BOWLING GREEN - Gregg Brandon did not want there to be any lapse in leadership in his locker room, so he had the Bowling Green State University football team elect its captains early - well in advance of the start of the August pre-season workouts.
Quarterback Josh Harris, tight end Craig Jarrett, linebacker Mitch Hewitt - all seniors - and junior linebacker Jovon Burkes were picked to captain the Falcons in the 2003 season.
Brandon had the Falcon players make their choices, then back them up with sound reasons, and the new constabulary was put in place late this spring in order to keep every session of off-season conditioning and weight-lifting on course.
“I think it was important to name our captains early and formally establish these guys as the leaders who are responsible for keeping their teammates focused during the off-season,” Brandon said.
Brandon, who served as the BG offensive coordinator for the past two seasons and then was promoted to the top post in the program last December after Urban Meyer left to take the head-coaching job at Utah, said he was thrilled with the selections his team made.
“These kids are all natural leaders, so from that aspect they are ideal choices,” he said. “And they are also all very good football players, and guys who show everyone else what to do by example. They work so hard to prepare themselves, and it becomes a contagious thing with the team.”
Harris finished last season second in the nation in points responsible for per game with 21.09, and he also ranked among the NCAA leaders in total offense (16th, 263.5 yards per game) and scoring (fourth, 11.17 points per game).
He led the Mid-American Conference in scoring, and was fifth in the league in total offense (263.5). On the season he rushed for 737 yards and 20 TDs and had 2,425 passing yards, going 198-of-353 with 19 TDs and 11 interceptions.
The versatile Harris also had three receptions, with two of those going for touchdowns.
Harris broke the BGSU single-season records for rushing touchdowns (20) and total touchdowns (22).
As a sophomore, Harris played in 10 games, starting four at quarterback. He was pressed into service at tailback as a freshman in 2000.
“Being captain hasn't really changed my role on the team a lot, but the title makes it an official thing and you automatically assume more responsibility,” Harris said. “There are a lot of guys on this team who can lead, but as a captain I feel like I have a hand in the direction of the team. We are all focused on hanging a championship banner here in the 2003 season.”
Burkes started 10 games at linebacker last season, finishing with 51 tackles - seven of those for a loss. His three sacks were second-highest on the team. Burkes played in 10 games in 2001 after redshirting in 2000. He was a two-time all-state linebacker at Detroit Central. Burkes said being the only junior captain fills him with pride.
“Captains are almost always seniors, so when the guys voted me in - I feel like it was a real compliment,” Burkes said. “I have known since the day I got here that you need to do everything right in order to be successful, and that is the outline I have followed. As a captain, I won't ask anyone on this team to do anything I won't do myself.”
Hewitt's 84 tackles last season ranked third on the team. He recovered three fumbles last season, tops in the MAC, and has 14 career starts to his credit. Hewitt returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown against Missouri last year.
“This is an honor that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world,” Hewitt said. “The team made their choices for a reason, and to be put in this position by your peers is a privilege we all respect and take very seriously. We've taken ownership of the team and worked to keep everyone focused on our goals.”
Jarrett is coming back from a knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2002 season. He needed surgery to repair the damage to his knee, which occurred in pre-season drills.
Jarrett is an honor student in chemistry who earned a scholarship after making the BG team as a walk-on. He was redshirted in 1999, played in seven games in 2000 as a fullback, and them moved to tight end in 2001 when BG changed its offense and eliminated the fullback position.
The native of Bellevue played in all 11 games for the Falcons as a tight end in 2001, and was a standout on special teams.
“It was very beneficial to us, and to the team, to have the captains named so early,” Jarrett said. “Our role is very clear and concrete, and we have had everyone on the same page all along. This is a role I really wanted, and these are the guys I want to share the responsibility with.
“I think we all look for instances where we can help the team by being good leaders, and that is what being a captain is about.”