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Wagner College veterans ready to rebound in '09
To say that Matt Martin, Tavares Lee and Joe Harkins have turned a negative into a positive is an understatement. Negative doesn’t do justice to Lee’s and Martin’s mental state last fall when injuries apparently wiped out their senior seasons at Wagner College.
For Harkins, it was only slightly less trying. He had worked his butt off after his freshman year – he could squat 600-plus pounds – and was set to start at defensive tackle when a fractured ankle wiped out his sophomore season.
“It was tough coping,” the 6-foot-1, 275-pound redshirt senior tackle said as the team put finishing touches on preparations for tomorrow’s annual Green and White intrasquad scrimmage.
“Mentally, I was so devastated. All I could do was work out in the weight room and watch film. I couldn’t even travel with the team,” Martin echoed Harkins.
“It was very tough,” said the 6-4, 315-pounder who was considered the Seahawks’ best offensive lineman going into the 2008 season – until he suffered knee (meniscus) and ankle injuries. “Injuries do happen, but watching so many talented people go down.”
“One of the hardest things I ever had to go through,” added Lee. The 5-10, 190-pounder was a starter in the Seahawk secondary until he suffered a torn labrum. “Watching the guys I came into Wagner with – the greatest bunch I ever played with – watching them struggle was really tough.”
Martin and Lee were referring to the 2008 team’s rash of injuries which, at times, seemed to have more starters on the sidelines than on the field and which was a major factor in the Seahawks’ 3-8 record, the worst in coach Walt Hameline’s 28 seasons.
All three are being counted upon to play major roles as the Seahawks seek to turn things around.
“(Martin) is a staple,” offensive coordinator Jim Gibbons said. “We’re so much better with him on the field. He’s big, physical and athletic. He can engulf a defensive lineman and with his quick feet, he can get to the second level.”
“Harkins is one of the best defensive linemen in the league,” defensive coordinator Mark Collins said. “I still don’t know why Joe wasn’t all-NEC after last season. He’s an impact player and will give us something we desperately need: A steady anchor in the middle.”
“(Lee) works, works, works,” Collins said. “We missed his presence last season. We’re counting on him for his leadership and his smarts.
“Testimony to his value – and Matt’s and Joe’s – is that we brought them back,” Collins said.
The positive, though, is not simply Wagner’s having them for the upcoming season, but how all three have put an emphasis in the right place of the term student-athlete.
The missed football season was never confused with the academic year.
All three have their bachelor’s degrees, Harkins and Lee in business management and Martin in information systems.
And, the missed season has given them an opportunity which they likely would not have had without football’s financial aid.
“Probably not,” Lee said. “I would have had a very hard time staying here for my masters.”
“Probably not,” Martin said. “At least I’m getting some good out of missing last season.”
“No way,” Harkins said. “The injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
A negative has become a positive only because all three realized that student comes before athlete.
By Jack Minogue, Staten Island Advance