NEWPORT, R.I. – Collegiate football programs across the country go to great lengths to recruit the best players. Bob Chesney, head coach at Division III Salve Regina, is finding them right on campus, in the academic halls of the university’s administration of justice department.
All five of Chesney’s team captains this season are majoring in ADJ. In fact, two dozen roster spots are made up of players who are majoring in ADJ. It’s no coincidence, he’ll argue, that with all these ‘administers’ of justice on the field, the Seahawks have achieved the longest current winning streak in all of Division III football (13 consecutive wins, 7-0 on the season), their first-ever top 25 national ranking (24) and a No. 1 ranking in the New England Football Conference).
“A lot of these guys who are thinking about becoming state police officers or going to law school have to be able to think under pressure,” Chesney says. “You can’t hide in the law enforcement field and you can’t hide on the football field either. You need strong leadership qualities, you need to be tough and be able to read people. You need to communicate well, assess things and make quick decisions under pressure.”
Vincent Petrarca, senior lecturer in the university’s ADJ program, agrees. He says the leadership qualities that are sharpened in all of Salve Regina’s sports programs for both men and women translate well with the skills demanded for success in both the classroom and the career field.
Together, Salve Regina’s male and female athletes posted a cumulative grade point average of 3.12 to end the spring 2012 semester, including 24 percent with GPAs higher than 3.4. Last year, A.J. Albert was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Division III Football Team.
“Students develop a strong ethical foundation, learn to respect the differences of others, and develop the ability to get along with different types of people – all critical characteristics in a global society,” Petrarca said. “The athlete’s ability to understand teamwork, follow rules and excellent time management skills translate favorably to the classroom experience.”
Student performance is constantly being recorded and evaluated, both on the field and off. Chesney runs his practices like a rigorous college course, something he’s implemented more this season after he and his coaching staff were granted unlimited access at Miami Dolphins training camp in August (the subject of the HBO feature, Hard Knocks).
“Just like in school we grade and assess their performance and productivity,” Chesney says. “We evaluate every practice, every game. It gives players a sense of accomplishment and lets them know if they have to do better.”
No two athletes and no two students are the same, Petrarca says. “Each is endowed with different strengths and brings those abilities into both the classroom and the field of play. They blend both areas and understand the discipline needed for success. They also understand the teamwork necessary to be effective.”
There’s a fine line between winning and losing, and Chesney counts on the leadership abilities of his five team captains to show the way to success.
“When push comes to shove, when it’s 4th and 1 and we need a first down – we know that these guys are voices that will be heard and will put it out there,” he says. “In the heat of the moment, they’re trained to lead, both physically and mentally.”
NEXT GAME: Salve Regina (7-0, 4-0) visits Massachusetts Institute of Technology (3-3, 2-3) on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.
PHOTO CAPTION: Salve Regina’s senior football captains, all ADJ majors, include (from left) Patrick Keenan, TE, North Smithfield; William Regan, DL, Amesbury, Mass.; Anthony Hannon, LB, Orange, Calif.; Daniel Kehew, OL, Portsmouth; and Matt Petersen, DB, Bristol, Conn. (Matt Boxler photo).