Morris Sussex Sports and Football University are teaming up this season to present our Player of the Week award. Football University is the leading player development organization in the country that teaches players techniques to perform at the highest level possible on the field.
At the beginning of every week we at Morris Sussex Sports sit around the conference table and try to figure out who deserves the FBU Player of the Week based on the weekend’s games. This week was a bit easy to select because the way Chatham dominated West Essex in semi-finals 45-6 we knew that someone from that game was surely deserving – and we were right.
As we examined the game, it was clear there were some great individual performances. Quarterback Alex Sands threw for 126-yards and two TDs and rushed for another 56 and a TD on the ground, Brian Brady caught for 86-yards and 2 TDs on offense and had an INT on D and Timmy Adams produced points and yards through the air, on the ground and with his foot. But when we looked closely, it was clear that the real driver of all of that offensive assault was by the effort of the offensive line.
So we felt the Cougar offensive line was the most deserving for the FBU Player(s) of the Week. We connected with Jahanzab Khan, Ryan Barnett, Nick Zack, Michael Kellstrom, Colin Ness and Graham LeMon to talk about this game, the fastest way to make their coaches angry and what it will mean for their home town if they bring home a state title next week.
How does it feel to be one game away from infamy?
Jahanzab Khan: It feels like a dream come true to finally have a chance to play in the finals and play to earn a ring. It’s been our goal since our freshman year to make to it to the finals and bring home the title.
Ryan Barnett: It feels amazing! We knew we had it in us, but no one else did and it feels great.
Nick Zack: It feels good to turn around a struggling program and culminate all of our hard work with a championship win. To have our success solidified in history is all we ever wanted.
Michael Kellstrom: It feels like a dream to be one win away from infamy! I still remember going to the state semifinal game in 2005 with my dad Brian Brady and his dad when that Chatham team played Orange. I remember watching as the clock ticked away on their win, and thinking that’s going to be us someday. It feels so surreal that it’s actually happening.
Colin Ness: I think it has really validated all of the hard work and effort that we have put in over these past couple of years. We came into this season with a chip on our shoulders and knew from the scrimmages and shoot-outs that we were going to be one of the best teams in our conference and we finally showed it out on the field. It is not over yet, but it feels great to be finally winning and to have a chance to win a state title.
Graham LeMon: Being one game away is a huge deal! We have all put in the work our whole football career and we deserve to win this game. It is an unbelievable feeling to be this close to bringing back one of the biggest achievements in Chatham history.
Are you six close as a group?
JK: We have been together since the youth days, since 5th or 6th grade, and throughout the years we have gotten to know each other more. Also, we have been working together since freshman year, whether it’s on the field or in the weight room.
RB: Yeah, definitely. That is a huge reason for our success. We have stuck together since middle school.
NZ: The comradery among us lineman is unparalleled. We are more than just teammates, we are friends off of the field too and I feel this contributes to our efficiency as a unit. This also allows us to joke around with each other without getting offended like some of the answers to these questions suggest.
MK: The six of us are very close as a group. Four of us seniors have been playing together since the 5th grade, then Colin Ness was added in the 6th grade, and we have been more or less playing with Graham since 7th grade. We’ve all stuck together since middle school, and as you can see, that chemistry has paid dividends on the field.
CN: We are incredibly close as a unit. The seniors have all played since 5th or 6th grade and LeMon, even though he is a junior, has basically practiced with us since then. We grew up together playing football and it is a great feeling to be able to have a guy next to you that you can trust to do his job, and that you know will get the job done.
GL: We are very close as a group. even though I am the only junior on the starting line, they treat me as if we are all the same. All six of us are a big family who get along and fight for each other
What kinds of things to you say to each other when you get set at the line of scrimmage?
JK: Each play, we communicate with each other and make calls, coded for someone who’s getting trapped or who’s pulling. Calls like “pancake,” “waffles,” “party,” “tea,” and “detroit.” Communication on the line has been great this year and its a reason to why we are successful this season.
RB: When we get to the line we are all business. We make calls and identify who is the trap guy and where everyone is going.
NZ: In the huddle, silence is key to preventing confusion. When we get to the line it’s like controlled chaos. Communication between offensive linemen is vital to success. We sort out our assignments as quickly as possible and then we get down to business. I can’t go into specifics because they are secrets, but we try to be as creative as possible with our calls and this leads to jokes.
