Seniors getting ready for last hurrah
Coach Kerwin Bell will say good bye to another senior class this week and next.
Coach Kerwin Bell will say good bye to another senior class this week and next.
Coach Kerwin Bell isn’t afraid to admit that he’s shed a tear or two before and it won’t be any surprise if it happens again Saturday as he says farewell to his senior class in their last home game.

“Yeah, I’ve done it (teared up) before, I won’t deny that,’’ Bell said. “I get very attached to these guys, especially the ones who’ve really bought into the program for the four years they’ve been here. I’m proud of the guys.’’ Bell has a special affection for this year’s crop of seniors and with good reason – they’ve accomplished a lot and propelled the program forward.

“Last year was a really emotional time, for me, that first one, but this class has had so many more that contributed, so many more that has been a part of what we’ve done here and it’s going to be a very emotional day for all of us,” he said. “These guys have been good football players and they’ve been great people. To lose a class like this with so many contributors is going to be a very big loss for our program, there’s no denying that. We’ve got to replace a lot of good football players, a lot of good people that have a lot of character and we’re going to honor them.’’

Bell clearly remembers when this group of seniors, both fourth and fifth-year, came aboard. Times were a bit leaner then.

“This is our second recruiting class. We came in the first year, got here late in January and sort of scrounged together a class that year with Rudell Small (who graduated last year) and Tommie Rogers (who is a fifth-year senior and about to graduate) and went 3-8 that first year,’’ Bell said.

“That first year we had some really good players, Leonard Payton, Small and those guy, but this next class of seniors, the Josh McGregors, and all those offensive linemen, receivers and running backs, all the secondary, the defense this class, that second year class, we hit on a lot of great players,’’ Bell said. “They’ve all played a lot because they had to and now as seniors they are playing some really good ball.’’

That good play has resulted in the class of 2011 being responsible for myriad marks future classes will take aim at.

Heading in to Saturday’s game against Butler (noon start) they have posted a 32-12 record and won two Pioneer Football League championships. They currently are battling for a third.

They have the longest home win streak in the country at 13, set the PFL record for consecutive wins (16) and have a record-setting quarterback who is the face of the team in McGregor.

“For a class who came here after we were 3-8 and we had had maybe one winning season in 10 years, no championships at all, and this class comes in here and win these championships, that’s pretty special,” Bell said. “It tells you what kind of kids this class has.’’

It includes McGregor, from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., who holds virtually all JU passing records and by the time the season ends will hold many in the PFL. He also has made his mark nationally and is in the all-time Football Championship Series top 10 for career touchdown passes and top 20 in career passing yards.

McGregor typifies the grit of the class. He came to JU at the last minute, was the fifth-string quarterback and quickly worked his way to the top of the depth chart.

“It’s been a great experience here,’’ McGregor said. “There’s been a great group of friends I’ve made in my time here, great coaching staff, the championships that we won. I’ll remember it the rest of my life. The opportunities I’ve been handed since I’ve been here, I’m going to take them and hopefully use them down the road. Leaving here as the winningest class is something special that hopefully we’ll carry on for a while and hopefully the next class can do it. It’s something great to be known for at least a year.’’

As he says good bye, Bell doesn’t seem, and may never get, comfortable with the finality of situation.

“I understand that this Senior Day is, many times, their last opportunity to play in front of their family and friends and play here at JU,’’ he said. “I understand what the finality of that means and I understand how much they want to do well and it’s an emotional day.’’

- - Jim Nasella