks of the NFL. Go get ’em 88.

Cardinal Corner: Nate Davis

This season, OTP is proud to continue one of the most well-liked and well-read features on the site… Cardinal Corner. It’s our chance to catch up with former Cardinal footballers and sort of bridge the generations of this program. In 2008, we saw guests like Jason Whitlock, Lavar Charleston, David Gater, Blair Kramer, Cortlan Booker, and Chris Allen. 2009 has already seen Trey Buice visit the Cardinal Corner.

In today’s edition, OTP was truly fortunate to touch base with one of the most memorable Cardinals in recent memory, and one of the driving reasons behind the success of 2008. Nate Davis set school records, MAC records, and most importantly, led this Cardinals team to an undefeated regular season, a second consecutive bowl berth, and most impressive… a 5th round draft selection by the San Francisco 49ers. It was an honor and a pleasure to touch base with Nate, the newest, but hopefully not the last, Cardinal playing football on Sunday afternoons.

Cardinal Corner: Nate Davis
Ball St Nebraska Football

OverThePylon:Normally we ask about what you’ve been up to since suiting up for the Cardinals, but all of us and all of the fans of the program are well aware of your travels to San Francisco. How has your adjustment been since transitioning out of Muncie and to the professional level?

NateDavis: It’s been a big difference traveling from Muncie, IN to San Francisco, CA and moving all my stuff out here. It’s been a big challenge, but I’m still working through it.

OTP: The fan base seems to be panicking a bit after the season opening losses at BSU. Just as many people are stepping up and saying this is the time when the team needs supporters the most. It’s a similar situation to your early years at Ball State. What do you think these fans can do to help this team succeed? Have you got a chance to see any of the games?

ND: The thing is that they need to keep showing the players support. That’s what happened with us when I was playing. When I first arrived at Ball State, students were like ‘why should we even go to a game? They’re terrible.’ During my junior year everyone was like ‘we can’t wait.’ It was Monday, and they couldn’t wait until Saturday. Everybody couldn’t wait to go to the game.” We just have to continue getting support year after year and it will just build up. I have not gotten a chance to watch any of the games. Maybe on my bye week I might be able to swing by there.

OTP: One of the biggest differences this season has been the change in offensive production. Is that due to only youth? Is there something else that the casual fan may be missing? How can this offense improve?

ND: We’ve lost a lot of guys, that’s what it all comes down to. When you lose four of your five starting linemen that becomes a big loss. When you lose other players, you lose one of your best receivers that has ever attended Ball State and then we had Louis Johnson, and we lost our tight end Darius Hill, that’s a big factor. But they’ve got to just keep on working and push through it. Definitely keep it rolling. Coach Stan Parrish will get them through.

OTP: Is there a difference in coaching from the sidelines? Coach Parrish’s offense seemed to click dramatically when he was in the press box and could see exactly what the defense was doing. Since his move to the sidelines and assuming the duties of head coach, that seems to have changed.

ND: I really couldn’t tell you much about that because I don’t know what’s going through his mind being down on the field. It’s hard for me to answer however, I think that whatever is best for the team, they should use.

OTP: This week’s game at Army gives the team a chance to get away from the fans, the students, the pressure, etc. but is also the team’s first road game. Do you see a road game now as a positive or negative? Why?

ND: It’s definitely a positive because it’s another game. It’ll be another great day to go out there and play football and that’s just another chance to go out there and have fun. That’s the thing that they have to do is to go out there and have fun. Don’t worry about what everybody else is talking about. That’s one thing that I’ve always taken to heart. Don’t listen to what people are saying, they’ll talk all good about you then the next day you lose that may change. Just go out there and have fun and just play your game.

OTP: As a new California resident have you had the chance to touch base with Brady Hoke who is now at San Diego State? Did his leaving Ball State help in your decision to leave early for the NFL Draft? Have you kept in touch with Coach Parrish?

ND: I have kept in touch with coach Hoke. I talk to him and coach [Jeff] Hecklinski a lot. It was a bit of a factor for me leaving but they were also a lot of other factors for me leaving. As for keeping in contact with Coach Parrish, I always do. Coach Parrish and I will always have a great relationship. He’s the one that gave me a chance to play at Ball State. He gave me a lot of help, not only on the field but off of it as well.

OTP: Last season saw the Cardinals ring up maybe the greatest year in athletics in school history. What has to be done to ensure those types of seasons are the norm and not the exception?

ND: I truly believe that Coach Parrish will get it done. All they have to do is to keep on working hard. They just have to have heart.

OTP: Can you give us your favorite memory as a football Cardinal?

ND: As a matter of fact, it was last year against Western Michigan. Watching the scoreboard hit double zeros and we went undefeated. That was my most exciting memory at Ball State. The fans gave us so much support. I’ve never seen that much encouragement.

OTP: Any last words for Cardinal fans?

ND: Thanks for all of the support. GO CARDS!

Tremendous thanks and gratitude to Nate and the San Francisco 49ers for letting this interview take place. It is truly an honor and privilege to bring this to the fans. It’s certainly good to get the sort of perspective on the success of the program and the ability of the players and staff from one of their own. Good luck in your rookie season, Nate, and like he said… Go Cards!!

