With last year’s release of the movie “The Blind Side,” Michael Oher accomplished something that had not been done since the invention of football – he brought attention to the offensive line. Fans now have a newfound respect and recognition for the men who protect the quarterback, and for good reason.
For every one of the 64 offensive plays per game that the Georgetown offense has been averaging this season, senior Dan Semler engages in a vicious three- to four-second battle with a fellow six-foot tall, 300-pound athletic giant. Then he gets 30 seconds off and does it again. He does all of this work not for personal recognition, but rather so his quarterback is still standing when he turns around at the end of the play.
When you consider that linemen never touch the ball, do not accumulate any stats, and only hear their names called when they commit a penalty, it is easy to realize why they ordinarily get none of the glory. That is why the ordinarily humble Semler enjoys the fact that linemen like him are finally getting their due respect.
“I’m loving it. It has given me some props,” he joked in reference to the recent publicity for his position. “It’s great that `The Blind Side’ came out. It makes it nice to be able to show people what exactly my role is and what I do on the field.”
In the NFL today, left tackles are the second-highest paid players on the field, trailing only quarterbacks on the pay scale, showing that teams are finally understanding the importance of this position in the modern game. The basic theory driving the newfound respect for left tackles is that the majority of quarterbacks are righthanded, so when they drop back to pass, their backs are turned to the left. Therefore it is the left tackle’s job to protect the quarterback from getting hit from behind, or as the movie puts it, protect his blind side. If a team does not have a good left tackle, then the quarterback, the most important player on the field, will be less effective and more prone to turnovers and injuries. Therefore, in order to have a good quarterback, you also need to have a good left tackle.
Semler, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior captain from nearby Annandale, Va., has been the starting left tackle for the Hoyas for the past three seasons. The fact that the coaches entrusted him at such an important position from an early point in his career shows how much faith they have in him. Starting as a sophomore on the line is rare enough, but starting at left tackle, the position usually occupied by the best lineman on the team, is a distinction reserved only for unique talents. Despite the coaching staff’s evidently high opinion of him, Semler remains humble.
“The hype about the left tackle is overrated,” he insists. “Every member of the offensive line has key matchups at different times in every game. We have to work as a unit in order to be successful. There is no individual accolades on the line. It is all or none.”
As Semler noted, more so than at any other position, the offensive line can only reach its maximum potential if it works as a unit. Every other position on the field consists of one man working by himself to make a play. Whether it is the wide receiver trying to get open or the cornerback trying to shut him down, almost every position on the field is an individual battle. The offensive line, however, is made up of five men who occupy the same area of the field, working together in pursuit of the same goal – protecting the backfield.
This team’s offensive line has taken the teamwork mentality to heart and has strived to work together in order to put last year’s forgettable season in the rearview mirror.
“We are always in meetings together with the coaches and watching film to get better,” Semler said. “But it’s more important that we all hang out outside of football. We are all great friends and the bond helps on the field. That trust in your teammates on and off of the field is huge. We cannot do our job if we cannot trust the guys next to us.”
As a captain of the team, Semler took responsibility after last year’s 0-11 campaign and vowed that this year would be different. He refused to be plagued by another winless season while he was in charge.
“Obviously, the new coaching staff has been great and really helped turn around the team,” he said. “But over the offseason all the seniors came together and set a tone that this was going to be different this year. Personally, I take pride in communicating with the underclassmen on the line and working with them and so far the results have been good.”
“I’m not going to say that we are going to win the rest of our games, but I definitely think we can. To go from a winless season to where we are now has been a great turnaround.”