Dayton football’s ‘Link’ tradition will be on display during Alumni Game

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Dayton Flyers football interviews: Oct. 13, 2021

Flyers play Marist on Saturday at Welcome Stadium

A sign greets the Dayton Flyers football team as it runs onto the turf at Welcome Stadium before games on Saturdays. It reads, “The Link,” and features an image of two chain links.

Coach Rick Chamberlin explained what it means Wednesday as his team prepared for a noon Saturday home game against Marist.

“It came about in the spring of 1999,” Chamberlin said. “Nineteen ninety eight was not a great year for us. We were 6-4. Mike Neuberger and Matt Stangle went to coach (Mike) Kelly and said, ‘Hey, we want to try to do something to really connect this team.’”

Kelly mentioned a poem by Norm Parker that starts with these lines:

I carry this link in my pocket

As a simple Reminder to Me

Of the fact that I am a team player

No matter where I may be.

Kelly and his coaches decided to hand out chain links to every player on the team. Then in every season since, they’ve given links to freshmen during preseason camp. Players put the links on their keychains and carry them with them. If they don’t have the links with them, Chamberlin may tell them to drop and do 10 push-ups.

“The whole idea is you’re a part of something,” Chamberlin said, “and that your link is very important and it connects you.”

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Chamberlin expanded the tradition by giving links to players whose careers ended before the tradition began.

“Guys get into it,” Chamberlin said. “They love it. The way we look at it is this link connects the past to the present, and it’s all for one. It’s not just one individual that makes us successful. It’s all of these people throughout the years. I tell the alums, if I asked him for their link, they have to show me their link. If they don’t, they drop down to give me 10 push-ups right then and there because they’re to have that link with them all the time.”

Many former Flyers will return Saturday as Dayton holds its annual Alumni Game. While all former players are invited to attend the game, the guests of honor will come from the 1980 NCAA Division III national championship team and the 1991 NCAA D-III runner-up team.

“You’ve got guys coming back from 30-40 years ago that are still so dedicated in this program,” defensive end Mason Stauffer said. “Them coming in is just a great opportunity to show that we’re still living their tradition and showing up and playing good football.”

Dayton (3-2, 2-1) will try to hand Marist (2-2, 2-0) its first Pioneer Football League loss. The Red Foxes beat Valparaiso 27-24 in overtime on Oct. 2 and Stetson 34-3 last week to open league play with two victories. They share first place with Davidson and Morehead State.

Dayton leads the series against Marist 9-2 and won the last meeting 59-35 in 2019.

Dayton beat Drake 28-10 in its last game thanks in part to Jake Chisholm rushing for 144 yards on 34 carries, one short of his career high.

“I’m definitely a little sore and still recovering,” Chisholm said Wednesday, “but that’s the way the game is, especially at the running back position. I love getting that much work. I love to be able to contribute to the team and be a big part of the game.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Marist at Dayton, Noon, 1290, 95.7

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Rick Chamberlin interview: Oct. 13, 2021

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