Cardinal Corner: Trey Buice

OTP is proud to continue the Cardinal Corner tradition this year. In 2008, we saw guests like Jason Whitlock, Lavar Charleston, David Gater, Blair Kramer, Cortlan Booker, and Chris Allen all answer some questions and pull back the curtain a bit on BSU football. This season we’re kicking off with a bang and chatting with Trey Buice, a corner from 2005-2008 and someone who had a front-row seat to the best year in BSU athletics last season.

Cardinal Corner: Trey Buice

trey buice

OverThePylon: Can you tell us a little about what you’re up to these days? How has life after football been?

TreyBuice: Right now I’m still taking classes trying to finish up my major and minor. I’m on track to graduate in December. Life after football has been ok, but it took a little time to get used to all the free time that I have.

OTP: As a player who has been on both sides of the fence in terms of success as a team at BSU, what advice would you give this year’s team after game 1, and heading into the next three non-conference games?

TB: I would tell them to just keep getting better everyday and to focus on improving the areas that they need to improve on.

OTP: As far as that first game went, there were some negatives. What are some positives that you see for the Cards this season? What things are making you feel ok about the rest of the season?

TB: I liked the way that they kept fighting and didn’t give up! I like the talent of the youth,the young kids that are playing now are going to develop over the rest of the season and become great players for BSU.

OTP: In terms of the corner position, that was the area of greatest concern this season defensively. How do you think they looked? What sort of things come to corners and secondary players as the year goes on through simply playing and experience that can’t be coached or taught?

TB: They played decent to me, but it was the first game and first real challenge other than practice. Confidence will be gained as the season progresses as well as the knack for making a play. Its almost like another sense that is developed during the season!

OTP: Ball State lines up against an FCS opponent this week in New Hampshire. What is the difference in talent and skill between FBS and FCS in your mind?

TB: To me there is no real difference in the talent and skill, except maybe the number of talented guys on your team but still any team can be beat on any given day.

OTP: Can you give us your favorite memory as a football Cardinal?

TB: All of last season is my favorite memory… but i like the shut out from the Toledo game the most!!

OTP: Give us a prediction on the game this week and what you think the Cards are going to look like.

TB: Ball State. And they are going to look like a better team!!!!!

(Ed. Note: Big thanks to Trey for taking the time out of finishing up a degree and adjusting to life after football to chat BSU with us for a bit. Here’s to another successful season for the Cards and thanks to Trey for helping to make last year such a success.)

Cardinal Corner: Jason Whitlock

OTP is proud to present our next installment of Cardinal Corner. It’s our chance to catch up with Cardinals of the past and gain some inside insight into this year’s Cardinal football team. Today’s guest? None other than Jason Whitlock. Many know Whitlock as a national columnist for FoxSports and the Kansas City Star. What many won’t know is Whitlock was a letterman on the O-line for the Cardinals from 1985-1988. Jason has been a tremendous advocate for the Cardinals this year on a national stage, and like everything else in his career, he calls this Cardinals team, the BSU administration, and the Cards’ shot at national respect exactly as he sees it, no matter how unpopular it may be.

Cardinal Corner: Jason Whitlock

OverThePylon: Jason, normally we ask folks to update us on what’s been going on in their lives since they left Ball State. Clearly most everyone reading this piece will know all about you. Instead, let’s go the opposite way… what is your fondest memory of Ball State University while a student or student/athlete there?
JasonWhitlock: My greatest memory is the celebration after the basketball team reached the Sweet 16. I was a bouncer at The Chug and watched the game there. Everyone ran out into the village after the game and celebrated. It’s a memory I’ll never forget. The athletic teams can bring the campus together like nothing else. Men’s basketball in the MAC was pretty high profile during that time. The guys on that team were all good friends of mine.

OTP: You’ve trumpeted the Cardinals from a national pulpit before everyone else. In fact, when many in the mainstream media and the blogosphere only saw the Cardinals as a punch line, you were proclaiming them as potential BCS busters. How do you balance being a national figure and sports authority with just being a fan and supporting your alma mater?
JW: I’m a fan first when it comes to Ball State. The only balancing I do is let the readers know in advance that what they’re reading is coming from someone who loves Ball State. If you have read my work in the past, then you realize I’m very capable of being critical of something I love dearly.

OTP: It’s not a secret that Ball State has changed institutionally and athletically over the last decade or so… some for the better, some for the worse. What are some of those “better” things in your mind? What are some of the “worse”? What does Ball State need to do to continue to perform at this sort of level or beyond?
JW: I honestly don’t think Ball State has changed at all athletically. The very issues that limited us athletically in the 1980s are still in place today. The school has a business philosophy that makes it impossible to sustain athletic success. Tom Kinghorn should be fired. The only change I’ve seen for the better was when Bubba Cunningham and President Brownell hired an alum to coach the football team. Bubba Cunningham was a highly effective AD. But he could see the limits placed on athletic success and he left for Tulsa.

OTP: As this season draws to a close, do the Cardinals have a realistic shot at fulfilling your prediction of a BCS appearance? What needs to happen outside of the Cardinals scope of control (winning games, etc) for them to get to the coveted BCS? Will those things actually come true?
JW: We will not play in a BCS game. I just think it’s great we’ve been part of the discussion. I just want us to win the MAC championship and win whatever bowl game we play in.

