Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meeting Ian

TigerBlog was driving on 95 and was almost to the exit for Route 31 when he saw the taillights.

Usually, there's almost no traffic on TigerBlog's ride to work. For fun, he listens to the traffic report and wonders how all those people can sit by the Lincoln Tunnel or on the Gowanus Expressway every morning.

The biggest traffic area he has is usually where 95 and 206 come together, if he gets off on 206. Then it backs up for about five minutes until he gets past the Lawrenceville School. Other than that, there's no much to slow him down on a normal morning.

This morning was different. If the traffic on 95 was backed up to 31, then it had to be an accident in a bad location. Hopefully nobody was hurt.

Fortunately for TB, he saw the traffic before the exit, so he got off, went up to Federal City Road and made his way to Carter Road and then 206. Crisis averted.

Others weren't so lucky with the traffic, including TB's colleague Craig Sachson, who sat through the whole wait.

TigerBlog got a text message from Craig at 9:15 saying that he was interviewing someone for his weekly podcast at 9:30 but that he obviously would be late and could TB ask if he could wait around. Sure, TB said.

If you don't listen to Craig's podcasts, you should.

TigerCast comes out every Thursday and is really, really well done. There is a little commentary at the beginning and then two or three interviews with Princeton athletes or coaches, with every sport represented, most multiple times, during the academic year.

At around 9:25, a rather large young man - turns out he's 6-2, 295 pounds - walked into the office looking for Craig. TB put two and two together and figured that this was the TigerCast subject.

TB explained the situation, and the young man said no problem, he could wait, his next class was at 11.

Then he did something most people his age don't do. He introduced himself and shook TB's hand. Most college kids will until they are approached, rather than doing the approaching.

His name is Ian McGeary, a junior defensive lineman for the football team from nearby North Brunswick. McGeary is in his first year as a starter, and he has 12 tackles and a sack through four games, including five tackles this past Saturday against Colgate.

His next game is Saturday at 3:30 against Brown. It's a pretty big game for Princeton, who is playing for a second straight Ivy League championship and is currently 1-0 in the league with six Ivy games with six weeks to go.

This was a Tuesday morning though. The last game was three days ago. The next one not for four days. This was a peaceful moment in between.

It's how football works. It's a very structured, regimented sport, with very little variance from week to week.

And the fury that gets unleashed, especially from a defensive lineman, on a gameday? Well, there was none of that in TB's office this morning.

Nope, there was just a polite young man from Middlesex County.

He talked about how his mother works near Quakerbridge Mall. About the fortunes of the North Brunswick High School football team, and a little about the situation at one of its rivals, Sayreville.

TigerBlog asked McGeary what he wanted to do post-Princeton, and he said he wanted to go to medical school, maybe after a little time off. His ultimate goal is to be in orthopedics.

Bob Surace, the head football coach, stopped in for a second, and coach and player had a nice greeting.

Craig showed up right when TB had to step out to go to the weekly event meeting. In all, TB and McGeary spent about 30 minutes together.

In those 30 minutes, TB got an up-close, 295-pound reminder of what Princeton Athletics is all about - the athletes themselves.

The goal is to provide the best possible experience for the athletes. TB says that all the time, hears that all the time in meetings. It's true.

But it's also easy to lose track of the fact that each of these athletes in an individual having his or her own individual experience. And it's easy to lose track of just how incredible some of these kids are.

TigerBlog told McGeary he was the PA announcer at football games. Hopefully, he'll get to say his name quite often this Saturday. Maybe he'll just give him tackles even if he doesn't make them. Nah.

Whether or not Princeton wins Saturday or wins another Ivy title during McGeary's last two years, the big kid who sat in TB's office this morning is having the kind of experience that should be the envy of every college that fields athletic teams.

He plays the sport he loves. He knows an NFL career is unlikely. He has a better career goal than that anyway.

It's not about whether or not Princeton can stay in a hotel the night before a home game or can give him limitless meals in a special athletes' dining room, like the Power Five conferences can't wait to do.

It's about being a real student and a real athlete - and having the right reasons for pursuing both.

TigerBlog didn't need to be reminded of that this morning. He knows it full well every morning, and it's one of the things that has kept him here all these years.

Still, it's always good to have that refresher. This morning, it came in the form of Ian McGeary.

No comments: