Rivera centers on Penn's strong offensive line play

AKIRA SUWA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Penn's captains are (from left) Evan Jackson, Mitchell King, Conner Scott and Daniel Davis.
AKIRA SUWA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Penn's captains are (from left) Evan Jackson, Mitchell King, Conner Scott and Daniel Davis.
Posted: August 27, 2014

BEING AN Ivy League pre-med student who spends hours each week undertaking neurological research is a demanding college lifestyle, rife with sleepless nights, crowded class schedules, and endless laboratory assignments.

The same constraints apply to Division I football players during their tenure on campus. Trent Rivera has navigated these time-consuming situations during his first 3 years at Penn, as he now prepares to begin his senior year, his first as the squad's incumbent starting center.

Rivera is majoring in biological basis of behavior, a program unique to Penn that fuses aspects of biology and psychology to form an interdisciplinary study of the brain. His neuroscience laboratory project involves the effects of stress on learning and memory, as it relates to processing new information and later recalling it.

"We're looking at how stress affects the three stages of learning: receiving the information, consolidating it, and retrieving it," said Rivera, a North Royalton, Ohio, native. "We've found that that the consolidation part can be improved by stress, but retrieving it is impaired by stress."

Rivera's cognitive abilities will be just as key this Ivy League season as his physical strength, as he's the starting center on an inexperienced offensive line. Rivera, who started the final two games last season, is the lone senior among the five.

As the center, Rivera will need to quickly remember not only his own blocking schemes, but also those of all the linemen on any given play. When facing high-pressure and stressful situations, such as staring down defenders from Cornell, Princeton, and the like, Rivera will be called on to process the opposing defensive system and determine the best possible front.

"On the field, I just like to know everyone's assignments. It makes it easier for me to help them out on a play-by-play basis if I know where they're supposed to go and which fronts we're identifying," Rivera said about his leadership role on the line. "I just like to know the playbook better than everybody else and have it down sound."

Quakers coach Al Bagnoli, entering his 23rd and final season with the Quakers, feels confident in Rivera's capabilities as the head figure of the line.

"Trent had a great preseason and a great spring," Bagnoli said. "We're going to need some leadership. We're going to need some wisdom. We're dealing with some young kids. There's talent there, but they're inexperienced."

Being dedicated to his academic pursuits in addition to his commitment to the football team is challenging, but Rivera will nonetheless be fixated on winning another Ivy League crown this fall, just as the Quakers did during his sophomore year.

Recalling what made that Penn team so successful will be integral to both his play and that of the younger offensive linemen under his tutelage on Saturdays.

Penn, which was 4-6 last season, opens on the road against Jacksonville on Sept. 20.

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