As a 6-foot-5, 265-pound offensive lineman, Jacob Britton rarely enjoys flying.
“Being a bigger guy, I don’t fit comfortably into most airplane seats,” he said.
When Britton and almost 40 of his University of Dubuque teammates flew to Ireland last month for an eight-day visit and football “friendly,” he found some comfort on an international flight, opponents who have a passion for the game that rivals his own and awesome sights.
“You see pictures online and in the brochures they gave us, but it’s so different in person,” said Britton, a Woodstock North graduate who was traveling overseas for the first time. “The pictures don’t do it justice. We went to the Cliffs of Moher, and the pictures are great, but until you’re standing there, looking down, seeing the ocean crash in 300 feet underneath you … it’s a special experience.”
Britton and quarterback Michael Briscoe (McHenry West), who will be seniors this fall, also enjoyed the experience of their international friendly game against the nine-time Irish national champion Dublin Rebels.
Despite NCAA Division III Dubuque’s 100-0 victory, the Spartans were impressed by the passion Irish players have for the sport.
“They all start playing when they’re older,” Britton said. “A couple of the guys said they didn’t start playing until they were 25, 26 years old and they have a couple of guys who are in their 40s. It shows they really love the game. They have some athletes on their team, but they’re all pretty raw. They only practice once, maybe twice a week. Over here, from youth football on up, you’re with your team at least four or five times a week.”
An added benefit of the trip, said Britton, was bonding with teammates in advance of the fall season, which begins Sept. 1 with a home game against D-III powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Britton, the team’s right tackle, is one of three offensive linemen returning, along with the backfield duo of Dwayne Allen Jr. and Maurece Herrion, who combined to rush for more than 2,000 yards a year ago.
“Our running backs make us look way better than we are,” Britton joked.
At quarterback, Briscoe started the team’s final two games a year ago and was impressive in a 35-21 win against defending Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion Coe College. Briscoe threw for three touchdowns and 228 yards in the game.
“Ever since Michael got here, he’s had a real good command of the huddle,” Britton said of the 6-6, 225-pound Briscoe. “His pocket presence is nice because he’s a big guy. He’s hard to bring down, and he’s got a nice arm, too.”
To improve on last season’s 6-4 record, Dubuque has to overcome one key hurdle.
“We were too inconsistent,” Britton said. “We have to focus on each practice, each workout, each meeting, so we can get better every day. We have to make sure we are better on Wednesday than we were on Tuesday and better on Thursday than we were Wednesday. That way, we can be better on Saturdays.”
Richartz vaults to national honor: Notre Dame grad student Nathan Richartz earned the fifth All-America honor of his superb pole vault career last week at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Richartz (McHenry West) cleared 17 feet, 4½ inches to place 11th in the event and earn second-team All-America recognition. Richartz, competing in his third career NCAA outdoor meet, had an impressive spring season. He won all six pole vault events he entered and also won his third career Atlantic Coast Conference title.
At the ACC meet, Richartz set a school record with a vault of 18-8 1/2.
Hurley grabs honors for SIU: Southern Illinois junior Ricky Hurley (Cary-Grove) earned honorable mention All-America honors in the hammer throw last week at the NCAA outdoor championships.
Hurley logged a throw of 206-11 on his third attempt of the meet.
Another of Hurley’s season highlights was winning the Most Valuable Field Athlete honor at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor meet last month. He won the hammer and discus events while placing fourth in the shot put. By scoring 25 points, he became the fourth Saluki to win the honor since it was first awarded in 2001.
Super Shine: Prairie Ridge grad Andrea shine, a junior at Iowa, ran collegiate and team bests this spring in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races.
Shine’s time of 33 minutes, 50.25 seconds in the 10K, which she posted at the Stanford Invitational in March, ranks as the sixth-best time in school history. Her best 5K time of 16:29.65 came in April at the Mt. SAC Relays in California.
Shine also became part of Iowa history, breaking a nine-year drought of both male and female 10K runners earning a scoring spot at the Big Ten meet in the same outdoor season. On May 11, Shine placed sixth in 35:04.5 at the University of Indiana, while teammate Daniel Soto placed eighth in the men’s race.
She also ran the team’s third-best 1,500 time this season (4:37.44).
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.