David S. Driver
"Providing my byline by your deadline"
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September 25, 2008
By David Driver
For the Stafford County Sun
Used with permission
Chris Lovitt, a 2008 graduate of Colonial Forge High School, said he had the chance to be a walk-on this season as a freshman for the football team at William and Mary of the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Tribe played its first intercollegiate game in 1894, against Hampden-Sydney. But Lovitt decided he wanted to be part of another kind of history.
The Stafford resident enrolled this fall at Old Dominion University, a school in Norfolk that will play a football schedule starting in September 2009 after an absence of nearly 70 years.
“I just figured this year I can get ready to play Division I football,” Lovitt said of ODU, which will also be a member of the Division I-AA CAA. “I can use this year to get bigger, stronger and faster.”
The school fielded football for its first 11 years of existence, when the school was a two-year division of William and Mary. The program ended in 1940 due to poor attendance, debut and a rule that freshman could not play.
What is it like to be on the ground floor of a new program?
“It is definitely a fun experience,” said Lovitt, a freshman wide receiver. “People, for the most part, know who you are. It is exciting to start something new.”
The ODU football program also includes freshman defensive end Andrew Slebonick, a 2008 graduate of North Stafford High School. He is listed at 6 foot 5 inches tall and 220 pounds and is the younger brother of Patrick Slebonick, a junior guard who plays for the University of Virginia.
“I saw him on my unofficial visit. We decided to be roommates,” Lovitt said of Andrew Slebonick.
What does Slebonick think about being part of history?
“It is exciting. That is the best way to describe it,” he said. “All we have to look forward to is scrimmages (this year). Everyone is going to remember us as the first team with ODU football. In high school you are always looking forward to Friday night (games). Not here. But the coaches do a good job of mixing things up in practice.”
Slebonick said a crowd of about 6,000 fans is expected for the first scrimmage open to the public at 6 p.m. Sept. 27. He said the school has sold 11,000 season tickets so far.
While Virginia plays Sept. 27 at Duke, ODU has nearly a year before its first game.
ODU will have its first scrimmage that is open to the public Sept. 27 at Powhatan High School in Norfolk. The Monarchs also have open scrimmages in October and November.
The first regular-season game is Sept. 5, 2009 at home against Chowan of North Carolina. The first homecoming football game in school history will be Nov. 7, 2009 against North Carolina Centr al. The ODU head coach is Bobby Wilder, a former quarterback at the University of Maine.
Lovitt played basketball as a sophomore and junior at Colonial Forge and played varsity football as a sophomore, junior and senior.
He said he also attracted attention in football from Division II Shepherd College of West Virginia and Division III Bridgewater and Christopher Newport of Virginia. But he felt ODU would be the best fit for him.
Lovitt is a recruited walk-on at ODU. He is taking 12 credit hours this semester and plans to study psychology or exercise science.
Lovitt said he arrives at practice around 2 p.m. most days at ODU. He has a meeting at 2:30 p.m. and then on-field practice begins around 3:30 p.m. and lasts for about 90 minutes.
Lovitt spends a lot of time in practice with Keita Malloy, the wide receivers/tight end coach. Malloy was a standout wide receiver and defensive back at the University of Delaware, also a member of the CAA, and he played pro ball in the Arena Football League with teams in New York, Texas and Massachusetts.
If ODU receivers are told to run a 13-yard route in practice and they only run 12 yards, Malloy points out the mistake. ODU plans to use the spread offense.
“He is a really good coach. He has definitely been through a lot,” Lovitt said. “He is a tough coach. He demands perfection.”
“He is doing very well, Malloy said of Lovitt, who has been dealing with a wrist injury.
“We are high on him. He is definitely big enough to play at this level.”
Lovitt is one of about 14 receivers in the program right now. Malloy admits some of those players may not be on the roster next season if ODU recruits better athletes in the coming year. Malloy said “you can bet” Lovitt will be with the team in 2009.