Imagine you're a sprinter. A lithe, fleet-footed wisp of air whose cleats barely touch the track as you blow by your competition.
Imagine being in the starting blocks when a 6-foot-4, 230-pound behemoth hunkers down beside you, ignores shouts of "Hey, the shot put's over there!" and fixes his eyes on the finish line.
Imagine him getting there first.
Athletes who competed against William and Mary defensive tackle Sean Lissemore at Dumont High in Dumont, N.J., didn't always have to imagine. Lissemore, a linebacker on his high school team, a wrestler and, yes, a shot putter, also ran the 100 and 200 meters, with his best time of 11.2 seconds in the 100 mere slivers from his school's record of 10.9.
"I was unique," said Lissemore, a senior who now weighs 286 pounds but still runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds. "I just enjoyed going against those guys and beating them."
Lissemore has gotten to experience that feeling quite often this season.
Lissemore leads the Tribe (4-0, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) with five tackles for loss as fifth-ranked William and Mary heads to No. 2 Villanova on Saturday.
"We've played good teams up to this point, but this is by far the best team," said Lissemore, whose team opened the season by upsetting Virginia in Charlottesville. "We're ready to rise to the challenge, and I'm ready to see what type of defense we really have."
The Tribe is allowing a meager average of 59 rushing yards per game, eighth in the country, while the Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 CAA) rank sixth in the nation with 228 rushing yards per game. Villanova junior quarterback Chris Whitney is averaging 126.5 passing yards and a team-best 69 rushing yards per game, and he's squarely in the sights of the Tribe's defense.
"Our goal right now, we say, is to wreck the decision-maker, to take him out, and then go from there," said Lissemore, who has 11/2 sacks and a quarterback hurry.
Lissemore, one of five Tribe captains, had 51 tackles, including a team-best 71/2 for loss, and four sacks last season. This year, fully recovered from shoulder surgery on a torn labrum last spring, he served early notice he was picking up right where he left off.
"He's a lot easier to coach than he is to block," William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "He disrupted our offense throughout spring practice."
In more ways than one. While he had to give up wrestling to pursue football — he had a scholarship offer to wrestle at Rutgers, but at 197 pounds — Lissemore hasn't forgotten the moves that earned him a state medal at 215 pounds.
"There was this one play in spring ball," Lissemore said. "I picked up one of our running backs and I kind of did a suplex (driving him into the ground). I kind of felt bad about it … "
Lissemore brings even more aggression against his opponents. In a 30-20 win against Delaware last weekend, he had six tackles, including 21/2 for loss, but wasn't concerned about his stats.
"I personally enjoy just laying some people out," he said. "I got a shot on the one kid. It won't show up in the box score, but I took his helmet off."
Before writing off Lissemore as a big brute, consider his schedule as a high school freshman.
"It's kind of embarrassing, but I was also in the marching band," said Lissemore, who played saxophone. "I would go out and play the freshman football game, which was at like 9 or 10 in the morning, and I'd run back in the locker room and go get changed into the band uniform and march in the varsity game."
As he was already 6-2, no one gave him a hard time, but "I definitely stuck out," Lissemore said. "You know, with the feather on the hat, I was the tallest kid on the field."
Lissemore still plays sax when he has time, and he's helping his younger sister, Brittany, hone her shot, discus and javelin skills for interested colleges. But don't get the idea that he's not focused on the main task at hand.
"We're trying to shut teams out," Lissemore said. "We're trying to hold teams to as (few) points as possible.
"We're trying to make a statement that we are the best defense in this conference."
Storylines SUPER 'NOVA SO FAR
Villanova is averaging almost 34 points per game, while the Wildcats are only surrendering 12.75, seventh-best in the country.
QB DEJA VU
W&M senior R.J. Archer is in just his first season as the Tribe's starting quarterback, but this will be his second start in two years against Villanova. With Jake Phillips out with a foot injury, Archer threw for 307 yards and a TD in a 38-28 loss in 2008.
The Tribe, 5-1 in its last six road games, has lost four straight games to Villanova and hasn't won there since a 48-41 overtime victory in 2000. The Wildcats' three straight home wins have been by an average of almost 25 points per game.
59 Combined years of head-coaching experience in Saturday's game: 30 for Jimmye Laycock, 29 for Andy Talley.Copyright © 2015, CT Now