It's a credit to Lehigh that year in and year out the expectations are so high. This season, Lehigh was picked a very close second, right behind defending champions Colgate.
What's sort of odd about that is only Nigel, and senior OL Ned Daryoush, made the first team all-Patriot list, yet they still were picked second.
What did Keith and Nigel have to say about that?
LFN: Were you surprised that Lehigh was picked second in the league this year?
Senior LB Nigel Muhammad: It's not really surprising to us. We know we have a lot of expectations, it's kind of a regular thing for us. we let the coaches and the media look at that stuff. But for us, we've had the same message since Day One. That started the day after we lost to Colgate. We've had our motto since the start of the offseason last year. Regardless of where we're ranked in the preseason, we're going to get after it.
Senior RB Keith Sherman: Every year there's one champion, and no matter where you're ranked, everyone's going after that one championship shot. Polls are good for the outsiders, but at the end of the day all teams are going to be competing for that one championship. I think that's going to speak more than just polls.
LFN: The disappointment of a 10-1 season last season: does the bitterness of that carry over in any way to this year?
NM: We definitely use that as motivation. With a 10-1 record, we definitely felt like we should have made it. But regardless, if you win the Patriot League, you don't have any worries about making it or not. That's always our goal. Also, this year we want to make it clear that we don't just want to win the Patriot League championship. We want more than that. We want to be champs at the national level, shooting high to compete for a national title. That's our motto and that's our goal for the team.
KS: The way last season ended wasn't the best, obviously. We always have a lot of high expectations. It's always our goal every year to win a Patriot League title. Last year, we had a great season. We were kind of disappointed of course that we didn't make the playoffs, but we had an opportunity to have an automatic bid, and we didn't make it. But that's why we have a new year to compete, because we know that opportunity is there, and we're going to whatever we can to make it this year.
NM: "No Opportunities Wasted." That's our motto.
LFN: Keith, you're going to be lining up with your third starting quarterback in the last four years. Is that a tough adjustment for you?
KS: I don't think so. I know that our coaches [Andy Coen and Dave Cecchini] will put together a gameplan that maximizes our abilities on the offense. Whether it's a running quarterback like QB Mike Colvin was or more of a pocket passer like QB Chris Lum, there was a gameplan that matches them. Whomever it's going to be this year, it's going to be a great game plan. We're going to be in a position to win games.
LFN: Keith, do you see your role being basically the same as it was?
KS: This year, just because the new QB isn't going to have had as much experience as Chris or Mike, I think I might have an expanded role. I might carry the ball a lot more than in years past. But I think at the end of the day whatever game plan the coaches come up with, I'll just do my part, and help the team win.
LFN: How did you hear about Lehigh initially?
KS: I had a friend in high school whose older brother who went to Lehigh. But I didn't know much about it. Coach Sawyer same and visited me junior year, but I didn't think much of it then since I was being recruited by bigger schools. Senior year, though, I got injured, and Lehigh was still there. I came and visited and I absolutely loved the campus, I felt great with the team, felt great with the coaching staff, and I think it's one of the best decisions I've ever made, going to this University.
NM: [Then] coach Matt Sanders came to my high school and started to talk to me. I hadn't really heard of Lehigh, it was kind of vague to me then, but I had heard of Lafayette somewhere in that area. I remember Lafayette coming there and not really giving me the time... but then Lehigh came in and talked to me, and then I talked to my mom the next day, we looked it up and saw how good of a school it was. They were very interested and they were one of the top schools. I took my visit, and I loved my visit.
LFN: Tell me a little about your role on the defense.
NM: Defensively, our goal is simple, to hold them to zero points. If we do that, it doesn't matter really who our starting quarterback is, we feel like we're getting the job done. At the beginning of the year we might be leaned on more, our expectation is always to shut the other team out. That's our goal.
LFN: Last year there was an adjustment with the transition to co-defensive coordinators, Donnie Roberts and Gerard Wilcher. Will it be smoother this year?
NM: To an extent. The coordinators are the same but we still have changing from within. Coach Sanders, he went to UAB, so coaches come and go, so as players, we're kind of used to that. It's really about the players, and playing together.