OTP: Coach Hoke has been mentioned this season for more than a few potential job openings. How long do you see him staying at Ball State? As someone with not only the familiarity of Ball State, but also a national coaching purview, who would you like to see be considered for the job should Coach Hoke decide to leave in the next several years?
JW: If our institution was run properly and our alums and fan base understood the capabilities of Ball State, Coach Hoke would not leave after this season. Brady can do more at Ball State and I believe he’d like to do more at Ball State. He is not in a hurry to leave Ball State. He would like to have the tools necessary to dominate the MAC and put Ball State in position to do what TCU, Boise State, Fresno State and Utah do consistently. It can happen at Ball State.

The MAC is a conference on the rise. Some MAC school needs to step out and be the leader. CMU, WMU, Akron, Toledo and NIU are jockeying to be that leader. Our institution has no interest in joining that race. I would like to see our administration publicly acknowledge that. “We are not interested in sustaining athletic success. We are committed to being also-rans.” I can live with that. I can’t live with the lies.

At one point, Jo Ann Gora stepped out with actions and said she wanted Ball State to be the leader in women’s basketball. We desperately wanted Tracy Roller to stick around and we made her the highest paid women’s basketball coach in the MAC and paid her like she was a Big 10 coach. To my knowledge, she was the only women’s basketball coach in D-I athletics who made more than the football coach. Maybe the guy at Connecticut makes as much as the football coach. What do you think the potential is for women’s basketball in the MAC and at Ball State? Can it ever be televised? Will it ever make Dave Letterman talk about us week after week? Could it ever average more than 3,000 fans? Will it ever make kids from the Midwest want to apply to go to Ball State?

Keep in mind, I had no problem at the time with Tracy Roller’s contract. I saw it as an indication that the administration was willing to invest at a high level in its successful coaches. But I’m learning now that was not the case at all. It was a political statement. It was a resume-builder for the administration. It had nothing to do with doing what’s right for the university and the students. Sexism is a two-way street and either you’re against it or you’re not. Either you treat all people fairly or you don’t. I’m a bit off track.

But I believe Brady would like to stay at Ball State if somehow he and his coaching staff were provided the necessary support to dominate the MAC, a level of support that recognizes their level of success. Brady should be paid around $375 to $425k a year (2nd or 3rd highest in the MAC) and his assistant coaches need significant upgrades. They need offices built. Brady should be given control of the football program. If our administration would take the time to look around the rest of the MAC, if they would travel with the team on MAC road trips and see what our peers provide their football coaching staffs, Jo Ann Gora would get a real sense of just what Brady has accomplished.

He hasn’t climbed on any billboards. He built a football program. He’s an alum and we should treat him like an alum we are proud of. If we did that, I think Brady would stick around for three or four more years and maybe longer. But it’s been my experience in life that most people have a very difficult time supporting ideas and hires that were not their own. Most people are selfish and controlled by their egos.

OTP: Still on Coach Hoke, do you see this year as the anomaly or potentially the norm in Muncie under his leadership? Are the pieces there for continued success? Or is this a perfect storm of scheduling, weaker MAC traditional powers, and increased talent on the Ball State side of the ball?
JW: We can sustain a high level of success under Brady. It’s very difficult to go undefeated. But can we win 9 games consistently? Yes. The MAC was not weak this year, particularly the MAC West. In fact, I’d say the MAC West was the best we’ve seen it maybe ever. CMU, WMU and Ball State were all very good. NIU was dangerous. Brady has laid a foundation for continued success. Our defense is going to be very good next year.

OTP: As a former offensive lineman, can you speak a little about the growth and development of that particular unit under Coach Hoke and his staff? Are the pieces there for the success of the offensive line to continue as these Seniors graduate?
JW: Playing Brewster, Gerberry and Ramsey as freshmen paid huge dividends this year. It’s going to be tough replacing those guys. Cornwell, too. But we have some young kids with talent and this group of veterans has set a standard that the young guys will try to reach.

OTP: What do you see as the difference between the coach Lynch era and the Brady Hoke era? Aside, of course, from the number of wins.
JW: Bubba Cunningham and President Brownell relaxed the recruiting restrictions on the football program. Brady can recruit across the country. Brady has a better assistant-coaching staff than Coach Lynch. Brady’s personality and command of his players is superior to Coach Lynch’s. Brady’s team is the most disciplined team I’ve ever seen.

OTP: Talk a little about the future of BSU football in your eyes. Will they be in the same sentence as the Utahs, Boise States, and BYU’s in terms of mid majors with national sway? More importantly, do you ever see the line in the sand between the BCS conferences and the mid majors going away?
JW: I don’t care about BCS vs. midmajor. I just want to win the MAC. Honestly that’s all I really care about. If we are consistently competing for the MAC title, we will earn respect. Given the mindset of our current administration, I don’t see us joining the midmajor powerhouses. To be quite honest, given the mindset of our current administration, I don’t have a good feeling at all about Ball State football.

The history of the program will tell you where we’re going. Paul Schudel took an offensive coordinator job at Illinois rather than stick around at Ball State as a head coach. The administration doesn’t care that 11,000 students changed their travel plans to watch a football game. It’s not about the kids on campus. It’s about building a resume and landing the next job.

