ALBANY, N.Y. -- Eric LaPorta came away from the University of Albany football teams spring practice as the starting center. However, the sophomore and 2010 Yorktown had reservations about his showing.
Although I did improve my playing ability during the spring, I felt I did not make enough strides to feel happy with my performance and be assured the starting spot would be mine in August, LaPorta said.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound LaPorta took it upon himself to secure the position once August practice began. Not only did LaPorta show he belonged as a starter, he has anchored an offensive line which has led to 2,098 yards in 11 games. The Great Danes average 190.7 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards-per-carry.
Overall, Albany has scored 376 points in 11 games and takes an 8-3 record into a NCAA Division I Football Championship Series Subdivision game against Stony Brook, 2 p.m., Saturday. This will be Albanys first play-off appearance since becoming a Division I program.
Qualifying for the NCAA playoffs is a high accomplishment for us, particularly because no other Albany football team has done this during its stint as a Division I school, LaPorta said. We are excited to be given this chance to play for our school. LaPorta received an endorsement from the coaching staff following spring ball, but competition would fierce in preseason.
At the end of spring ball, the coaches told me they were happy with me, but were bringing in a junior college center with whom I would compete with for the starting job, said LaPorta, a double major in criminal justice and history. This made me realize I had to get stronger, faster, and more technically sound in my play if I wanted to have a shot in August.
LaPorta spent the summer at home working diligently, preparing himself for the challenge. I knew I had to play at very high level during preseason camp if I wanted to play so I left everything on the field, said LaPorta, also a former Yorktown wrestling standout.
"I did not want to waste one rep because I knew the incoming center would not. I had to show the coaches that I deserved the spot because of my ability and knowledge of the game.
LaPorta took it beyond the football field, doing his homework in the film room and working on aspects of his game he felt he needed to. Once LaPorta received word that he was the starter, he was pleased, but had more responsibility placed on him because the center is the offensive lines captain. Snapping the ball was just one aspect of what LaPorta had to do.
Walking up to the line of scrimmage, I need to identify the front the defense gives us as well as make the calls that will determine which man our lineman will work for, LaPorta said. I also make the protection calls. The other linemen and I also call out any type of blitz or stunt that the defense may throw at us.
LaPorta is the youngster on the offensive line, alongside three seniors. The group melded quickly and has been a cohesive unit since preseason. We have excellent chemistry as well as very good leadership, LaPorta said. Our three seniors have experience playing together and they have helped the young guys out. We also communicate well which is very important during the game.
Before the year began, our O-line was picked as the weak spot of the team and our ability was questioned as a unit. By making the playoffs, it shows that we were able to come together as a unit and prove people wrong that we could take control of a game and dominate the line of scrimmage.
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