GCL and GMC= UC 'D'

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As always, this year's UC Bearcat football team is loaded with those that played their prep pigskin here in town (many with games at Nippert Stadium).

With the high school season getting a head start on the college season, I cornered two of UC's top defenders (from two of the area's top football high schools) for a little prep/college Q&A at a recent early practice.

Senior JK Schaffer played for coach Tom Grippa at La Salle High School in the GCL,while junior Brandon Mills played for current UC defensive back coach Kerry Coombs at Colerain, along with the present coach Tom Bolden.

gcl-gmc-new.jpgYou both look beefier. Do you both have more leanness and nastiness about you?

Schaffer: "I probably weigh a good 10 pounds more than I weighed last year. I'm not too angry. Just got done with a good practice. What do you think Mills?

Mills: "It was a good practice for the defense. We're just good."

How do you feel compared to the first day you walked in here out of high school?

Mills:  "I've grown up a lot. I think I'm more mature now. Being around the fellows, they just keep me on the right path. They're making me a better person."

Schaffer: "I was a little scrawny. Not too scrawny.  The thing I'm so much better at is the whole mental thing. I'm so much more experienced than I was.  I've got a good amount of ball under my belt now and I feel like I can just go out there and run around and know exactly what I'm going to do every single play. Couple years ago, I had to think about it. Now, it's just muscle memory and it just feels natural."

You both played big-time high school ball, but it's probably still kind of eye-opening when you come in here. It's not that easy, is it?

Schaffer: "It's really not that easy. I was telling the young guys last night, 'You have to earn your keep here. You've got to prove yourself to the older guys and coaches. You can't be given an opportunity. You have to go out and earn it every day.'"

Mills:  "You have to come in here and work from day one to get the spot you deserve. If you work hard, they're going to give it to you and see all the work that you've done."

How is coach Coombs compared to what he was (at Colerain)?

Mills:  "Man, he's the same! Coach Coombs hasn't changed a bit.  I still love the guy. Deep down in my heart, that's my guy."

Schaffer:  "I wasn't a big fan of coach Coombs or Colerain when I was in high school. But, coach Coombs recruited me in his first year at UC. My freshman year, one of my roommates was Evan Davis of Colerain. I got to accept Colerain a little bit after that.  I love coach Coombs and love the Colerain guys on my team. I've got a little bit more respect for them now."

Did you ever wear a shirt with a Cardinal on it?

Schaffer:  "I'm not allowed to say what I would say. Absolutely not!"

GMC vs. GCL?

Mills:  "There's still bad blood over here, but with JK, I'm cool. Everybody else, I don't like."

Schaffer:  "We (both) still don't like (Danny) Milligan (St. Xavier grad)."

The Big East media said you were fifth. Are they wrong?

Schaffer:  "I think the year we went undefeated, they picked us fifth or sixth. The preseason rankings really don't matter. I don't get real upset over it. I like being the underdog anyway and going out and proving people wrong."

Can you use that  to your advantage when you're knocking these allegedly higher-ranked teams around?

Mills:  "Yeah. We just need to take it and run with it. We need to make them see that they picked the wrong team. I feel we're a lot better and we're going to be stronger this year."

Schaffer:  "I feel so much better about this season. Everything's running so much smoother and everyone's bought in and working hard. We've got guys on this team that have played a lot of football. I think that's one of the main things in college football--experience."

Is this your last Higher Ground training camp?

Schaffer: "This is my last one."

Will you laugh at Mills when it's over?

Schaffer:  "Yeah, I'll be like, 'Have fun next year!'"

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