OTP: Less about BSU, and more about you, in general, you take a beating on the internet and the blogosphere in part because of your willingness to take a stand and an opinion on any issue, even when it isn’t a popular stance or the issue is a heated one. How does it feel to be the target of more than a few jabs from sports fans with a significant audience in the Wild West of the internet?
JW: Feels good. Real good. People react strongly because they take seriously what I have to say. My opinion is respected.

(Ed. Note: Big thanks to Jason for chatting with us a bit and calling it as he sees it as always. For more of JW’s work, you can check him out at his FoxSports columns here, or his Kansas City Star columns here.)

Cardinal Corner: Chris Allen

OTP is proud to present our next installment of Cardinal Corner. It’s our chance to catch up with Cardinals of the past and gain some inside insight into this year’s Cardinal football team. Today’s guest? Chris Allen, a 4-year letterman at strong safety for the Cardinals from 2004-2007.

Cardinal Corner: Chris Allen

OverThePylon: Chris, everyone that has watched the Cards in recent years remembers you as a tireless worker, team captain, and just a great person to have on the roster in terms of attitude and commitment. Can you tell us a little about what you’re up to these days?
Chris Allen: Currently Working in Connersville IN, at Stant Mfg. Inc. As a laboratory technician. Stant is a supplier of automotive fuel system components. Besides that just trying take care of my pregnant wife. And our dog!

OTP: As an alum and former letter winner, how does it feel to see the Cardinals getting so much love from the press and doing so well on the field?
CA: I am very proud of the boys. I am glad that they are doing what they need to do on the field. Ball State is a hard working team and I glad the the coaches and players and support staff are able to see that it does pay off. The press is great for the school. Its good for students and fans to say look at what Ball State is doing.

OTP: Since you played your entire career for him, chat a little about Brady Hoke. Is the team’s success this year a one-year phenomenon or is he turning the corner in Muncie to continued success? More importantly, do you see Coach Hoke staying in Muncie for very long?
CA: I would be so wrong to say that this year is a one-year phenomenon. Every year you have the opportunity to do what Ball State is doing now. Ball State, week to week has capitalized on those opportunities. Coach and the staff has worked hard to improve every year, and when you look back that is what has happened. I cant say what Coach Hoke’s plans are but I can say that He does take a lot of pride in coaching at his alma mater.

OTP: As much as the front 7 on defense seems to be taking a bit of a beating this season in comparison to the offense, the secondary seems loaded with talent. What are your thoughts about the defensive back corps?
CA: They look very good this year. I am glad to see them doing good and working together as a unit. And with the young guys playing there should be football coming from that group in the future.

OTP: Can you give us your favorite memory as a football Cardinal?
CA: I have so many I can’t say one is my favorite. I will comment on the experience as a Cardinal. There is nothing like it to be able to be a part of a Division 1 football program was really a blessing. From the workouts, to the games, to just bonding with my brothers on the team. I really miss and cherish the time spent as a player at Ball State.

(Ed. Note: A big thanks to Chris for taking the time away from life and pending fatherhood to talk Ball State for a bit)

Cardinal Corner: David Gater

OTP is proud to present our next installment of Cardinal Corner. It’s our chance to catch up with Cardinals of the past and gain some inside insight into this year’s Cardinal football team. Today’s guest? David Gater, a 4-year letterman at safety for the Cardinals from 2002-2005. Gater parlayed his success on the football field and in the classroom to a stint in professional football and is now in the coaching ranks.

Cardinal Corner: David Gater

OverThePylon: A lot of people won’t know that you went on to play professionally. Can you give us some insight into that and what else you’ve been up to?
David Gater:The Pro Football was just for fun. It is an arena league thats consists of about 14 teams of guys from all over the U.S. it was fun and made some extra cash along the way. I am in my third year as the Defensive Back coach for Trine University. We are a DIII college and we just won our conference (MIAA) and are going to the playoffs for the first time in school history. I am recently engaged and have a beautiful daughter Payton Nicole.

OTP: As an alum and former letter winner, how does it feel to see the Cardinals getting so much love from the press and doing so well on the field?
DG: I love it. I wanted to be able to keep up with the guys on the team I still know but it was difficult because of the lack of coverage. But now I get to watch them all the time. Now more people know where I went to school and I don’t have to explain where Muncie is or say the school where David Letterman is from.

OTP: Sean Baker, Trey Buice, BJ Hill, and Alex Knipp make up maybe the most underrated defensive back corps in the country. What are some things you notice about this secondary that makes them so outstanding? What are some things Cards fans should be worried about when it comes to the DB’s?
DG: The chemistry they have is incredible, and that is what you have to have if you want to be good. I remember Buice and Hill when I was there and they were two very athletic young kids. Now they are older, wiser and still very athletic. They do whatever it takes to cause an incomplete pass, very tenacious group of players. I had the pleasure of meeting Knipp when I came down for a game and for how hard he plays and acts on the field he is a very mellow and very intelligent young man.

OTP: In the coaching department, you played for both Bill Lynch and Brady Hoke. Both have experienced very different levels of success at Ball State. What’s been the secret for Brady that Coach Lynch didn’t have? As a coach yourself, what do you see as the main difference between the two?
DG: I respect both of them and their different styles of coaching. They reflect their personalities and obviously both ways work. I love them both and without them I would not be the man or coach I am today.

