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Tj Givens / Senior Staff Designer

Football comes into this year’s campaign looking to build on last year’s spectacular 8-2 season. Out of the 19 seniors, three captains—Mike Hinton, Landon Baty, and Markham Paukune—sat down with Spectator to discuss their memories and motivations going into the season.

Baty, a defensive back named to last season’s All-Ivy second team and this preseason All-Ivy first team, is the first Lions player to be named captain in back-to-back years since 2011.

Hinton started nine of 10 games across the defensive line last season. He also had a game-securing sack in the final seconds against Dartmouth that propelled the Lions’ record to 6-0.

Paukune is an offensive lineman coming out of the prestigious Southwest Preparatory Conference. The Fort Worth native has been given the chance to play with the Lions for a fifth season. Last season, Paukune earned All-Ivy honorable mentions.

Even though each player has played at least three seasons at the collegiate level, all of their greatest football memories came in last year’s Cinderella season.

For Baty, his moment came in the team’s 28-24 victory over Princeton in just the Lions’ third game of the season, coming into a game against the defending Ivy League champions.

Baty: Honestly, Princeton fourth quarter goal line when I stripped the ball. Like, to me, I know the Penn game was really cool, but I think the Princeton game was so monumental in our program, and it really solidified like who we are as a program and just the general direction in which we were going that season. So, that was pretty sick for me.

Two games later, homecoming provided a moment of solace for Paukune during the team’s miraculous come-from-behind 34-31 overtime victory over Penn.

Paukune: For me it was easily the Penn game touchdown in overtime. Feeling the energy from the crowd, the homecoming crowd was just insane, something that I never thought would have or could happen here was just a surreal experience.

All three seniors were in agreement that Hinton’s breakthrough moment came during last season’s away matchup against Dartmouth. Hinton seized the opportunity during the last play against the Big Green, coming up with a monumental sack to secure a 22-17 win for the Lions.

Hinton: Honestly, being in that position to be in that role for my team, to take the team to 6-0 was pivotal because it gave me the confidence to compete at that higher level so I am very grateful for the opportunity.

Even though football can seem all-consuming, each player has favorite memories off the field as well.

Baty: I would say a class that was really cool that we took—I actually took it with Anders (Hill), Markham, and Bewley (Wales)—actually was Contemporary Civilization. I know everyone takes it, but we took it with a really cool professor, Mr. McCaskey, and it was just a class that was so different than everything else. It was completely applicable to everyday life and really helped us branch out to realize that we are in fact at Columbia. It was just a really cool experience.

Hinton: Probably having other football players to join my fraternity. I was the first one since like 1970 and to see I have three other people in my chapter that are also on my team that was a great experience.

Paukune: For me, I’d say being able to walk last semester with the class that we came in with, the class of 2017 was a really cool experience. Being able to walk across the stage—even though I haven’t graduated yet—but being able to do it with those guys was a really cool experience for me.

As the final year of their football career approaches, the players are taking time to reflect on their accomplishments, as well as looking to finish strong.

Baty: I think for us it’s cool to finally be seniors with expectations here so it is definitely a responsibility on our end to raise the bar a little bit. Last year was the chip on our shoulders and it was kind of like the revenge tour. This year is more of the “Alright, everyone is coming for our heads. Who are we?” It is more of our stability tour. We need to make sure this program stays where everyone for the last five years when Bagnoli started all those players and even before Bagnoli all those guys that put in the work and didn’t get the wins. It’s just holding us to the standard of excellence and not faltering back to where we were.

Paukune: I really appreciate the senior class this year welcoming me and Landon in and just making us a part of their class now. Just blending right in with them so we have a good team chemistry and stuff like that this year that we can build on. We built upon it so well last year and it took so much to create that we just kinda have to keep rolling with that.

Hinton: I have seen the program and the culture has changed so much. Coming in at 2-8, and last year we were 8-2, so this year is the time that we really embody the mantra of everything we have been working so hard for. Everyone is trying to get a ring before they graduate.

The seniors will begin their quest for an Ivy League Championship with their final season opener, this time against Central Connecticut State, on Saturday.

tj.givens@columbiaspectator.com | @tjaspen

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