The conversation begins, as it so often does, with Entourage. Here they are, seven members of the Georgetown football class of 2008 gathered around a table in a McDonough athletic office. Friends that have served under two coaching regimes, comrades that have endured four sets of two-a-days and three grueling off-seasons of early-morning weights and late-evening sprints, boys that have grown into men together, and all they can do is argue over who would play Turtle.

“I’m not Turtle. I don’t want to be Turtle,” placekicker Eric Bjonerud screams frantically.

“OK fine, then you are definitely Johnny Drama,” wide receiver Kyle Van Fleet replies in a calmer tone. “I’ll be E.”

“Then who is going to be Vince?” outside linebacker Darren Craft asks. “[Defensive back Darren] Alberti is Ari, and I guess [wide reciever] Brent [Craft] over there would be Vince.”

“Matt [Bassuener] would be the Godfather, because he is 24 years old and never yells at anyone,” Bjonerud says, adding arlon Brando to the cast of the hit HBO comedy to accommodate his quarterback. “[Cornerback Kevin] Cherepski is definitely Turtle.”

Having settled on parts for everyone in their 33rd Street townhouse, the seven seniors are free to reflect on their roles as football players over the last four years on the Hilltop.

These seven can tell you everything you would ever need to know about the 18 Hoya seniors. They will tell you that linebacker Mike Greene hits the hardest, safety Jon Lancaster runs the fastest, and that Alberti sleeps the soundest. They will tell you that Bjonerud is the laugh-a-minute class clown, Brent Craft, the white-knuckle intensity competitor. They can remember the first time they met one another – and how close they have grown since then.

“We all have pieced together as friends,” Bjonerud, the jokester of the group, says.

“These guys are a warm bunch,” Alberti, who transferred in after spending a year at Trinity University (Texas), adds. “They are a great group of guys to be around.”

Brent Craft started college with one sibling by his side but has adopted another during his stay.

“Bassuener, Darren and I have been like brothers since we got here,” Craft says. “He’s been down to our house [in Jupiter, Fla.] a lot.”

Together, the seniors have ridden waves of euphoria and been washed ashore on the beaches of despair. Sometimes, the highest peak and lowest valley have come together.

Take the time Bassuener took the twins down to Monterey for spring break a few years ago. The quarterback led his teammates on a hike up a mountain close by the campus of Tec de Monterey, where Bassuener had spent a year before coming to Georgetown. The Crafts assumed Bassuener knew where he was going.

“By the time we were halfway, the sun was going down, and I was about to kill Matt,” Darren Craft recalls. “It’s spring break, here we are in Mexico on a mountain in the dark, and I can’t see anything. We had no plan. He was leading us to our death. But of course he eventually led us back down into the city by moonlight.”

The 18 teenagers that showed up for two-a-days three Augusts ago have matured into men before each other’s eyes. Van Fleet remembers when the Crafts – who have built themselves into integral parts of the Georgetown offense and defense – were nothing more than pip-squeak walk-ons who caught grief from the seniors. Bjonerud recalls how Bassuener – the most efficient passer in the history of Hoya football – was once a bench-warming defensive back.

“I always felt bad for them because they were so small,” Van Fleet says sarcastically, mocking the set of twins seated to his left. “They have really blossomed into strong young men.”

The veterans, who don the blue and gray for the final time this Saturday afternoon, have had a career cleft in half by a coaching change following their sophomore season.

The difference in the way former Head Coach Bob Benson and current Head Coach Kevin Kelly run the program has been literally night and day.

Benson held practice, weights, and team meetings in the afternoons and evenings, while Kelly has insisted that his charges showing up at the field no later than six o’clock each morning.

“We are waking up earlier now, and there is definitely more emphasis on discipline and hard work,” says Brent Craft, who remembers having mixed feelings the day Cherepski called to tell him Benson had resigned.

“And [Coach Kelly] has done a lot more for career development,” adds Alberti.

Kelly’s focus on life after football has helped Van Fleet and Bjonerud land jobs in the financial sector, and Alberti hopes to pursue a career in acting. Bassuener has talked seriously about continuing his football career in Canada. But before they tackle the real world, the seniors are planning one last road game together.

“We have been planning a cross-country road trip for the summer,” Brent Craft says. “We are going to make it out to the West Coast and see all the national parks.”

Someday, when sickness or death warps their world, they will know something worse than the pain they felt on Nov. 12, 2005, when Davidson squeaked past them 10-3. Someday, if a wife leaves, they might feel heartbreak sharper than last weekend’s triple-overtime loss at Marist. On their wedding day or with the birth of their children, they will be happier than they were this summer, when their days were filled with workouts, hanging out and Alberti home-cooked meals. In the future, they will see more than x’s and o’s, and they will look past the dropped passes and missed tackles.

But for the past four years, football has been their world, and on Saturday, that world will end.

On paper, the Class of 2008 leaves behind an undistinguished legacy – they enter Saturday’s game with a combined record of 10-33 – but the mark they have left on Georgetown football is one that cannot be measured by cold statistics.

“It’s been four years, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it. We haven’t done what we set out to do,” Van Fleet says.

“But we are the team that set the foundation. At least we know that we helped the change,” Bjonerud adds.

Seconds later when the teammates realize that Bjonerud has just been serious for the first time in four years, the room erupts with laughter.

This is what these football seniors have given one another over their four years – an entourage of 18 that will last forever.

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