Coach Hoke is very intense all the time not just at practice and games but in meetings and film also. He teaches the game of football to the players so they are all on the same page. He does whatever it takes to have the best equipment and strength coaches (Wellman is Great). Even if it meant his job he would do it if he thought it was right for the program.

Coach Lynch is a little more laid back. He teaches the game of football too, just in a different environment. I was a young dumb freshman when he was there so I don’t know nearly about his relationship with the big wigs but I am sure he fought for us too. I have gone to IU to talk to his staff about X’s and O’s and he is still a great guy and interacts with the players just like I remember

OTP: Speaking of Coach Hoke, do you foresee him sticking around in Muncie for very long? Why or why not? What would you do to keep him here if you were in charge of the athletic department? Should he leave who should BSU look at as his replacement?
DG: Coach Hoke loves Ball State and Ball State Football. He would have to have one heck of a deal to leave a program he rebuilt from almost the ground up. Pay him and his staff more is the way to keep any coach around. They are going to have a strong case for pay raises after this season it is going to be interesting to see what happens. If he did leave they would probably look for a coach like him, an assistant at a big university that has the same passion he does about the program and
kids’ success.

OTP: The Cardinals remaining games are all Weekday games. How is the adjustment to playing mid-week? What sorts of things are different about a mid-week game compared to a Saturday contest?
DG: I only did it a couple of times but you have to prepare for it just like a Saturday. I have a very different kind of pregame routine. I would watch the Simpsons or South Park with Erik Keys on my DVD player before games because we liked to stay loose. Nothing changed for me except that we had class that day and really didn’t bother me that much. The tough part was that the coaches would treat a Monday like a Thursday if the game was on Wednesday, and that would confuse me because of the routine of a Thursday Practice then have to go to Tuesday classes. See it is even tough to follow when you read it. Try doing it.

OTP: What is your favorite memory as a Cardinal?
DG: My lifelong dream was to play DI football and everything after that is a bonus. I loved being in the lockerroom and weight room and film room with the guys. There is so much bonding that goes on you have to be there to experience it. And it is different every year because new freshman come in and some older guys quit, so it was fun to see the new lockerroom environment in August when everyone reported.

Specific memories would be beating Northern Illinois in Dekalb my senior year. It was different because we had freshman playing and guys playing that would not have played if not for the trouble we had off the field. Seeing everyone step up and win that game was special and I will always remember seeing Trey Lewis getting yelled at for playing soft by Coach Hoke. Then the next series hitting their QB harder than anybody I have ever seen get hit and fumbling the football.

(Ed. Note: Big thanks to David for taking the time to chat with us. His Trine Thunder capped a 10-0 season last Saturday and begin their playoff run this Saturday. Good luck to Coach Gater and the Thunder!)

Cardinal Corner: Blair Kramer

OTP is proud to present our next installment of Cardinal Corner. It’s our chance to catch up with Cardinals of the past and gain some inside insight into this year’s Cardinal football team. Today’s guest? Blair Kramer, a 4-year letterman on the defensive line for the Cardinals from 2002-2005. Kramer also served as Team Captain in his senior season and was a 2nd Team All MidAmerican Conference selection.

Cardinal Corner: Blair Kramer

Over The Pylon: Many Cardinals fans will remember you as a fearless hard hitter and stalwart on the DLine. Can you tell us a little about what you’re up to these days?
Blair Kramer: After the 2005 season I started interviewing with a few different companies; mostly financial advisors, commercial insurance sales, stuff like that. I’ve always wanted to get into real estate, and had a good friend from high school who was with a company called Marcus & Millichap in Chicago. I ended up taking that job, went through an 18 month training/mentorship program, and have been a broker here for about a year now. In a nutshell, I help match up buyers and sellers of commercial investment property. And let me just give a quick shout out to the economy for making my job so damn easy this year! All kidding aside, it has been a difficult year, but almost every successful broker in my office started during a downswing. I just focus on the positive and keep grinding.

OTP: As an alum and former letter winner, how does it feel to see the Cardinals getting so much love from the press and doing so well on the field?
BK: The best part of this season for me is I don’t get nearly as many dumb looks as I did before when I tell people I graduated from Ball State. The pub we are getting right now on College Gameday, Sports Illustrated, Letterman, is 100 times better than any marketing campaign or commercial. Obviously I would’ve loved to have the success this team is having when I was here, but oh well, I’m just living vicariously through them. I still know a few of the juniors and seniors on the team, and it’s great to watch what they’ve been able to accomplish so far.

There was an interview with Gerberry a few weeks ago, and he mentioned how the younger guys on the team only know success at BSU. I’m jealous. My freshman year, I think we had 24 incoming recruits including preferred walk-ons, by the time I was a senior only 5 or 6 of us were left. Most of them had career ending injuries, some left because they weren’t cut out for college football. Either way, it opened the door for a lot of underclassmen to step into starting roles early on. My senior year was 2005, aka book scandal year, aka ridiculously tough out of conference schedule year. Gerbs, Brewster, Ramsey, D Love, D Hill, Haines, Trey Lewis, Trey Buice, BJ Hill, I’m sure somebody is getting left out, but all these guys played significant roles that year, and now they’re the leaders of the team. It’s been awesome watching it unfold.

