O-Line Pool Fights: The Splash Clash. Can the ‘Rumble’ in the water make a difference on dryland?

By KASSIDY HILL

GatorBait Special Reporter


In this corner, weighing in at 330 pounds, from Mount

Dora, Fla. — Brett Heggie!


In this corner, also weighing in at 330 pounds, from

Hanover Township, Pa. — Chris Bleich.


This matchup hasn’t been kind to Bleich in the past; he’s

only 1-30 against the veteran Heggie, but he’s tenacious,

something he’s picked up from Feleipe Franks.


Speaking of his quarterback, he’s currently waiting on the

side with long snapper Brett DioGuardi, tight end Lucas


Krull and the rest of the offensive line unit, led by Nick

Buchanan.


Before getting to tonight’s action, let’s hear from the

players in the matchup. We recently sat down with all of

the participants to find out how these pool fights came to

be, who they least want to face and the ways these

smackdowns have begun to affect their lives outside the

pool/ ring.


It all started with a pool party at offensive line coach John

Hevesy’s house. The game — in its original form — was

pool basketball. Buchanan is a center on the football field

but steps into the point guard role in the pool and fulfills all

of his duties as the units leader.


“So, I’m out there running the show like Magic Johnson at

point guard,” said Buchanan. “I wasn’t trying to get too into

the deep end too much because we have some tall guys

on the O-line and I’m one of the shorter guys. So I stay in

the shallow and dish and pass the ball, throw alley-oops,

stuff like that.”


The role is a natural fit for Buchanan, who has become the

most experienced voice for this rag-tag group. While he

may not jump into the fights as much, he helps prepare

guys in the water and on game days with his offensive line

knowledge.


“It’s just when you see a guy struggling to learn something

or you see he might not understand what is going on, you


just go over there and you try to help him. It’s just I

understand it, and if they don’t, I can explain it to them. It’s

not anything too special. It’s just as simple as that. I get it,

they didn’t, so I try to help them.”


Back in the pool though, he sends out orders from the

shallow end because it’s the deep end of pool basketball

that changed the nature of the game.


“I try to stay from the deep end because that’s when they

start ... there are no fouls in pool basketball, you know

what I mean? So grabbing and dunking ... try to stay away

from all of that. I try to stay in the shallow area where I

belong.”


Down in the deep end, things began to heat up; and when

several guys moved in together in a new house that came

with a pool, wrestling matches became a nightly

occurrence.


“Just two big guys ‘sumoing’ it out,” explains the redshirt

freshman Bleich.


“It’s not a pretty sight to see, but I mean we lose a few

pounds in the pool every night.”


Determining a winner, says Bleich, is easy.


“You’ve got the (shallow) end. Then you know like where it

goes right to the deep end. First one to knock them into

the deep end, head under, wins.”


Bleich has become well known around the waters edge for

his Johnny Cash intro music and a busted nose from one

of the matches. But it’s quarterback Feleipe Franks who is

working his way up the winners list.


“Feleipe is just weird, he has leverage, he’s long,”

explains Heggie, but not before adding, “I still got him

beat. He’s got some work to do to get to my level.”

Adds Bleich, “[Feleipe] just wants to win. He doesn’t

loose.”


The tight end, Krull, gets little credit to his pool wrestling

prowess according to Bleich.


“I don’t want to put him at the bottom, but he doesn’t pool

fight with was that much. He’s usually chilling, making fun

of two fat kids wrestling. So, he’s number five of course.”

But there’s little debate as to who’s number one: Brett

Heggie. In both wrestling and other aquatic acrobatics.

“[The cannonball], that’s a work in progress. I’m not giving

up on it. I’m a big belly flop guy though. Definitely the

leader in the house.”


The redshirt junior has battled injuries on the football field

the past two years but coaches and teammates all

maintain he’s back to 100 percent and ready to go in that

regard. As the only one besides Buchanan with significant

starting experience, his expertise will be crucial this fall on

the field. The attitude that makes him valuable in that

regard also makes him the champion in the pool.


“Heggie is a tough guy. It doesn’t matter what he’s got

going on. He could have three different injuries on his

body, but he’s still going to find a way to get it done.

Fighting, tussling or arm wrestling, he’s going to find a

way,” says Jean Delance.


“He’s one of those guys who shows up and’s that one guy

in the room you don’t know what he’s going to do. But

when does it, you’re like ‘..., okay he’s doing it.’ He comes

with it every day.”


Due to past Heggie injuries though, pool wrestling

matches are generally closed to the public and aren’t

widely shared as the man himself explains.

“I don’t know if I can put anything on Twitter anymore

because people want me in bubble wrap.”


Being a valuable commodity at this point, that’s a safe bet.

But the guys feel confident that each match in the pool this

summer will show itself on the football field this fall.

“Anytime you’re going out there, just having fun with the

guys, it’s a bonding moment,” postulated Buchanan.

“You get to learn more about people. You get to have fun

with kids. Switch up the teams and we do older guys

versus younger guys, people from South Florida versus

everywhere else. It’s just a different way to learn about

guys, talk to them and have fun with them.”


Heggie agrees; “It is definitely fun. We get close to guys,

especially the offensive linemen up front. We get close as

a group. It makes you want to go out there on Saturdays

and play harder for the guy to the left and the guy to the

right. I think it’s really important to grow that bond.

And it’s translating to preparations already according to

Heggie.


“I think we worked really hard this offseason. We did a lot

of extra work on our own as a unit. Me, Stone and Nick

ran practices basically for us to go through fundamentals

and things like that so we can get ahead of the game so

we can perform as one unit up front and get comfortable

with working with each other. I think that really helped us.”

The expectations around college football for this unit are

admittedly low, due not too lack of future talent possibly,

but just an acknowledgment of the current experience

level on a line that lost four starters following the 2018

season.


After a summer full of technique work and pool wrestling,

Jean Delance has high expectations for what he and his

teammates can do this fall.


“I see it as a challenge. Live up to the expectations.

You’ve got a great ceiling, you’ve got a great team, you’ve

got a lot of different positions that got a lot of experience.


So, I see it as a challenge. Every day, step up to the plate

and get it done. Like, there is no ifs, ands or buts. We

have to get it done. You know what I’m saying? You’ve got

a great team, you’ve got a great foundation and you can’t

just say, ‘Oh, this one position was holding us back.’

That’s not acceptable. We have to get it done. We have

good guys, good skill players and good defensive players

all across the board. So, we have to get it done, protect

Feleipe, give him time and do our jobs.”


The time for talk is over though. There’s a heavyweight

battle ready to be fought and the participants are pacing in

the corners. So gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble...

And then it’s gotta translate on grass or turf.

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