For years, Jim Margraff didn't let himself fall into the preseason hype surrounding his team. The Johns Hopkins football coach has the Blue Jays at the top of the Centennial Conference preseason rankings for the seventh consecutive year.
But this season — his 26th as the team's head coach — Margraff isn't fighting that extra publicity.
Instead, because it's a way of showing just how successful the program has become, the coach is choosing to embrace it.
"The neat thing is that we've been through this for a long time now," Margraff said Wednesday at the Centennial Conference Media Day held at Franklin & Marshall. "If we were picked first or second in the conference years ago, it would have really bothered me personally. But at some point, you realize that good teams go through this every year. We like to think of ourselves that we're getting to that level."
The team finished 11-1 in 2014, losing only to No. 7 Hobart in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The Blue Jays have claimed the past six conference titles, and a record 10 since 2002.
Despite that success over the past few years, Margraff doesn't think his players have gotten complacent.
"One thing Coach likes to say is, 'Walk like you're 10-0, and work like you're 0-10,'" said senior linebacker Keith Corliss, who led Johns Hopkins in tackles last season with 81. "So, we take that to heart and every day just work our hardest, and act as if we've never won a football game. Because we haven't. Everyone starts the season 0-0."
Johns Hopkins returns 15 starters from last year's squad, including first-team All-Centennial honorees Corliss, Rowan Cade (senior tackle), Colin Egan (senior guard), Bradley Munday (junior wide receiver), Stuart Walters (junior running back), Jack Toner (junior safety) and Brady Watts (senior linebacker).
Corliss and Watts join Brandon Cherry and Ryan Finkel as 2015 captains.
With the expectations high from last year's success, Margraff — who has a 178-83-3 mark over his quarter-century career — said his team still has much to figure out before opening at Randolph-Macon on Sept. 5.
The Blue Jays must replace a depleted defensive line, as well as quarterback Braden Anderson, and Margraff said those individual battles should be enough to keep his players from getting too comfortable.
"We have really strong competition at a lot of positions each year, so there's very few guys who can even think about taking a day off," the coach said. "I've said this many, many times. When your best players are your hardest workers, you get a very strong foundation for your football team, and a stronger foundation for your success."
The Blue Jays are aiming at another deep run this fall. The team has played in 15 postseason games in as many years.
But, with just enough roster turnover to make things interesting, along with a conference he thinks is "very good, top to bottom," Margraff knows that 2015 will be different from last year.
He's just ready to see whether his team is capable of accomplishing a similar result.