OTP: The defense took a backseat to the offense and received its share of criticism. Now it seems the defense is picking up the pace and the offense is struggling, especially early. What things have you noticed about this BSU defense that makes you happy? What things concern you?
BK: Being 13th in the nation in scoring defense makes me happy. Watching our defense bow their backs whenever the other team gets inside the 35 makes me happy. I hung out with a few of the players after the Navy game, and I told them what I saw that game: the fastest team to ever play at Scheumann Stadium. Especially on defense, they get to the ball quick and in the words of Coach Burnett, they get there “with bad intentions.” That’s key for this team, because they aren’t very big in the front 7. I also think the one thing that separates this defense from other teams in the MAC is the effort they give. You watch guys like Crawford, Haines, Knipp; and they play with their hair on fire all game long.

The only things that concern me with their performance so far would be pass defense and turnovers. I think they’re probably averaging less than a sack a game, and about the same for turnovers. Luckily we have a quarterback and running backs who don’t give the ball up very often, but I think our games down the road against CMU and WMU will come down to turnover margin and getting pressure on their very talented QBs.

OTP: In the coaching department, you played for both Bill Lynch and Brady Hoke. Both seem to have experienced very different levels of success at Ball State. What’s been the secret for Brady that Coach Lynch didn’t have?
BK: Well let me just start out by saying I have a lot of respect for both of them. Without Lynch I wouldn’t have ended up at BSU, and without Hoke I wouldn’t have played at the level I did.

I think, and this is a compliment, that Coach Hoke could care less about what other people think of him. I’m sure he upset a lot of people in trying to get more resources for the program, but he didn’t care. The one thing we always knew as players was that Hoke was behind the scenes fighting for us and advancing the program. And it was evident; we had better equipment, better resources, and better facilities because of Hoke. Before him, there always seemed to be these ‘plans’ for the program that were promised to us. Well Hoke made those plans part of his agenda and look what happened. I also think you have to look at his success in recruiting. He was known as one of the best recruiters in the nation when he was at Michigan, and he’s using that to keep bringing better and better talent to Muncie.

OTP: Speaking of Coach Hoke, do you foresee him sticking around in Muncie for very long? Why or why not? What would you do to keep him here if you were in charge of the athletic department? Should he leave who should BSU look at as his replacement?
BK: That’s a really good question, and one that I’m sure most people are thinking about at this point in the season. I don’t want to speculate too much, because it’s not something I’ve discussed with him, and to be honest it’s not something I would ask him about.

I will say that, without a doubt, the opportunity will be there for him. But it’s not like he hasn’t had other opportunities in the past few years either. He has plenty of contacts throughout college football, and pro football too, with his brother being a coach for the Texans. If he really wanted to leave, he could. I think one aspect people need to look at is the current situation with his staff. They have always been loyal to him, so I’m sure he feels indebted to them to some extent. If there was a chance to significantly improve their families’ well being, then I think it might be tough for Hoke to say ‘no’ to a job that is higher paying. I know he has a lot of respect for the University, but this is a business, and at some point that could mean a move to another program.

If he does leave, I would hope the administration looks within the program first. Parrish and Hecklinski both come to mind. Parrish for obvious reasons and Coach Heck because he’s one of the better recruiters out there right now. They should at least be given a shot first. After that, I’m really not sure. I don’t know who the ‘hot coaches’ are right now. All I know is that whoever the university goes after, they need to understand how much work went into making the program what it is today and have the same values that Hoke and his staff instilled in the teams they have coached.

I think the university has taken some big steps in recognizing the success Coach Hoke has had, and it seems like football is becoming more of a priority to the administration than ever before. If the resources are there, I think it is absolutely necessary to bump his pay again this year, and bump the pay of the assistant coaches. These guys put in 90-100 hour weeks during the season, when you factor in travel and games. No joke. They need to keep updating the facilities as well; coaches’ offices, re-furbishing the east bleachers, and putting a plan in place for an indoor facility should be a priority. I know it’s easier said than done, but if we want to be treated like a first class program we need to start acting like one.

OTP: Ball State is hitting the meat of their schedule with games upcoming against CMU, WMU, and Miami. How do you see that stretch of games playing out, and more importantly, how do you adjust for a tremendously high pressure game on a weeknight?
BK: This will be the biggest test of the team so far, and every game they play is more historic and important than the previous. Central and Western have a lot of talent, and the games against them over the past few years have been exciting to say the least. Miami looks to be pretty weak this year, but you can never rule a team out, we have to show up every week. I would hope that after the ass whooping CMU put on us last year, the team knows not take anyone lightly.

I loved weeknight home games, because you have something to occupy your time during the day. Class was pretty unproductive, but at least you are out and about on campus. The worst was Saturday night games on the road. Waiting around all day in a hotel in some dump of a city like Akron or Kalamazoo was awful. I always tried to make me pre-game routine the same, listen to some music, stay loose, always the last one in pads. We usually play pretty well in night games, so I think we’ve got a good advantage for the rest of the season.

