Bowling Green State University captains are, from left, Khary Campbell, Kurt Gerling, Ryan Wingrove and Malcolm Robinson. Campbell, a linebacker, is a Southview grad. All are seniors.
BOWLING GREEN - The democratic process got a whole new wrinkle when it was time for the Bowling Green State University football team to select its captains for this season. The secret ballot went out the window.
Not only did each Falcon player have to sit down with coach Urban Meyer and tell Meyer his choices for captains, he then had to explain them. Each vote had to signify a player taking a stand for someone he felt would make a good team leader.
“This was serious - real serious - like everything coach Meyer has done,” said senior wide receiver Kurt Gerling, one of the four BG captains. “No one had ever voted this way before. There had to be a lot of thought go into it, because you knew the head coach was going to be looking across the table at you, asking you why you voted the way you did.”
The team selected:
t Gerling, a former Mid-American Conference freshman of the year who broke his collar bone in the opener at Michigan last season but came back and played in seven games. Now working back from knee surgery following an injury early in the spring, Gerling is eighth on the career receptions list at BG with 116.
t Khary Campbell, a senior linebacker from Southview who led the team with 95 tackles last season. Campbell started every game as a redshirt freshman in 1998, missed three games with injuries in 1999, then started all 11 in 2000.
t Malcolm Robinson, a senior offensive tackle who has started every game the past two seasons. Robinson moved to defense to help the team out two years ago, then moved back to offense last year.
t Ryan Wingrove, a senior defensive end who has started every game the last two seasons and had 13 stops behind the line of scrimmage last year.
All four have been in the BGSU program since 1997, and both sides of the ball are represented by two players. If they were not the vocal leaders before the vote, they are now, according to Wingrove, who gave his fellow defenders a tongue-lashing during a recent scrimmage after a sequence of what was called “soft'' play.
“By nature I'm not really that way. I kind of prefer to lead by example and how I play, but once you are made a captain, that changes,” he said. “It's now our responsibility to lead in a lot of other ways, too. These guys said they wanted us to be the leaders, and that's a tremendous honor, but it also means we have to be the first voice pushing the team to give 100 percent.”
Meyer, who was hired last December to turn things around at Bowling Green after six straight losing seasons, said he is comfortable with the choices.
“I think they did a great job of picking their captains,” Meyer said. “I set it up this way because I haven't been here that long and I don't really know all of these kids that well, yet. I'm getting to know them much better, but I wanted to be certain they were making a choice they would stand behind. They convinced me they chose the right guys.”
Meyer said that too often teams make voting for captains a popularity contest, or a vote for someone everyone else might think “should be the captain.
“I didn't want that,” Meyer said. “Selecting captains is a critical thing for this team, and I wanted them to understand that. There weren't any silly votes. Every vote was serious, well-thought-out. I feel like that gives this responsibility a lot more meaning.''
Robinson found that to be a bit overwhelming at first.
“You're honored, but it's a bit of a shock, too,” he said. “There's a lot of guys on this team who could have been chosen, but only four were. That's a big burden on us, but as an athlete you feel honored to have that kind of respect from your teammates.”
Campbell said the locker room, the practice field, the team bus - every place the team goes becomes more important.
“You don't have to be yelling at people all of the time, telling them what to do, but every move you make on and off the field has to be a leadership move,” he said. “A lot of people are counting on us now. They said so by the way they voted.”
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