Pat Fleming and Joe Margolis
The East Meets the West on the Defensive Front
Joe Margolis and Pat Fleming give different accounts of their first meeting. Fleming remembers watching Margolis struggling to impress a female classmate in a long Freshman Union dinner line, then walking over, introducing himself, and offering some advice on dealing with women.
Margolis doesn't necessarily dispute that version, but he remembers another Freshman Week encounter more vividly.
"The first time I met Pat, we were both walking through the Yard late at night after we'd gone to some of those parties everyone has Freshman Week," he recalls. "We ran into each other and started talking about football, and asked each other what positions we played. When we both said 'defensive end,' we laughed and said 'Wouldn't it be great if we ended up being the two ends?"
Not long after the pair showed up at the first practice for the freshman team, they found 11 other Yardlings with similar ends in mind. But by the end of that freshman season, Fleming and Margolis had established themselves as the top ends in their class.
It would be another two years before they became fulltime partners on Harvard's varsity line and established themselves as the class ends in the Ivy League, but in the meantime Fleming and Margolis became a nearly inseparable duo.
At the conclusion of freshman year, the pair decided to room together Margolis had lived with offensive lineman Mike Corbat, while wingback Jim Garvey, had been Fleming's roommate, and the foursome grouped together with several other football players--for upperclass housing.
It's sort of natural that Joe and I spend time together. "Fleming says. "We have a lot of similar interests, and since we play the same position, we're always together on the field and we're always going to meetings together.
And as sophomores and juniors. Fleming and Margolis did a lot of waiting together Playing on Special terms, the two terrorized Crimson opponents, but until this year their experience on the line was limited to backing up older and more experienced players.
"It was very frustrating at times, because we felt we might be able to help the team more," Margolis says. "I can't sit here and say I should have played more and be objective, but at the time, that was how I felt. It really helped to have Pat to talk to, because we were going through the same thing, and it helped to have someone to suffer with."
Neither end denies, through, that his apprenticeship served a valuable purpose. "I never knew how important experience was," Fleming says. "You hear so much about how hard it is for rookies in the pros and you don't actually believe it. But there really is such a feel necessary for the game, and you don't have that right away."
"I made too many mistakes earlier," he continues. "Our coach emphasizes the idea of the 'discipline of the defense,' and when I first got here, he didn't think I played with discipline. He thought I played 'Fleming Football.'"
"He did play Fleming Football," agrees Crimson defensive coordinator George Clemens. "Both he and Margolis had a lot to learn. They were just like most players out of high school. They didn't really understand defensive concepts--they just thought you lined up and hit somebody.
"They've learned so much since they started out," he continues, "Joe used to be overly aggressive, and he's learned how to control that and use it to his advantage. And Pat, in his early years, was a little soft. That's not meant to be a knock. He was just so conscientious that sometimes he worried too much about making a mistake."
"Now Pat's gained so much confidence that he's one of the best ends in the league." Clemens adds quickly, though these days, no one calls Fleming soft.
A native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Fleming (6-ft 3-inches tall.235 pounds) has spent his last seven summer vacations working on rodeo grounds, helping prepare for Cheyenne Frontier Days, an annual festival during the last week of July that Fleming, compares with New Orleans' Mardi Gras.
He primarily does advance maintenance work, but during the celebration. Fleming moves into the ring to help the competitors.
And on at least one occasion, and animal got the best of Fleming. A bull rider was sitting in the chute waiting for his turn and his best started thrashing around. When Fleming looked over, the bull had pinned his rider against the back of the chute.
"I thought the guy was going to die, so I tried to pull him out. The guy ended up being fine, but the bull smashed my hand with the side of its head and I needed 20 stitches."
Growing up in the West, Fleming never really thought about coming to Harvard until his senior year at Cheyenne Central when someone suggested that he would make a good candidate for admission.
But the suggestion didn't come until February, so Fleming had to wait a year, which he spent, on the advice of admissions officials, at the prestigious Deerfield Academy.
"The whole thing was kind of shocking. I worked harder there than I've ever worked in my life," he says, recalling his prep school days. "I couldn't believe how fast everyone out here talked, and they all thought I talked funny, with a twang. I guess I picked it up at the rodeo, hanging around all those cowboys."
"We have all these pictures that say Joe in front of Widener Library at age seven or Joe at age eight in front of John Harvard.'" Margolis says. "My did used to take us to foot-ballgames when we came up here, and he always took us to games that Harvard was guaranteed to win, and so I always saw them killing people. I don't think I realized that Harvard had ever lost a football game until I was about 17 to 18."
Ever since he joined the team himself, Margolis has impressed other members of the squad with his drive.
"He has to be the most intense and energetic athlete I've ever seen," says Crimson middle guard Scott Murrer. "But Joe is like two different guys when he approaches a game Monday through Friday, he just works on the game plan, learning a whole new scheme of assignments and then when it comes to Saturday, he has it all learned and he thinks only about peaking at the highest emotional level."
Though they come from different ends of America, and hold down different ends of the line, the pair's styles of play mesh seam lessly, much to the dismay of opposing ball carriers and quarterbacks.
In the Crimson's upset of Holy Cross two weeks ago, the Crusaders had Fleming double teamed most of the afternoon, and yet he still managed to defend his corner and on occasion his lethal pass rush
Meanwhile, Margolis was turning in what his coaches considered Harvard's finest individual defensive effort of the season. He graded out at 97 percent on the films--a figure that linebacker Andy Noian matched in fewer plays but no one has surpassed. And one particular Margolis play that afternoon had Coach Clemens raving.
But the doesn't mean there isn't slight friendly rivalry involved. At the beginning of the season, the two placed a bet on which would finish the year with more tackles, and which would come up with more sacks. A dinner goes to the victor in one category, drinks to the winner in the other.
At this point, Fleming says he has conceded the tackles race to Margolis, but the sacks winner could be determined tomorrow--at Yale quarterback Joe Dufek's expense.