I will go on the record and say I predict a perfect 13-0 MAC championship season, we have the talent to do it. Maybe we can squeak into a BCS bowl, but who cares if we don’t. We’ll still go down as the best team in MAC history, what’s wrong with that?

OTP: Can you give us your favorite memory as a Cardinal?
BK: The one thing that I miss the most is just being around the guys. The bonds that you make with teammates are unlike any other. It’s funny we can go months without seeing or talking to each other, and then we’ll get together for a game or wedding or something like that and it’s like we never missed a beat. I went to Fremont, IN last weekend to visit David Gater, and we ended up playing beer pong for 3 hours like we were back in Muncie at my house on Main St.

As far as specific memories, there are a couple that stick out. First, homecoming game in 2001 when nationally ranked Toledo came into town. That was huge for me not only because they were ranked at the time, but also because I’m from Toledo. I’ll never forget watching Parchman bounce to the outside on the kickoff return, then Quentin Manley getting the pick to seal the victory. Second would be the NIU game from 2005. That was a huge victory for our program, because Novak had turned NIU into a powerhouse, and he had done it the right way. I think that was the first victory we had against them since back in the 90s, and coming off of a frustrating first half of the season it was awesome. I don’t think they’ve beaten us since.

(Ed. Note: Huge thanks to Blair for taking the time to chat with us and provide a load of insight, perspective, and thought on this year’s Cardinal football team. And if you’re looking for real estate in Chicago, give this man a call.)

Cardinal Corner: LaVar Charleston

OTP is proud to present our next installment of Cardinal Corner. It’s our chance to catch up with Cardinals of the past and gain some inside insight into this year’s Cardinal football team. Today’s guest? LaVar Charleston, an offensive lineman for the Cardinals from 1999-2001. And everyone knows that the O-line is the most important positions on the field, or so said my offensive line coach.

Cardinal Corner: LaVar Charleston

OverThePylon: Many fans of the program remember you as an unsung hero, passionate Cardinal, and great advocate for the football program and university. Can you tell us a little about what you’re up to these days?
LaVar Charleston: I am currently finishing up my graduate course work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, WI. I am a research assistant and Ph.D. student in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. My research involves using innovative technologies to increase the learning outcomes of underserved populations. The research I conduct also serves to increase the performance and participation levels of ethnic minorities within the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines to ultimately increase college access and retention among these groups.

OTP: As an alum and former letter winner, how does it feel to see the Cardinals getting so much love from the press and doing so well on the field?
LC: I am really excited about all of the exposure the Cardinals are getting and about how well they are doing on the field. Coming from a MAC school, I have always continued to cheer on, not only the Cardinals, but all other MAC schools (as long as they were not playing the Cardinals), particularly when they were competing against larger non-conference opponents.

When I was playing, we weren’t getting nearly as many televised games and the exposure that the MAC teams are getting now. I am glad to see the progress that is being made within the conference as a whole. Being at a “big time” football university now (Wisconsin), it feels really good to be able to brag about being a Cardinal Alum and having played on the football team (even though they smashed us when I was playing some years ago with Ron Dayne at tailback). I have been following the Cardinals all season and am excited about this season as well as the future of Cardinal Football.

Likewise, I am excited about the depth of talent this exposure has the propensity to recruit for next year! Of course, I was as hurt as everyone else was about Dante Love. But more than anything, I am happy that he is ok and will be able to live a normal life. There are few things that are as important as one’s health. I just thank God that he is ok.

OTP: We’re coming off the off-week. How does a division 1 athlete tired from the half season typically spend the Saturday he’s not actually on the field?
LC: I usually spent my by-week with my fraternity brothers…perhaps making a road trip to either IU, Purdue, or IUPUI to party with my fraternity brothers statewide. When I look back now, I’m thinking …I probably should have been resting somewhere instead of partying!:-D

OTP: Chat a little about Brady Hoke. Having never played for Hoke, do you believe the team’s success this year is a one-year phenomenon or is he turning the corner in Muncie to continued success? More importantly, do you see Coach Hoke staying in Muncie for very long?
LC: Though I have not played for Hoke, I have spent a little time with him, helping him out a few times when I was working at Ball State as an Assistant director of admissions shortly after I graduated. I think he is a great coach and has rallied the team around a centralized theme of community, and I think that the entire program represents the structure and leadership he brought with him when he arrived from Michigan. I do not believe this is a one year phenomenon. I think that the pieces have finally started to come together under Hoke’s leadership and the Cards’ current success is a result thereof. I do not know how long he will stay but I am confident that for as long as he does, he will continue to lead the program in the right direction.

OTP: Still on the topic of coaches, you played for Bill Lynch while at BSU. As the current head man down the road in Bloomington, he’s getting mentioned as a coach on the hot seat. Thoughts?
LC: Everyone who knows Bill Lynch knows that he is a good guy. That being said, I am definitely pulling for him at IU. However, we all know the cut-throat nature of this game though…Produce, or see ya later! So all I can say is…I hope they can somehow pull it together over there.

