Typically, players-only meetings can go one of two ways. An embattled team can come together, talk out all the ways things have gone right and wrong in the season, and eventually find a rallying point that galvanizes them for the rest of the season.
Or . . .
A frustrated group can sit down in a room, air out all the grievances, and point fingers at each other, leaving things worse than where they were.
The first way usually ends with a team rattling off a string of wins. The second can end with a fistfight.
About a month ago, as the Boston College football team was sitting at 2-3 and the season seemed to be inching closer and closer to the cliff, captains Charlie Callinan and Kamrin Moore got all the players in one room.
It was right before the Eagles were set to face Virginia Tech, and if they couldn’t find a way to turn their season around at that point, they never would.
Anyone who had something on his chest could get it off.
“We kind of kept it as an open forum,” Callinan said. “It’s an open forum for anyone who wants to express their mind, anyone who has some input on how we could get better as a team.”
For redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Brown, the meeting was new territory, and an important moment.
“I was sitting in my seat and Kam and Charlie were talking,” Brown said. “Everything they talked about, I talked to them already about. We were talking to each other as teammates and we just felt that these things needed to be done and they emphasized them in that players meeting.”
The Eagles lost to Virginia Tech, 23-10, but after that, their season made a hairpin turn. They stunned Louisville and Virginia on the road, then came back to The Heights and smacked Florida State to swing their record to 5-4.
They have a chance to win four straight games for the first time since 2010 when they face North Carolina State at home Saturday. One more win would secure their fourth bowl berth in five years.
Getting to that point took some soul-searching in the locker room.
“We just wanted to turn the season around, which we have so far, and we have to continue to keep doing,” Brown said. “It was a lot of emotions flying everywhere, because so many negative opinions were coming at us.
“We had to stick together as a family, so we had the players meeting to talk it over and we were all on the same page, so that’s why it went well. When people aren’t on the same page, then you have people who are in it for themselves — that’s when you see the fists flying.
“But we all wanted to make a difference and we all wanted to make this difference together.”
After blowouts losses to Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Clemson, it was all but impossible to drown out the criticism from a frustrated fan base that was unsure whether the program was taking a step backward.
Internally, the Eagles told themselves to believe in the work they were putting in.
“We kind of just figured out what we needed to do, who we needed to do it for, and why we needed to do it,” Callinan said.
“We’re really playing for each other and the guys in the building — coaches, players, trying to keep it around the team, not to worry about everyone in the stands.
“While we love the fans and the fan support — they’re awesome — we’re really doing it for each other. We’ve really got a good family aspect to this team.”
The only thing that mattered, said junior guard Chris Lindstrom, was what happened inside the locker room.
“Just the guys wanted to come together and play for each other,” Lindstrom said. “And I think that’s what’s special here is that everyone loves each other, so if anyone’s struggling or guys need to count on each other, we can do that.
“When we’re out on the field, we’re playing for each other, and that’s the thing that’s really unique here. You can go anywhere and talk to any guy on the team and everyone has a great relationship and feels comfortable.”
The message trickled down, seniors looking to leave the program on a high note to freshmen hoping to carry the baton.
“Looking in as a freshman, just having respect for good players and them portraying the idea in the right way — rather than accusation, encouragement — and that gets the younger guys and even the rest of the team behind the team,” said freshman center Ben Petrula.
In a matter of three weeks, the question flipped from whether the Eagles would go winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the second time in three years to whether they could win out in their final three games, finish 8-4, and head to a bowl.
Callinan pointed to that meeting as the turning point.
“We’re rolling right now, and I’m confident in how it’s going to go,” he said.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.