COLUMBUS, Ohio – It is incredibly easy to look at season statistics and immediately be drawn to superlatives like 295.9 rushing yards per game, the No. 7 rushing attack in NCAA Division III, 30 rushing touchdowns, and an individual that became just the third runner in program history to accumulate more than 1,000 yards in a single season. If you looked at and were drawn to some of Capital University's offensive numbers, you're likely just as guilty as most of overlooking one of the most important factors that helped generate those numbers.
In front of every great rusher stands tall a man that serves as the foundation of a wall charged with the responsibility of playing "big brother", dutifully protecting those on each side and behind him. That man for the Crusaders is junior center Will Weir.
"I had dreams of playing quarterback," said Weir. "I did play quarterback when I was younger, but then I just grew bigger than all of the other kids and they put me on the offensive line."
Size can take you a lot of places, but the combination of some additional key traits and skill sets lands you at the center of the offensive line, literally. At 6-2, 255 pounds, the Zanesville, Ohio native may not be the largest horse in the stable, but his combination of leadership, football IQ and quick feet naturally guided him the center position as he grew up (and out).
"I wanted to still be involved with the ball, so I picked center," said Weir. "As you get older you get more responsibilities. I like being in charge, making calls and having (the game) put on my shoulders to do the right thing."
At Zanesville High School, Weir and the Blue Devils ran a pass-heavy spread offense, quite different from the triple option that third-year head coach Craig Candeto runs. That didn't faze Weir, who passed on multiple Division II scholarship offers and a preferred walk-on opportunity at Division I University of Miami (OH).
"It was more than just football here at Capital. Coach Candeto was coming in at the same time as me and I felt like he was a good guy to play for. I came to campus in the spring of my senior year and all the guys came forward and made me feel like I was a part of the team already," explained Weir.
Weir emphasized he wanted to be a contributor right away, and that he was as he now enters his third season as the Crusaders' starting center. He has played in 19 games in his two seasons wearing purple and white, starting all of them. As a freshman in 2013, he was part of a unit that finished the season as the No. 20 rushing offense in the country.
Weir said of his first games a Crusader, "coming in as an 18-year-old kid, I wanted to play right away, and I did, but the biggest challenge was still being a kid and going up against 22- and 23-year-old grown men while still trying to figure it out."
He figured it all, alright. Last year, he and his fellow "hogs" up front helped the Crusaders finish as the No. 7 rushing attack in the nation, ranking as high as No. 1 during the season and resetting multiple team single-game offensive records that stood for more than 50 years.
However, his reaction to seeing some of the only numbers that validate his work is fairly typical of an offensive lineman.
"It means we're doing something right," said Weir. "It always feels good to see those things and look at those numbers. At the end of the day, it really only matters if you're winning the game each week."
After a 3-7 season and 3-6 finish in OAC play last year, Weir and his linemates are looking for a few more W's and this year – the year of the breakout – may be the time to find them. He will be joined by returning starters and classmates Jack Harding (Bellbrook, Ohio) and Zach Bennington (New Vienna, Ohio). Fellow junior Robert Beck (Port Clinton, Ohio) is due to return from injury and sophomore Zack Kennedy (Grove City, Ohio) received valuable playing time as a reserve last year that may help increase his playing time in 2015. Together, they will help junior B-back Brent Walton (Pickerington, Ohio) turn in a third consecutive all-conference performance and protect the Capital quarterback that emerges as the opening day starter.
Weir sees the opportunity that he and the Crusaders have to make a major push up the ladder of the Ohio Athletic Conference this year. As a music aficionado, Weir effortlessly references the popular Bruce Springsteen hit "We're Livin' in the Future". The correlation clicks; the title says it all. Now Weir, the groundskeeper, says "it's time to open up the gates and let the wild dogs run".