OTP: I have to ask you an O-line question since you were one of the hogmollies up front for several years. The offensive line has been impressive this season, both in protecting Nate Davis and also opening up holes for MiQuale Lewis to drop century mark rushing performances on opposing defenses. What sorts of things have you noticed about the offensive line this season that has allowed this to happen?
LC: I think the o-line this year just has an overall aggressive and “go-get-it attitude. They seem to be really gelling and it has a lot to do with their chemistry, and their admiration and respect for Nate and MiQuale. As an o-lineman, there were certain players you just gave an extra push for…players that motivated you and had confidence in you. Though I am not in the “huddle,” it seems that this is what’s happening on offense…And I’m loving every minute of it! BOSS HOGS!!!!

OTP: Can you give us your favorite memory as a football Cardinal?
LC: Attending homecoming this year reminded me of my favorite memories as a Cardinal…Relationships and Brotherhood. No matter how poorly or how well we performed, I bonded with my teammates in a way that is indescribable. Some of these players stood up for me at my wedding, as I have stood up in some of theirs. I built bonds of friendships that lasts forever.

Of course I miss getting out there on the gridiron and hitting somebody, but I always knew the physical aspect of football would not last for ever…but the mental aspect does. Not only did I build immeasurable friendships, I also cultivated leadership skills among my teammates, and on the field that is immediately transferable to almost every aspect of my life. I always remember that even though times may get rough, quitting is never an option. Though my football career did not go exactly how I anticipated it would, I am ever grateful for my experience as a Ball State Cardinal Football player.

(Ed. Note: Big thanks to LaVar for taking the time to sit down with us. A fantastic player, great guy, and ridiculously smart… you know… as evidenced by that whole PhD thing. )

Cardinal Corner: Cortlan Booker

Today is a big day for OTP and we have great news for Cardinal faithful! OverThePylon is happy to announce that we’ve been able to track down several former players who are more than willing to chat a bit about what they’ve been up to and this year’s Cardinal football team. Today’s guest? Defensive End from 2004-2007, Cortlan Booker. (Who incidentally was a beast on NCAA07 on XBOX.)

Cardinal Corner: Cortlan Booker

Anyone who has followed the Cardinals over the last several years will remember the name Cortlan Booker. Booker, a defensive end for the Cards from 2004-2007, Booker was a stalwart on the D-line, a second-team All MAC selection in 06, and a team captain in 07. Booker was not only a team leader on the stat sheet, racking up sacks and TFLs, but an emotional leader as well. Booker has a unique perspective on Cardinal football, as he was there not only for the 2-9 2004 season, Coach Hoke’s second, but also for last season’s International Bowl berth.

OverThePylon: Many fans of the program remember you as a fearless player, passionate Cardinal, and great advocate for the football program and university. Can you tell us a little about what you’re up to these days?
Cortlan Booker: First I want to say thanks for having me on the blog I love to talk sports and I love Ball State. I sincerely enjoyed my time as a representative of the university. Being a graduate, an all conference player and a team captain are some of my proudest moments. I graduated this past May and keep myself busy doing these three things: 1) Looking for a job, its hard out here 2) Rehabbing the peck I tore last season during the Illinois game and finally 3) Being a volunteer coach for the West Lafayette Red Devils, we are ranked number 2 in 3a football and our quarterback (Matt Lancaster) is a major D-1 prospect.

OTP: As an alum and former letter winner, how does it feel to see the Cardinals getting so much love from the press and doing so well on the field?
CB: How does it feel? It feels right … extra right. I’m living in Purdue country right now ( excepting job offers) and believe me we are finally getting the respect we so richly deserve . I just hope the bandwagoneers get to shake hands with the true’s who helped Ball State get where they are when things weren’t running as smoothly.

OTP: Let’s talk for a minute about Dante Love. What advice would you give the team about moving forward and getting over such a devastating injury to a teammate? How do you keep your focus during times like this?
CB: I want to start by saying Dante Love is that guy, trying to replace his talent in a lifetime is laughable. Those minutes in the first quarter of the IU game are one of thousands of true football tragedies. The good news about Dante is in this life he has a lot of great things coming to him, it’s in his nature, he is a kid who can’t lose. I remember a very specific time where he had my back and supported me when he truly did not have to. He has a lot of people on his side and his faith will carry him through. The team will be well served if they can channel his energy when cleat touches turf every week.

OTP: Chat a little about Brady Hoke. Is the team’s success this year a one-year phenomenon or is he turning the corner in Muncie to continued success? More importantly, do you see Coach Hoke staying in Muncie for very long?
CB: Coach Brady Hoke is not a one-hit-wonder. The man has done the job of building up Ball State. The best part about coach Hoke is that he truly cares for his players. As a longtime football player I can tell you the effect that can have on a whole program when you know you are playing for someone who cares about what kind of man you leave the program as.

OTP: The defense has taken a bit of a beating this year, especially in comparison to such a potent offense. What are some things you’ve noticed about the defensive performance of these Cardinals?
CB: There are a lot of things that I like about this years defense. It can be better, but there are no glaring weaknesses and there isn’t a group that looks to be underperforming. The defense will play its best football as the season progresses. The true x-factors of our defensive season will be the health of our starters and continuing great play from (future all conference) Sean Baker, (future team captain) Rob Eddins and (Will have 8 or so sacks this season) Kenny Meeks.

Ed. Note: Big ups to Cortlan for being our first guest and providing his insight. And for the love of God, someone hire this man. If schmoes like Pam Ward can get a job in broadcasting, then CB definitely should be working for someone!