Where are they now? Checking in with Penn football's 2013 seniors
After winning a title last season, the class of '13 looks back
September 19, 2013, 6:23 pm · Updated September 19, 2013, 10:53 pm·
Rachel Bluestein | DP
It was everything Andrew Holland could have asked for. The chance to lead Penn football to a share of an Ivy title in the fourth quarter against its biggest rival with a rabid defense and thousands of fans supporting him. The clinching of an outright Ivy title at Cornell and Ivy League Player of the Week honors in his final week as a collegiate quarterback. The thrill of going out on top.
Now it’s over.
Holland has this Saturday’s game against Lafayette marked on his office calendar at Arthur J. Gallagher and Co., a risk management services firm in Cleveland, his hometown. His household purchased the Penn Sports Network package for the entire season, so he’ll get to experience a different thrill Saturday evening — watching Penn football as a program alumnus for the first time.
“I’ll probably throw on my championship sweatpants and lay on my recliner with a Philly cheesesteak in hand,” Holland said.
But it’s hard to have to walk away. Holland is just one of many 2013 Penn grads trying to find their way post-football.
Another is ex-Penn offensive lineman Dan Saris.
“I miss it every day,” Saris said about his Penn football experience. “It’s just one of those things that you don’t get back.”
So now Saris is filling the void with his job teaching biology at Aiken New Tech, a technology-based project learning school in Cincinnati where he teaches and coaches football to ninth-graders.
And it’s a far cry from his nightly job as a bouncer at Blarney Stone, where he would get in around 9:00 p.m., assume his position at the door around 11:00, and leave around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m.
Now he gets up at 5:30 a.m. to work out, gets to school by 6, teaches 7:30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. and has practice and tutoring until 6 p.m. Then he watches television and goes to bed.
“Pretty much the opposite,” Saris said. He’s still around football, though.
There’s been a void in Taylor Brown’s life since leaving Penn football too. Brown, a former defensive lineman who started all 20 games in his final two seasons, had dinner early last month with fifth-year senior quarterback Billy Ragone.
“He told me he was heading back to Philly for camp,” Brown said. “I never thought I’d miss preseason camp, but I wanted nothing more than to go back with him and play again.”
Brown is now an investment management associate at BBR Partners, a wealth management firm that manages investments for wealthy families. He meets with managers and firms to help figure out where and if they can fit in BBR’s client portfolios. And he enjoys it.
Still, he could have avoided his football void for a lot longer. Time missed due to a back injury his sophomore year earned him fifth-year eligibility which would have extended through the 2013 season. But Brown was told not to play after having suffered too many concussions.
“I think that makes it harder, knowing that it’s actually possible for me to be there right now,” Brown said. “In the long term, it’s definitely better that I’m not playing given the head injuries, but that doesn’t stop me from being envious of everyone getting to play right now.”
Brown will be at a wedding for his girlfriend’s co-workers when Penn kicks off its season Saturday, but thanks to Twitter, that doesn’t mean he’ll be missing out.
“Hopefully I don’t get caught too many times checking my phone during the ceremony and reception,” Brown said. “But I think they’ll understand.”
Joe Holder understands. As a wide receiver last year, Holder hauled in 12 catches for 138 yards in five games. Now he sells chia seeds.
The New Jersey-based start-up he’s working for, Health Warrior, Inc., has him targeting potential customers in metropolitan New York.
But will he be in town to see the season opener Saturday?
“Oh, best believe I’ll be there,” Holder said. “Gotta see the squad get crunk in the Frank.”
In fact, Holder visited with nearly a dozen current Quakers over Labor Day weekend, whom he calls the “Thugz Mansion crew.”
“Many of them call me their big brother, which means a lot,” Holder said. “So I do my best to make sure everything is going well when I can with the guys remaining on the squad.”
Holder too realizes what’s missing from his life now.
“It’s the camaraderie between everyone, from the players to the equipment staff and even the training room,” Holder said. “Everyone has a similar mindset for the most part, which is tough to find once you enter the real world. Athletes just think a little bit differently, which you don’t realize until you’re not around them.”
And even though head coach Al Bagnoli and strength and conditioning coach Jim Steel aren’t yelling at him to get in his day-three lift anymore, the Ivy title-winning quarterback who has transitioned to annual insurance premiums and risk management consulting agrees.
“For as much work as it was, it was definitely something I wish I could do again,” Holland said. “It was something I will be able to share with my teammates and with my family for years to come.”
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