September 13, 2007

Nash, McGuire, Seniors Draw on Experience

Print More

Leadership comes in many forms, and for the captains of the football team that statement could not be closer to the truth. Senior co-captain and cornerback Colin Nash — known for his speed and ability to lock down the opponent’s top receivers — plays fast and loves to talk on the field. Senior co-captain and All-Ivy honorable mention offensive lineman Brian McGuire — the heart of the rock-solid veteran offensive line — likes to sit back and pick his comments carefully. And the third captain, which will be a different senior every week — a nod to the team’s most dedicated and trusted leaders — will bring his own style and on-field talents to the prestigious position. Between these leaders, Cornell hopes it can build a foundation of success, both in results and in state of mind, that will not waver throughout the season or the coming years.
“I think one of our primary roles this year especially is going to be motivators,” Nash said. “In times when things aren’t going well in a game, we want to be the ones to keep the team’s heads and spirits in the right place. … I think Brian and I are excited to fulfill that trust and ability to lead in times when we’re [in] and up-and-down game.”
“We’re expected a little bit more to … act as a liason between the players and the coaches,” McGuire said, adding that the captains are the ones who have to hold everyone together and keep the squad focused on a common goal.
It’s not surprising that, given their common goals, one thing Nash and McGuire have in common is that they’ve come through the system, and have helped develop the team from a league outsider only four years ago to Ivy contender today. The career paths of Nash and McGuire epitomize the hard work and dedication towards a common goal that the teams between that time and now have shown, as the duo has developed from rarely seen freshmen into the core of the team.
“To get elected by your teammates, that’s really saying something in terms of the fact that they trust you as a leader and that they think you’re going to do a good job,” Nash said.
Nash came to Cornell as a wide receiver, and saw limited action on offense, contributing primarily on special teams. But it wasn’t long before the gifted speedster found that his true calling was to dish hits, not to take them.
“I played corner in high school more than I did wide receiver, but I had a lot of success my senior year so that’s what I got recruited as,” Nash said, explaining that he always felt he had a “defense” mentality. “Sophomore year, we were a little strung out at corner — we needed more. I went up to Coach [Jim] Knowles [’87] and said, ‘Listen , I’m not telling you that you should move me, because it’s up to you. But, if you need somebody to move, I’ll do it because I’ve done it before.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘You know what? We were already thinking about it. We want you to do it.’ So, that day, I moved to corner.”
Nash, who has developed into the team’s top cornerback since the position switch, feels it was his vocal skills in tandem with his on-field success that has made him a leader.
“I’m a vocal leader. I try to lead by example as well, but I talk a lot and I talk loud,” Nash said. “Any captain has to lead by example. You can’t just talk and talk and talk and not back up your words. But I consider myself a vocal leader just based on the fact that I talk a lot. I hope that because I was elected captain, people want to hear what I want to say.”
McGuire considers his approach to vocal leadership slightly different, though he admits he likes to keep everyone on their toes with timely musings to lighten the mood.
“Instead of me always trying to be the person on the field always talking … what I like to do, because we do have so much leadership on the team, and so much experience and so many people who care about [the team], I like to allow … other people to step up and share the role,” McGuire said. “So many different people on the team can play a different part in it, and so many different people have all these different things to add.”
Like Nash, McGuire worked his way through obstacles to climb out of obscurity and into his current role.
“Everything that could go wrong as a freshman, when I was trying to get noticed, did go wrong. And then, I had to sit out some of spring ball because of a chest infection,” McGuire said, suffering from hamstring, knee and various other injuries. “So, for all of freshman year and all of sophomore year, I actually never stepped onto the game field. And, I actually didn’t travel until the Columbia game of my sophomore year. So, it took me awhile to make my presence felt, I guess you could say.”
And when he did play in practice, McGuire was filling in for injured teammates. Two weeks into his rookie season, he moved from right tackle to left tackle. As a sophomore, he moved to left guard, then center, then finally right guard — notching time at every position on the line in only two seasons. But after a good set of spring practices after his sophomore season, he returned to find himself thrown into the mix, and hasn’t looked back since. And because of his injuries as a freshman, the fifth-year senior retained his eligibility and was able to return to the Red, fortuitously, as he now will be one of its most important leaders.
“In the beginning, it was injuries that allowed me to come back,” he said. “Career-wise, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do [after last semester.]… [Returning is] something I’m really, really happy I did.”
Apparently, so were his teammates, who McGuire and Nash have praised constantly for their dedication and, in the case of the seniors, their leadership. The pair expressed their fondness for the rotating third senior captain, explaining that it’s a honor their teammates deserve.
“The Third Captain is going to be a senior. Coach Knowles tried to accommodate each senior to the week that they wanted, so if you live in Connecticut, and we’re going to play Yale, then you’d be captain that game, because all of your family would be there,” Nash said. “So, we made it a point this year that each captain gets to walk out for the coin toss. … Personally, I think it’s a great thing because I think when you make through such a difficult road that it is to become a senior in the football program, I think it shows a lot of dedication and a lot of heart, and you deserve to get recognized.”
With a plethora of players who bring different kinds of leadership, and a coaching staff willing to harness those talents, the Red believes it has the right experience and personnel to play with any team. Over the next few months, Cornell fans will be watching in earnest, hoping that this is true.