Rams Seniors Await Final Buzzer

Their days are numbered. In fact, they don't even have days left - they have quarters, four of them. Kickoff is scheduled for noon Saturday against Northeastern and then the clock starts winding down for nine Rhode Island seniors.

Some of them began their college football careers in 1995, some in 1996. Some of them began their college football careers at Rhode Island, some elsewhere. All nine of them will end their college football careers at the same time, in the same place. In the moment when the clock in Meade Stadium ticks off the final seconds, it will close yet another chapter in Rhode Island football history and another chapter in the lives of these nine student-athletes.

Karim Gibson, Ken Mastrole, Brandon Bradshaw, Justin Henry, Jason Christopher, Carmine Spagnuolo, Mike Wear, Rob Milani and Effy Gottlieb don Keaney blue for the last time Saturday.

Karim Gibson was known as a "track guy" in high school. Hurdles and the triple jump - those were the events that occupied Gibson's time. Fortunately for Rhode Island football fans, football managed to slip past track in the final leg when Gibson was switched from tailback to wide receiver in his senior year of high school. In five years at Rhode Island, Gibson's come a long way since those first few days as a wide receiver. In fact, this season the senior from Lynn, Mass., became only the tenth player in Rhode Island history to reach the 100-reception plateau.

The arm behind the passes Gibson grabs every Saturday belongs to senior quarterback Ken Mastrole. Mastrole, however, has only been a part of Ram football for a year. The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native transferred from Maryland this season to take over the reins of the Ram offense. Highly recruited out of high school, Mastrole settled on Maryland and quickly made his mark climbing up the Terrapins' depth chart. Then, the Terrapins made the move to the option and another quarterback so Mastrole began looking for a new football home. He found Rhode Island where so far he's thrown for nearly 2,000 yards and rushed for 87.

Brandon Bradshaw, a senior defensive back from Akron, Ohio, has 27 tackles and an interception (his first career pick) so far this season. According to Gibson, it's going one-on-one in practice against the speedy DB that's helped make him the receiver he is today. Regarded as the two fastest players on the team, Gibson and Bradshaw enjoy the challenge of going one-on-one in practice. The multi-faceted Bradshaw also has 16 kick returns for 345 yards this season, including a team-high 42-yard return. Bradshaw is used to serving a multitude of duties on the football, after all that's how he began his URI career in 1996 as a defensive back, kickoff returner and tailback.

Justin Henry started his Rhode Island career as a quarterback. The senior from McVeytown, Pa., spent his high school days setting records in his hometown, throwing for more than 4,100 yards and 300 completions, including 37 touchdowns. But, when he came to Rhode Island he left his old position as QB and became a tight end. So far this season, Henry has nine receptions for 111 yards, including one 30-yard reception. He averages just over 22 yards per game and just over 12 yards per reception. In 1998 Henry caught five passes for 74 yards and in 1997 he earned a spot on the Atlantic 10 All-Academic team.

Jason Christopher has enjoyed an outstanding Rhode Island football career. Booting the ball 216 times for a total of 8,300 yards, Christopher has been one of the most prolific Rams of the past few years. One-third of his total punts have fallen inside the 20. The longest punt of his Rhode Island career was a 73-yarder in 1997, but he's booted a 71-yarder already in 1999. His career average is just under 40 yards and in 1997 he was named outstanding special teams player by the coaching staff at the annual football awards banquet. He holds the Rhode Island single season high for average with a 42.37 mark in 1997 and has taken over the number two spot on URI's career list for punting yards.

Carmine Spagnuolo has tallied 27 tackles this season, five for losses totaling 27 yards. He's picked up two sacks for 19 yards total loss and broken up two passes. A New York City and Fuguzzi All-Star, Spagnuolo began his Rhode Island career in 1996, and in his final season he has matched his career totals from the past two years. Coming into the 1999 season, Spagnuolo had 26 tackles and four sacks. He had nine stops for a total loss of 28 yards. Against Maine in 1998, he made five tackles, including a pair of sacks that resulted in 12 yards in losses.

Mike Wear is seventh on the squad in tackles with 49. The defensive tackle from Oaklyn, N.J., finished 1998 eighth on the squad with 39 stops. Wear has put together an impressive Rhode Island career with 114 total stops, three sacks and 11 tackles for 25 yards in losses. In 1996, when he began his URI career, he saw action in seven games, recording 22 tackles, one for a loss. The majority of Wear's 114 career tackles have come in the last two seasons, with 22 in 1998 and 49 in 1999. In 1998 he picked up seven stops against eventual-national champion Massachusetts.

In 1995, Rob Milani made a quiet entrance into college football. It's hard to believe the 6-4, 315-pound offensive lineman entered the scene quietly, but he did. In fact, only Rhode Island offered Milani a scholarship and even it was a partial one. Two years later, the Rams granted Milani a full scholarship and the Walpole, Mass., native earned it. He helped lead the way for Rams' running back James Jenkins in 1998 when Jenkins broke the Rhode Island single season rushing record with 1,206 yards. In the weight room, Milani's 600-pound squat tops the team, while his 405-pound bench press is second best on the squad.

Effy Gottlieb joins Milani as a member of the Rams' O-Line, but he didn't start out there. The senior from Plainsboro, N.J., is a former all-state, all-area performer...on defense. As a high school senior he led the Milford Academy in sacks and garnered New Jersey state wrestling champion honors, going undefeated. He has used his strength and size to be an effective member of the offensive line.

The clock has wound down and the buzzer has sounded. "My freshman year, I couldn't wait to graduate," said Gibson. "Now, I'll miss playing football. Great coaches, great teammates... it's been a good experience."