Lehigh fifth-year safety Sam McCloskey’s portrait is taken on Sept. 23, 2019, at the Goodman Campus football field. McCloskey suffered a season-ending injury during his junior year campaign. (Yufei Zou/B&W Staff)

Fifth-year safety uses adversity as motivation with Lehigh football

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Fifth-year safety Sam McCloskey said his choice to play football at Lehigh was an easy one. McCloskey said he looked at most of the schools in the Patriot League.

“I thought that Lehigh had the best overall culture and atmosphere and was the place that I could see myself having the most success,” he said.

McCloskey — who played for Bishop Guilfoyle High School in Altoona, Pennsylvania — looked for universities within a few hours from his home. He wanted to find a program close enough that his family could attend his Saturday games.

McCloskey’s teammates chose him as captain for the last three seasons, and he holds the reputation as one of the hardest-working players on the team. McCloskey said much of his motivation comes from the understanding that everything could be taken away from him at any given moment. 

Having the opportunity to play for a fifth year, he said, is a blessing in disguise. McCloskey was limited to only four games during his junior campaign due to a season-ending injury. As a senior, McCloskey was named second team All-Patriot League selection and was Lehigh’s second leading tackler with 77 tackles.

Senior safety Riley O’Neil said McCloskey’s unprecedented intensity and commitment is recognizably fueled by the adversity he faced as a junior.  

“Sam (McCloskey) has always been a hard worker, but I’ve seen him work even that much harder since his injury,” O’Neil said. “It definitely put a chip on his shoulder, and it pushes him to work harder everyday.”

Being a team captain requires a great deal of leadership and trust, which O’Neil said McCloskey has certainly achieved. 

“(McCloskey) has been a consistent leader both on and off the field for our program, and continues to do an amazing job handling his seemingly endlessly-expanding leadership role each week,” O’Neil said. “Having the experience of being a captain for a number of years gives him more experience to handle situations that others might not feel comfortable with.”

The three-time team captain said this year’s team is special. McCloskey said the roster is deep in talent and has promise in the competition for the Patriot League title. 

McCloskey has won two Patriot League championships during his years at Lehigh so far, and he said there is only one way he can imagine ending his career as a Mountain Hawk. 

 “The only goal is to go out on top as Patriot League champs,” McCloskey said. “Nothing else — no settling.” 

Senior wide receiver Devon Bibbens said he’s excited to have McCloskey back for one last season. He said McCloskey’s commitment inspires the rest of the team.

“It’s awesome having (McCloskey) back in the locker room,” Bibbens said. “Having a guy with his leadership and work ethic really rubs off on a lot of the other guys, and it’s just great to have that positive energy around.”

After stringing together their first back-to-back wins of the season against Merrimack and Patriot league rival Colgate, the Mountain Hawks will use the upcoming bye week to prepare for the next Patriot League match against Fordham at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19.

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