The rest of the Ellison student population is on notice: Don’t mess with the offensive line’s bench.
Lined outside the counselor’s office just inside the student entrance into the school, the Eagles’ senior-laden unit that does its dirty work in the trenches has transformed a simple bench into a sanctuary of cushioned comfort.
“Every morning before school, when they open the school doors, we have this cushioned bench, and we’re always the first ones at the door so we can get to the bench (first),” said Ellison’s senior center Tyler Bark.
Added senior right guard Marin Biletic: “We meet up there every morning and we sit there for 35 minutes and we just talk and goof around, just get ready for the day. That’s how we start it off — we just bond.”
Standing outside the doors to the Ellison student entrance by 7:45 a.m., the linemen are usually some of the first students through the doors when they open for the day at about 8. From there, the four or five 230-plus pound football players make their way to “their” bench and settle in for their morning reprieve, no matter if someone else already sat there unaware of its true owners.
“We sit down and nobody feels all that comfortable when they have four or five big guys come sitting around them,” Biletic said. “We don’t do it to make people feel uncomfortable, we just go and sit down and people will get that nervous look and they just get up and go to their class.”
And don’t dare think about moving their bench.
“There have been instances when people want to be funny and move the bench, so we go find it and move it back,” said Bark, who could miss the first few weeks of the season with a broken foot.
The bench has become a tradition for the big-bodied Eagles offensive line which includes a trio of three-year starters and several more with varying degrees of varsity experience.
Along with Bark and Biletic, Ellison’s O-line also includes senior left tackle and fellow three-year starter Hunter Teegardin, senior right tackle Kenneth Pitts, junior guard Tony Borgia and senior reserve Aaron Oldham.
Oldham started several games last year but is now working with the second team while Pitts converted from tight end last season. Despite some of the changes, the group has continued to remain the foundation of Ellison’s oft-changing offense the last few years thanks in large part to their unity.
“We’re real brothers on the offensive line,” Biletic said. “Every other position is out there doing their thing, but we’re one unit, us five guys, working together all the time.”
As the Eagles try to break out of their season-long losing streak from last year, only the program’s second-ever 0-10 season that solidarity along the offensive line could be a major component in their success.
“We like to play around a lot, we have good chemistry between us,” Bark said. “We’ve gelled together in a way where we can goof off but we know when to be serious, and we can get on each other without getting into a fight.”
Unless you take their bench.