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BOWLING GREEN - When a teammate needs advice, Loren Hargrove is always nearby willing to talk. When a teammate needs a stern push or isn't pulling his weight, Loren Hargrove is working tirelessly nearby to set a good example.
Hargrove, though, hasn't always had the answers. He hasn't always known where to turn or who to turn to.
Time after time, Hargrove has fallen and picked himself up during his five years at Bowling Green State University. It has not gone unnoticed.
"I feel he's one of the most respected guys on the team," Diyral Briggs said. "He helps out everyone. He's there for all the young cats. That's why he's captain."
Modest career statistics such as Hargrove's rarely warrant captain status, but his peers and coaches choose rather to look at the way Hargrove continually has responded in life after being tackled for a loss.
Hargrove, from Berea, Ohio, was suspended midway through his redshirt freshman season for violating an NCAA rule. In May 2006, Hargrove, an only child, lost his mother to cancer. And last year he endured the complications of switching from safety to linebacker.
It's been a steep climb, but Hargrove has navigated it well.
"I feel very proud. I had a lot of support from the coaching staff and the players," Hargrove said. "It's just been a long road, but I'm glad that I stuck with it and stayed here and made it my home."
For the first time in his career Saturday, Hargrove, whom coach Gregg Brandon said is the most committed player on the team, will begin a season as a starter when the Falcons visit Minnesota.
"When he talks, people listen, and he's everything we want in a captain," said defensive coordinator Mike Ward. "I just hope that he gets a senior season that he's deserving of, which is a winning one. We want him to go out in style."
It would be an improvement from the way he came in.
Hargrove takes full responsibility and makes no excuses for his suspension. He began the season second on the depth chart, but after six games he was ruled ineligible. He retained his scholarship and was permitted to practice, but he struggled to cope with his indiscretion.
"I didn't know where to go," Hargrove said. "You can leave or you can quit, but that wouldn't look right on me and that's not the man behind my name. It's something that I took personal and it was just hard because you want to be out there with your teammates. You feel bad letting them down and not being able to contribute."
Instead of sulking, Hargrove continued to work at getting stronger, at proving to his teammates that he indeed was a good guy, and at upholding his family's strong football tradition that includes uncle Ron Springs (formerly of the Dallas Cowboys), and cousins Shawn Springs (currently with the Washington Redskins) and James Brooks (formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals).
"So many people would have said 'screw this' and just walked away, but Loren never complained about it," fellow senior captain Kory Lichtensteiger said. "He never said, 'Oh man, this is tough'. He just pushed through it and showed some perseverance."
And he continues to show it for anyone in need.
DEPTH CHARGES: There is enough depth on the defensive line that BGSU coach Gregg Brandon figures he can platoon during games.
"We've got more depth there than we have since my first year," Brandon said. "I think [we will rotate], just keeping fresh guys going in there."
Diyral Briggs and Joe Schaefer will start at the end positions. Schaefer, marred by a knee injury last year, beat out returning starter Jacob Hardwick. Angelo Magnone and Adrian Baker should also see time at end.
Brandon could play as many as five guys at tackle. Sean O'Drobinak, a tight end before this year, and freshman Orlando Barrow will start. Nick Davis, Michael Ream and D.J. Young should also play. Brandon plans to redshirt freshman Nick Torresso unless he is needed.
BIG BOYS: BGSU's linebackers are big. Erique Dozier (6-foot, 221 pounds) might have the biggest biceps on the team. Silver and bronze could go to John Haneline (6-2, 231) and Loren Hargrove (5-11, 211). Backup Cody Basler, whom Dozier raves about, is a monster at 6-3, 238.
"Those guys train hard and they train year-round," defensive coordinator Mike Ward said. "With our weight room, our weight program, and our staff, if guys want to be a legitimate football player they have all the tools. And those guys love to work. They know nothing but hard work."