October 5, 2010

McMullen stays the course

At the start of the 2010 season, the Akron Hoban Knights were confident they had the ability to put together an undefeated season and make a long playoffs run.

A 30-13 win over Garfield in the season opener provided plenty of momentum heading into week 2, but the Knights fell to Walsh Jesuit, 26-6. They failed to rebound the next week as they lost to Youngstown Boardman, 14-10.

The Knights did win two of their next three, including last week's 45-6 win over Chanel, but after six games Hoban is 3-3 and on the outside looking in at the Division III, Region 9 playoffs.

"I don't think any team is like, 'oh, we're not going to make the playoffs,'" said Hoban junior defensive end Greg McMullen. "I don't think like that as a player. We could be 0-4 and I would think we are still going to make the playoffs."

McMullen has reason to remain optimistic.

The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder, one of Ohio's top class of 2012 recruiting prospects, is part of a defense that gives Hoban a chance to win every game. He teams up on the defensive line with another top junior prospect in LaTroy Lewis.

Together they wreak havoc on every opponent's offensive game plan.

In the 14-10 loss to Boardman, the Knights held Boardman to just 80 yards of offense.

"We handed it to them by penalties," McMullen said. "That was heartbreaking."

Sitting at .500, McMullen knows all he can do is play as hard as he can, and he hopes that inspires his teammates to do the same. If that happens, the Knights just might earn a shot at the playoffs.

"We need to finish the last four games as hard as we can and see if we can get into the playoffs," McMullen said.

As one of the top recruits in the class of 2012, McMullen holds several early scholarship offers, including one from Ohio State, and he's been invited to attend games at several schools this fall.

"I've been to an OSU game and hopefully Oct. 30 I get to make it out to Nebraska for their game. I'll hopefully make it to some other ones, too," he said. "I believe I'm going to go to a Northwestern game."

For McMullen, the game invites and offers are motivation to keep working hard. But, after playing both ways on a Friday night he prefers to spend his Saturdays parked in front of the television set.

"As the season goes on you get beat up and stuff, especially since I play both ways," he said. "I don't really want to go out and watch more football. I just want to relax and watch it on TV. I'm a big guy and need the rest. I don't even like to go out with my friends when they go partying. I like to sit around. I'm a couch potato."

Through six games, McMullen is Hoban's leader in tackles and sacks. He's produced despite opponents running away from him.

"Teams don't really run my way," he said. "We looked at a statistic and I can average on one hand how many times they run my way. I've got to hustle for whatever I do."

McMullen attended Ohio State's game against Miami earlier this season and he plans to return to Columbus for the Penn State game.

"It was a big game, so there were about 107,000 in the stadium and another 20-30,000 outside," he said. "It was rocking. The atmosphere was great as always."

During that visit McMullen didn't have much of an opportunity to talk with the OSU coaches, but he stays in contact with them as much as he can via email and he calls once or twice each month.

"They send me mail to come back down to a game and they stay in touch, too," he said. "They send me little stuff for motivation, which is pretty cool. I try to call once or twice a month or email to see how they're doing, but I don't want to bug them."

Because they are both top prospects, McMullen and Lewis have many of the same schools showing interest and they have discussed the possibility of playing together at the next level.

"That's one good possibility," McMullen said. "Why not play again with somebody you've played with the last four years. We've known each other since we were 10 or 11 and played on the same pee wee team."

Neither McMullen nor Lewis is in a hurry to make a college decision.

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