MK: When we get up to the line we always communicate who has which defensive player by making coded calls like “whose got the pancake,” “whose got the waffle,” “detroit,” “tea party,” and some less appropriate terms that I shouldn’t share with you. We’ve come up with each of these calls over the years while learning the offensive scheme. Communication on the line is a huge part of our success as a unit.
CN: We call out who we’re going to block, who the trap guy is, maybe call out a blitzing backer. It’s really anything that we see that everyone on the line should know. We talk to the backs and to Sands, and it really has helped to figure out tough blocking assignments because we have a call for just about anything.
GL: When we are on the line of scrimmage, I usually look over to the right of me at our left guard, Colin Ness, and look for advice on who to block. And it never fails because that kid is a genius.
What is the funniest thing that was said in the huddle this season?
JK: Once we step on the field, its go time and business time. We have to get our minds right and be mentally prepared for each play. But when we are winning by a lot, we tend to talk about how our day was and what we ate that day.
RB: It is always funny when someone farts and Kellstrom always gets blamed.
NZ: It’s not really talking, but one of the funniest things that happens within the huddle is almost like a long running joke. Kellstrom is notorious for passing gas in the huddle. It has a distinct scent and everyone knows it’s him because he snickers every time he lets one slip out.
MK: Nobody really ever says anything funny in the huddle during games, once each of us steps out onto the field, we are like businessmen with a job to do.
CN: Out on the field, it is all business. Just a play call or what we need to do to get the job done.
GL: Not many jokes are said during game, because no matter what the score, we are only focused on adding another touch down.
Which one of you thinks he is a skill position player trapped in a lineman’s body?
JK: I think that Colin Ness is a TE playing line, although he may not have the speed but in practice he finds his way to grab a couple of catches.
RB: I would say Nick Zack, he always wants the ball. This was shown when he tried to run an interception back from the endzone instead of taking a knee. He only got to around the 5-yard line.
NZ: I am a skill position player within a skill position player’s body, I just happen to play offensive line…at least that’s the way I look at it.
MK: Colin Ness is definitely the skill player trapped in a lineman’s body. Whenever the scout team needs a TE in practice, he always steps right up hoping he can get a pass from Sands. If only he didn’t have hands like feet.
CN: It is definitely Nick Zack. He tried to play running back freshman year, and that did not turn out too well, and we eventually forced him back onto the line.
GL: Hands down Colin Ness. He always tries to line up as a tight end or a running back when going through drills.
Which one of you could eat the most tacos in one sitting?
JK: Although I might be the skinniest one on the line but I do have a big appetite and I think I can eat the most tacos. But I think Kellstrom would be close behind me.
RB: Kellstrom. His mouth is a vacuum.
NZ: Kellstrom. He is a bottomless abyss where food goes to disappear.
MK: I would definitely be the one who could eat the most tacos in one sitting, and I have the credentials to prove it. One fateful night during wrestling season, I single handedly took down three Q’doba burritos in one sitting. Beat that, guys!
CN: Probably Kellstrom, he has an iron stomach and can literally eat anything. The tacos would just disappear and then he would ask for more.
GL: Mike Kellstrom, that kid could probably out-eat all of us combined.
If you all ran the 40-yard dash, who is finishing first?
JK: Me and Nick would have a close race.
RB: I would win, but since I am a tight end I am not counting myself. Considering just the lineman, it would definitely be Nick Zack.
NZ: Obviously, I would finish first because I am the best looking out of all of us, and within the community of linemen good looks has a correlation to speed. Barnett might be a close second if he’s having a good day.
MK: If we all ran the 40-yard dash, Nick Zack is finishing first with Khan and I in a close second place tie.
CN: Either Barnett or Nick Zack – the rest of us are pretty slow.
GL: Nick Zack.
Who is finishing last?
RB: 100% Graham LeMon but his size makes up for his speed, or lack there of.
NZ: Graham would finish last because he would find himself looking at the girls in the bleachers as he does all too often.
MK: Graham finishes last.
CN: Definitely LeMon.
GL: Probably me.
Who can bench 225 pounds the most times in a row?
JK: I think me, Ryan and Kellstrom would have close numbers, because we all have the same max numbers.
RB: I would say that it would either be Khan, Kellstrom, or myself. We are always competing with each other in the weight room.
NZ: Khan because he lived in the weight room in the offseason. He literally moved in.
MK: Khan and I would tie when asked to bench 225 as many times as we could. We have the same max rep in almost every lift. If you count Barnett in there, he would probably tie with us too.
