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Published: Thursday, 4/16/2009

Beckman points to UT's history

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Tim Beckman earned bachelor's and master's degrees in education but is a self-professed history buff.

The University of Toledo football coach is trying to pass his love of history on to his players. He has used some of his time in spring drills to brush up the Rockets on the team's past.

"College football has been built by the traditions of it," Beckman said. "We're trying to make sure our players understand there's been a lot of sweat on this football field in the Glass Bowl. It's created such a great tradition at Toledo."

The guest coaches invited to tomorrow's 7 p.m. spring game at the Glass Bowl are one part of it. Bruce Gradkowski, John Greco, Jalen Parmele, Wasean Tait, Mike Bell and Tom Ward will help direct the team split up into two squads for the scrimmage.

Before practice a few weeks ago, Beckman invited UT legend Chuck Ealey to speak to the team.

"I want to let these young men understand who Chuck Ealey is, and Mel Long and Bruce Gradkowski," Beckman said. "It's important that our players see them face to face and that they're involved. Because this is their program."

Another aspect of the history lessons came from presentations by groups of players. Every Friday the team listened to speeches from their peers. Topics included the bowls the Rockets have played in and that the Mid-American Conference is affiliated with, and the "era of the undefeated" in 1969-71, when UT won 35 in a row.

Senior tailback DaJuane Collins utilized his broadcast journalism major for his group's presentation. The group filmed Collins and sophomore offensive lineman Matt Rubin on location next to several program and university symbols. They interviewed other players standing in front of the rocket at the Glass Bowl, the spirit rock, the university seal on Centennial Mall and the "circle of champions" shrine of trees also on the mall.

The group, led by Collins' expertise, edited the footage into a five-minute video. They also gave a PowerPoint presentation.

"It was great. I know I learned a lot about the university and the football team that I didn't know," Collins said. "It's giving me a chance to see where this program was.

"We put a lot of time and effort into it and it taught us a lot."

Although the Rockets endured 15 fairly grueling practices over the last month, Beckman wanted to make the new coaching staff's first spring with the players an all-around experience.

"We want to teach them it's not always about the X's and O's," Beckman said. "It's learning about what this place is all about."

Greco, Tait and Ward will help coach the Gold team, which will feature D.J. Lenehan as the starting quarterback. Junior Alex Pettee will quarterback the Blue team, which has Parmele, Gradkowski and Bell on its side. Lance Moore, who was previously announced as a guest coach, had to cancel.

After finishing the 2008 season injured, Collins is eager to play in a (mostly) real game again.

"It's the first actual spring game I've played in," Collins said. "I'm really excited to get a chance to show the fans what the team and new coaching staff can do."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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