Current college trio carry on Westview tradition of linemen
Posted: Friday, November 30, 2012 12:00 pm
By KEVIN WEAKS
Westview’s football program has earned a reputation of producing linemen ready to compete at the next level.
Highlighted by the likes of Chad Clifton, Justin Harrell and Will Ofenheusle, who parlayed their talents into successful collegiate careers and even solid stints in the professional ranks, the tradition has grown over the years, passed down from one group to the next.
Now, another trio are making their marks at the college level.
While no one will mistake Bethel University, Wheaton College and Ouachita Baptist for the University of Tennessee, three former Chargers are certainly worthy of mention alongside their heralded fellow alums for what they are currently doing on the college level.
This past season, Bradley Hahn was a junior offensive lineman at Wheaton (Ill.) College, Barkley Legens was a redshirt freshman at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkedelphia, Ark., and Damani Taylor was a freshman defensive lineman at nearby Bethel University.
All three are carrying on the lessons learned at Westview.
“We’ve certainly become a place over the years that has turned out more linemen than some other places,” veteran Westview head coach Don Coady said. “We’ve been noted for that for a while now. It seems like every school has its spot where it develops good players for college. Milan, for instance, seems to turn out inside linebackers every year.”
Coady strongly believes in the tradition aspect, saying those who came before Hahn, Legens and Taylor left their mark, and that the current college trio has certainly been noticed and emulated by the current Charger players.
“I think our older players have passed that down to the younger ones,” Coady said. “The players now see what those before them did to make themselves college-level players and, in some cases, NFL players, and they do the work, too. So, it gets passed down from one group to the next.”
Coady points out that, in the case of linemen on both sides of the ball, size matters. But, he quickly adds, so do good work habits.
“A whole lot of being a good lineman is having the right genetics of size, maybe 75 percent of it,” Coady said. “The rest is the willingness to develop your skills. There are a lot of players who, for whatever reason, don’t take their size and develop it. You have to be born with the frame, but then you have to be able to move the frame.
“Will Ofenheusle is a great example. He was born to be 6-foot-8, but he also knew he had to develop his frame into a football player. So, he literally worked thousands of hours on his own to develop into a great lineman. There no telling how many jump ropes he wore out just developing his footwork and agility.”
In the cases of both Hahn and Legens, hard work was vital to developing into good prep players worthy of a chance at the next level.
“When Bradley came in, he had good size,” Coady said of Hahn. “He didn’t have a lot of ability, but he worked hard and got better every year. He was a much better player when he left than when he came here.”
A three-year starter at Westview who was twice named all-region, the 6-1, 290-pounder played in five games for the Thunder in 2011 and played in nearly all of Wheaton’s games this season, starting in half at left guard.
“Bradley had a nice year for us this past season as a part-time starter and a solid No. 2 guard,” Thunder head man Mike Swider said. “He saw significant action and played through a few injuries in helping us claim a share of the conference championship. We expect similar success again next year and will need Bradley to step into the role of a full-time starter and play well.”
Wheaton, an NCAA Division III school, posted an 8-2 overall record, averaging 40 points and 478 yards per game.
Legens had a similar entry into the prep ranks, working his way into a starting role and eventually earning all-district accolades at defensive lineman. He was named the Chargers’ most improved player and best defensive lineman.
“He was a late developer,” Coady said. “As he physically matured in his sophomore and junior years, it became evident that he would be a good player. And, by the time he was a senior, he had developed into a really good player and a very good athlete. He might not have been someone you would pick out of a crowd, but when he put the pads on, he was a very good player and athlete.”
This past season, Legens (5-11, 215) had five total tackles in four games for the Tigers, including three solo stops to help head coach Todd Knight’s team post a 6-4 overall mark.
Ouachita Baptist plays at the NCAA Division II level and is a member of the Great American Conference.
Coady said Taylor had the look of a player when he entered the Westview program as a freshman, and he had a similar immediate impact at Bethel.
“When you saw him, you figured going in that, if he developed a good work ethic, that he’d be a good player, and he did that,” Coady said of his eventual two-time all-stater. “He was good about working on the things he needed to do to get better.”
As a true freshman at Bethel, Taylor played in every game, earning honorable mention All Mid-South Conference honors. He was Bethel’s fourth leading tackler with 58 total stops. He had nine tackles for losses and two sacks.
Coady says there no secret formula to becoming a college-level player. It’s simply a matter of taking care of business — in the classroom as well as on the field.
“The first thing is academics,” he said. “You have to be able to qualify. All levels have standards you have to reach just to get in, and all three of these kids reached those easily. Then, all were good football players. They were good players and all good character kids, and they all had good careers here.”
The next generation at Westview has, no doubt, taken notice. Published in The WCP 11.29.12