Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Journal Gazette: Spring football practice changes Hoosiers’ attitude

I freelanced this column for The Journal Gazette. It ran this morning and I'm very proud of it because it's my first freelance column I've written for anyone. I was asked to describe and talk about how our spring football practices went. I did my best to describe things within 750 words, though I could have written an entire book about it. Read and enjoy.

My spring football began at 5 a.m. March 23. I got out of bed with no hesitation and with an overwhelming anticipation for the events that lay ahead. Only on this day, there’d be no running, hitting or catching. Only a team meeting to kick things off, to set the tone, to lay the smackdown on every soft expectation we may have had about spring football at Indiana University.

It was made clear that this spring, which concludes with today’s scrimmage, would be different. That morning, you could sense the optimism through the sleepy faces and glazed eyes. The day was young, but our motivation had been clear from the start of the winter.

Black and white. That’s been our team motto throughout the spring. There’s no longer room for any gray area. You either execute or you don’t, and almost doesn’t count. You’re dedicated to the team or you’re not. Nothing more, nothing less. We aim for perfection and settle for excellence. That’s our new attitude. We will settle for nothing less.

From the first day, things were kept simple. We put in college football’s latest fad, the pistol formation, and put a strong emphasis on running the ball downhill. We wanted to be more physical as an offense, fast and punishing as a defense and fundamental on special teams.

Over the past month, we’ve achieved our goals and then some. This is the first spring I’ve been through where I’ve had fun in every practice, with the exception of worrying about how sleepy I’d be in a few of the meetings after staying up late working on class projects.

How much fun a team has is true evidence of a team’s attitude and confidence. This team is different from last year’s. Our morale is soaring, and it is clear that this is no longer the 3-9 team of 2008.

Off the field, screws have been tightened and each player has been held accountable. The results have been promising, and guys have been making the necessary changes to become better citizens and, in turn, better teammates.

Guys who were more likely to be caught on an episode of MTV’s “From G’s to Gents” are now making positive changes in their personal lives to not only better themselves but the team as well. That’s just one of the signs of a team in positive transition. I can feel the closeness and chemistry of this team, and it brings a smile to my face every time I think about it. I love to see the guys appreciating each other and realizing the special moments we’ve been blessed to be a part of.

In some ways, I feel as if I’ve floated through spring football. I’ve approached everything with the attitude of “just go play.” I don’t know whether it has to do with the playbook or me just being a senior and having the game slow down for me. It’s probably a combination of both.

Practicing mostly four times a week and lifting weights on off days, the schedule suited what we needed as a team.

We hit nearly every practice to increase our toughness and nearly everything was made into a competition. The competition elements of practice gave us our edge back and will help us going into the summer.

Whether it’s ball security or full-team drills, each player’s football manhood was tested this spring. I’m proud to say that I feel, as a team, we passed that test and now we’re ready to prepare for our next test – training camp.

No comments: