KINGSTON — Rhode Island football coach Joe Trainer isn’t a poker player, but when he was trying to come up with a theme for the 2013 campaign following an embarrassing, winless 2012 season, he was immediately drawn to poker.
“Every year we try to come up with a mantra,” Trainer said after Saturday’s first scrimmage of training camp. “It’s human nature when you’re not having success – trying to make it a monetary analysis – you cash out. In society you don’t double down when you’re not having success.
“We’re telling the guys this is our program and our team. If they invest everything they have, this is going to be a good program.”
That’s why the mantra in the weight room, in the locker room, on the practice field and during film sessions is “Be All In.”
In poker, going all in means moving all of your chips to the center of the table. If you win the hand you double up your money, but if your opponent has a better hand than you your tournament is over.
For the players Be All In – which is sometimes shortened to ballin’ by the players – simply means giving your all every day in every activity, whether it’s doing an extra rep in the weight room or running an extra route in practice.
“It’s hard to explain what Be All In exactly means,” linebacker Dave Zocco said. “You want to be all in for the team. We need to have a team-first mentality and there’s no I on this team.”
“It’s about being all in,” quarterback Bob Bentsen said. “No matter what you have to do to be successful, you’re doing it. Coach compares it to being a card player. Once you’re all in there’s no turning back. You’re either all in or all out, there’s no halfway. We established it in the winter and guys have been all in for a while.”
“It means that no matter what you have to be successful,” freshman tight end Elijah Saintfleur said. “No matter how tough it is, you have to be all in to win.”
Trainer, who said the front page of the team’s playbook reinforces the team’s mantra, believes the 2013 team has a lot of the characteristics of the 2010 squad.
The 2010 team was in a similar situation to this team. In Trainer’s first season at the helm in 2009, the Rams were just 1-10 and that victory was a season-opening victory over Fordham which was followed by 10 losses.
Led by transfer quarterback Steve Probst, wide receiver Anthony Baskerville and offensive linemen Jason Foster and Kyle Bogumil, Rhode Island went 5-6. It was the team’s best record since 2001, when Tim Stowers coached the Rams to an 8-3 mark.
“This is a similar group to the one in 2010 in that we have a lot of guys on this team who have had some individual success like (James) Timmons, Dougie (Johnson), (Andrew) Bose and Zocco,” Trainer said. “We have enough of those guys who have had success and these guys have a ton of pride.”
The members of the current senior class were freshmen when URI posted impressive victories over No. 3 Villanova and No. 19 Massachusetts in 2010.
Bentsen, who was an All-State quarterback at Warwick Vets, said the goal of this current senior class is to do what that 2010 team did. Bentsen knows beating out the likes of Villanova and New Hampshire for the Colonial Athletic Association title is a long shot, but bringing respectability back to the program is within reach.
“A lot of classes have come through here and tried to leave their mark and it hasn’t worked out for them except for a year or two,” Bentsen said. “All the seniors are a close knit-group and a lot of us came in together. We want to send this program in the right direction before we leave. That would leave a legacy for us and mean a lot.”
“We want to leave a legacy that we turned around this losing atmosphere, this bad mentality,” Zocco said. “Hopefully, we can set a foundation for the rest of the young guys.”
The Rams aren’t going all in with the strongest hand, but they hope through hard work and execution they can cash in at the end of the season.