Every Thursday, members of the Boston College offensive line enter Buff’s Pub on Washington Street with one mission and one mission only: Destroy close to 100 chicken wings.
They typically know what they want right away, chat about life and football while they wait, then wolf down their portions in about five minutes before leaving satisfied.
“We’re there longer waiting for the food and hanging out than we are eating,” center Alec Lindstrom said. “Once the food gets there, conversation kind of stops.”
When they’re not frequenting Buff’s, they can often be found devouring film and sharpening their technique. They’re a charismatic, close, and cerebral group, and together they make up one of the most experienced and talented offensive lines in college football.
Through the first four games of the season, Pro Football Focus graded the Boston College line as the second-best in the country (93.2 percent).
Left tackle Tyler Vrabel, left guard Zion Johnson, Lindstrom, right guard Christian Mahogany, and right tackle Ben Petrula — with guidance and inspiration from offensive line coach Matt Applebaum and head coach Jeff Hafley — have been instrumental in BC’s 4-1 start. The line, which also features Jack Conley, Drew Kendall, Finn Dirstine, Kevin Cline, and Ozzy Trapilo among others, has helped the Eagles rack up the sixth-most rushing yards (185.6) and fourth-most points per game (35.6) in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“We’re probably the closest unit on our team, probably in the country,” Petrula said. “We’re all best friends.”
Tyler Vrabel, ‘the joker’
Vrabel, the son of former Patriots standout Mike Vrabel, now the Tennessee Titans head coach, started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2019 and played all 785 offensive snaps in 2020.
He injured his knee last Saturday against Clemson, but has been a catalyst while on the field. Lindstrom said Vrabel, at 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds, excels as a pass protector and takes his craft very seriously.
Off the field, whether it’s talking trash during Xbox battles or messing with his teammates in the locker room, Vrabel is considered the jokester of the group. Lindstrom called him a clown in the most endearing way possible.
“He’s probably one of the funniest in the room,” Mahogany said. “He makes us laugh the most.”
Zion Johnson, ‘the serious guy’
It’s hard to believe now, but Johnson was initially more focused on golf and didn’t start playing football competitively until his senior year of high school.
The 6-foot-3, 316-pound graduate student, an ACC third-team selection last year and a preseason All-American this season, is described by his teammates as “super serious” all the time.
“Ah, they said I’m the serious guy? Probably,” Johnson said, shaking his head. “It’s not that I’m serious. Well, I am serious. I’m really serious about work.”
Lindstrom said Johnson will occasionally joke around and often laugh at his teammates’ shenanigans, but in the back of his mind, he’s always thinking about getting better. That approach is paying dividends, as Johnson is projected by many as an early-round pick in the NFL Draft.
“He’s an all-around animal,” Petrula said. “Just a beast on the field.”
Alec Lindstrom, ‘the ringleader’
While Petrula jokes that Lindstrom can sometimes get “a little cranky,” Lindstrom is typically the one at the center of the action — both on the field and off.
“He’s our ringleader,” Petrula said. “He keeps everybody in check.”
The 6-foot-3, 298-pound grad student and Dudley native is known in many circles as a griller, food reviewer, social media guy, and someone who can liven up any situation with his quick wit.
Lindstrom, Petrula, and Johnson all live together, which keeps them entertained. The PFF second-team preseason All-American, never one to lack confidence, said he carries the team in Madden and sometimes encourages Petrula to play tackle when he doesn’t want him getting the ball.
That assuredness carries over to the field, where Lindstrom — the brother of former Eagle and current Atlanta Falcon Chris Lindstrom — advises everyone and often sees plays in his mind before they unfold in real time.
“He’s the master of our offense,” Johnson said. “He knows what play needs to be called and how it needs to be ID’d. He really prides himself in being the guy that makes the calls. It’s great to have a center like that.”
Christian Mahogany, ‘the young pup’
Though Mahogany is relatively inexperienced compared to his wily linemates, he’s far from a rookie. A 6-foot-3, 311-pound redshirt sophomore from Elmwood Park, N.J., he started all 11 games last year and showed great promise.
This season, he’s taken his game to new heights, and has gotten even more comfortable complementing his savvy and seasoned teammates.
“Christian’s kind of like the young buck, trying to feel out the ropes,” Petrula said. “He’s doing a good job, but can get better every week. He’s trying to soak up as much as he can.”
Petrula, a fellow Jersey guy, takes credit for getting Mahogany to BC. His teammates know his future is bright, and they’re happy to guide him along — at least most of the time.
“He’s always learning, so sometimes he can be a pain in the you-know-what,” Lindstrom said.
Ben Petrula, ‘the old man’
Petrula, a 6-foot-5, 314-pound grad student in his fifth year with the program, has started every single game since he arrived on campus. His streak of 53 straight is by far the most on the team. Next up is Lindstrom with 29.
Petrula’s teammates give him a hard time for being the elder statesman, but he doesn’t shy away from it.
“I’m like Old Man Moses,” Petrula said. “I’m the oldest dude, old as dirt. I try to bring as much wisdom as I can and be a leader.”
Mahogany called Petrula “like a big brother” and credited him for taking him under his wing, mentoring him both on and off the field.
As Lindstrom paused and hesitated while trying to best describe Petrula, Petrula chimed in from nearby:, “It’s OK. You can say I stink.” The banter, respect, and unbreakable bond they’ve formed helps make the collective unit even stronger than its individual parts.
“We’re not just teammates at this point,” Mahogany said. “We’re brothers.”
Trevor Hass can be reached at email@example.com.