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Football vs. Columbia 10/18/14 Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman, Ilana Wurman

The 139th edition of Penn football has 77 days together.

From the first day of preseason camp until the final snap against Cornell in November, the Quakers remain one cohesive unit. But despite the brotherhood that the players develop on the field, 77 days of football — with only one day off per week — is still a grind.

That’s where former Navy SEAL David Rutherford comes in.

A few weeks before the Red and Blue kick off their season against Lehigh, the serviceman came to speak to the Quakers and their coaches, giving the team perspective and inspiration in order to tackle each down and every day with pep in their step.

In football, as in combat, sometimes the lines of morality are blurred. However, defensive line coach Malik Hall felt Rutherford helped shed light on the subject.

“The misconception is that you have to be morally wrong. You have to have your mind in a place that morals [don’t] exist,” Hall said. “But what we learned and what was unique was that in a life and death situation, [Rutherford] said the thing that keeps you bonded is love.”

During the dog days of training camp, it can be hot and aggravating in the trenches. But Hall thinks the team has found the inspiration they need to keep chugging on.

“Within that 77 days, things are going to go wrong, things are going to be hard, but that’s why we are the chosen few,” Hall explained. “There’s only eight Ivy League schools. And in that group, this is a unique [type of] student athlete.”

To the players, Rutherford delivered a message of self-confidence, belief in self and “team life.”

Head coach Ray Priore felt the message stuck.

“It gave them a little bit of the mindset of how do you train yourself, how do you work through the obstacles that are in your way as you go through the mission or the play and how what you do individually impacts the whole team,” he said.

Rutherford delivered an anecdote for the squad about his training days with the Navy SEALs.

Each day, Rutherford and his crew would hop in the pool and then roll around in the sand, carrying the wet, sandy muck on them through to lunch. Afterwards, they would then jump in the ocean and roll around in the same sand again.

After a week, the wet sand was no longer a burden but a rite of passage and a ritual. The unit would begin screaming: “Wet and sandy boys, let’s go get it today!”

Hall saw this as a message the team could take to heart.

“The monotony of camp can become mentally draining, the physical conditions of camp, the heat,” Hall pointed out. “But if you turn it around in your mind and spin it in a positive way, it can be ‘wet and sandy.’ And that can be our mantra.”

The urgency of the message stood out the most for senior quarterback Andrew Lisa.

“He preached [for us to] play every down like it’s our last,” Lisa recalled. “For me, ... 10 weeks from now, I’m never going to be on the same field with these guys ever again. So I need to make the most out of this opportunity.”

Lisa isn’t the Quakers’ starting quarterback; that title belongs to junior Alek Torgersen. In fact, the Moorestown, N.J., native has never played a down for the Red and Blue. Perhaps that’s why the message hit a nerve for him.

Surely, if Lisa does get the nod at any point this year, he will have something to draw upon when the spotlight shines his way. His final 77 days are dwindling, and he sure isn’t complaining about spending them ‘wet and sandy’ next to his brothers in Red and Blue.

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