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Welcome to toughman football in Montross

altBarely three weeks into preseason practice, longtime Washington & Lee head football coach Malcolm Lewis has already run the gamut of emotion worthy of a late season game with playoff implications. The first week of practice was “magical.”
“I had team leadership like I have not had in, maybe never, but certainly in years, coming from DJ Brooks,” said a reflective Lewis. Brooks, a wide receiver and four-year starter, was poised to lead the team from the field and continue to attract recruiting attention in what was to be a stellar senior season. Now, though, his athletic future is uncertain, after he was diagnosed with a lacerated pancreas and unable to play any sport for months, if not longer. He had not done any hitting in practice, so the cause of the ailment remains a mystery. Less of a mystery is how the team and the program will respond to the immediate absence of Brooks.

“We have got great, great chemistry on this team,” Lewis said. “As long as I’ve coached, there is still no way to predict how your individual players will respond to each other, the coaching staff, the intensity of practice … but this team has gelled beautifully from the first day of practice.”
Obviously, everyone is disappointed that Brooks won’t be lining up for the first snaps of the season, but apparently the character of the team is that members are going to give their all and see what happens, no matter who is one the field.
The first scrimmage is Thursday, Aug. 20, in Fredericksburg with the defending AA Division II state champions James Monroe, who laid a 49-0 walloping on the Eagles in a regular season game last year. Clearly, Lewis’ boys will need all the gelling they can handle between now and then.
“We’re going to need some other kids to step up and play to their fullest potential without DJ,” Lewis said. “Travis Seeger, Danny Brooks, Jamar Tate, and Brian Burrell have all got to be true leaders and consistent contributors.”
Coach Lewis has been feverishly redesigning practice plans to milk the reality that he has a bunch of kids who are committed to hard work and being the best they can be.
Lewis said: “I just really want to give these kids the best I can give them. Coaching them is going to be a lot of fun, regardless of the outcome of the games.”
Those who know Lewis claim he is jollier and more positive in regard to this season than in many reason years. A longtime assistant who declined to be named said, “Usually by mid-August, he’s telling people to expect the worst. This year, he’s not making any promises, but all he talks about is how much he loves this team.”
Make no mistake, Brooks is hard to replace and blue chip athletes aren’t exactly commonplace on the Bermuda grass in Montross, but in single A football, 11 tough young men working cohesively, doing what they’re coached to do, will be successful, no matter how you define the concept.
Lewis said pointedly before practice on Monday, “Even the state championship team had some folks who were not entirely team first. There was some dissonance even among those players. These guys are a real team.”
What more can a coach ask of his young charges?

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