CN: Either Barnett or Jahanzab. They put a ton of time into the weight room and really have seen a lot of gains in all the main lifts. They do competitions in the weight room all the time to see who can do the most reps of whatever we are doing that day.
GL: Jahanzab Khan, that kid eats sleeps and breaths weight room.
What will your other five POW honorees be doing 10 years from now?
JK: Nick Zack will be a teacher, LeMon will be a basketball coach, Kellstrom an Olympic wrestler, Ness a doctor and Barnett a finance guy working on Wall Street.
RB: Nick Zack will be an Italian mob boss, Colin Ness will be some successful doctor, Kellstrom will be an Olympic wrestler, LeMon will be a chef somewhere, and Khan will be in the weight room.
NZ: Graham will be living the high life in Japan as a sumo wrestler, Colin will be a doctor because he was destined to be one ever since he was born, Kellstrom will be the guy who dresses up as Santa and goes to malls during Christmas, Khan will be a personal trainer who likes to impose his will to become stronger on all of his clients and Barnett will be a TV extra because he can’t get away from the camera.
MK: Colin Ness will be a rich doctor, Khan will be a professional body builder married to the tractor tire at Cougar Field, Nick Zack will be a dancer with his own line of Nike products with the slogan being “Naz Knows,” Graham LeMon will be a spokesman for Big and Tall stores, and Ryan Barnett will be an NFL superstar linebacker.
CN: I think Barnett will be playing in the NFL. Kellstrom will be doing something in business. Zack will have his own line of sleek Italian clothing. You know, like the gelled hair and leather shoes sort of look. Kahn will be a physical trainer or playing football somewhere, and LeMon could be playing football or basketball.
GL: Colin Ness will be a brain surgeon, Mike Kellstrom will be a professional eater and Nick Zack will be a rapper.
What’s the quickest way to make your coaches angry?
JK: Get a personal flag or put your hands up and shrug your shoulders.
RB: I would say walking back to the huddle. Our offense is built around speed and whenever we lose time by walking, our coaches get really mad.
NZ: Walking around is basically a sin during practice, so we had to invent the “wog.” It’s a mix between a walk and jog so we look like we are moving fast and satisfy the coaches. Eventually, the coaches caught on and it doesn’t fool them anymore. Now we are routinely asked, “Why are you walking?”
MK: The quickest way to make the coaches angry is to either A: be Matt Nestler; or B: put your hands up and shrug like you don’t know what you did wrong.
CN: The quickest way for them to get angry at us is to slack off a little. They expect the most from us and expect us to give it our all for the three hours we are practicing for. They will always help with mistakes and things like that, but if you don’t give it your all we find ourselves toeing the line with the coaches.
GL: To be on the field without having your helmet on properly.
What will it mean to this team to bring a title to Chatham?
JK: It would mean the world to this team and this town. After having a 23-game losing streak and being at the bottom, it took a lot of hard work and support to get to where we are today. We have practicing since July, where we had conditioning 6 a.m. and then weights after school. Winning the title would be unbelievable and it will show how hard we have wrk together and how big of a family we are.
RB: It would mean everything. Chatham has never won the state championship and to be the first team to do it would be incredible.
NZ: Winning a state championship and getting a ring proves to us that everything we worked for is worth it. It will bring great honor to our town and families, but more importantly it will leave a lasting legacy. State champions are remembered forever and that creates a great foundation for the future of the program to build off of.
MK: Lastly, it would mean the absolute world to this team to bring home a title to Chatham. We have been to the bottom of the abyss and back, and we have fought and clawed are way back to the top of high school football. We have been a family ever since middle school. Nothing would make our team more proud than to be immortalized into the history books of Chatham High School. I truly believe that no other team has fought half as hard as we have over the years to put our program back on the map. No other team has had their entire community and school look down on them for three years and made this type of comeback. No team deserves a state title more than the Chatham Cougars.
CN: It would mean the world to us. We came into this season with a chip on our shoulders and really believing that we could be one of the best teams in the state, and this would be a realization of everything that we have worked towards. We have been dreaming of this since we were kids, and we will not stop until we get the ring.
GL: It means everything to everybody. We all worked hard for this and it has been our goal sinse day 1.
Congrats guys, now go get that ring!
JK: Thank for nominating the hogs for the FBU Players of the Week!
RB: Thanks again!
NZ: Thank you for your nomination!
MK: Thank you for nominating us lineman for the FBU Players of the Week!
CN: Thank you very much for this opportunity!
GL: Thank You!