By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Randolph-Macon Academy's football team has traditionally been a group capable of racking up frequent flyer miles, and this year's squad is no different.
The Yellow Jackets' roster is always multi-national, but this year's offensive line might well set a new mark for distance traveled to reach preseason camp.
Rising junior Louis Lindsey, projected to start at left tackle, arrived in Front Royal after helping his family settle in Tel Aviv, Israel, after his parents -- who both work in the U.S. foreign service -- were posted there following two years in Tanzania.
Fellow junior Thomas Brewer, slated to start at center, has him beat. Brewer, originally from Leesburg, returned to R-MA from his new home in Melbourne, Australia.
"I was tired at first, but it was good to see everyone," Brewer said on the second day of preseason camp. "I got here two days ago. It was 26 hours on the plane, and then a transfer in L.A. That's another six."
Those two, along with rising senior offensive guard Malik Cochran, are the surest bets to start on the offensive line for the Yellow Jackets this season. Compared to his fellow linemates, Cochran's commute from Upper Marlboro, Maryland is practically within walking distance.
"They make a big commitment to be here, coming all that way," R-MA coach Frank Sullivan said. "Sometimes you don't think about that, when it's the first day of football camp and you have four or five kids from Asia, a kid from Tanzania/Israel and another one from Australia there's a little jet lag that goes with it."
The Yellow Jackets can't afford much lag -- jet or otherwise -- from its offensive line this season. R-MA will sport an all-new starting backfield, albeit one with some experience. Quarterback Peter Blair, and running backs Faa Faa Eke-Spiff and Timmy Idowu step into full-time starting roles this season. Eke-Spiff saw plenty of action last year along with graduated seniors Jonathan Moore and Kevin Slaton, but its still a green group compared to past years.
"All our job as linemen is to do our jobs by blocking our man," Cochran said. "All we've got to do is focus on us, block them and the backs will do their thing. And I'm confident, I know they'll do their thing."
Cochran, a first-team all-Patriot Conference selection last year at offensive guard, serves as the rock of stability for the offense this season. He entered preseason camp bigger than last year at 5 feet 9 inches and 211 pounds.
"I got bigger, I bulked up," Cochran said. "I hit the weight room, so I expected that to happen. I might have lost a little bit of speed from last year, but hey, I got the power to back it up now."
Lindsey, also back to start at left tackle, missed the second half of his sophomore year as he moved back to Tanzania last winter. He missed some development time as a result, but the towering 6-foot-6 Lindsey tried to stay in a football frame of mind. Lindsey, who also serves as R-MA's long snapper, kept in practice by targeting a tree in his African backyard.
"I was practicing in our spacious backyard in Tanzania with my dad, but other than that mostly just hitting the gym," Lindsey said. "I was here for summer school, and we had practices for football every other day."
Brewer's family relocated abroad just seven months ago, but he knew he'd be back at R-MA for school in the fall. He even arrived early to get a jump on football season. He's still getting used to the idea of being on his own now, although he's always been a boarding student at R-MA.
"Just more flights," Brewer said. "It's interesting. It's a lot of responsibility. It's good."
Cochran, Lindsey and Brewer might have taken different paths to get back to R-MA, but Sullivan sees a common thread that will hold the line together this season.
"All three of them are hard workers," Sullivan said. "We're very proud of them in and out of school, so we're happy to have them be a part of the program."
Contact staff writer Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com