By Maximillian C. Burgos
Every Saturday, college football dominates the U.S. on all the major sports networks. The pregame shows, games and rivalries all fuel an action-packed Saturday of thrills and disappointments. Everyone that watches the games has an opinion of how the players should play or act on the field. In reality, almost no one knows the grind it takes to play on the field in the first place. But student athletes on the field at any level of college football know it’s not just a game.
It’s a vigorous lifestyle. I played football for a year here at the College and I can say that it seems like a brutal sport on the outside. For those that do not know what goes into the preparation for the game, it may even seem barbaric. In reality, some of the most important preparation takes place on a chalkboard or white board depending on the facilities. What fans see during the game was first drawn up on a chalkboard before it was ever executed on the field.
It’s great to have unparalleled athleticism, but for those that do not, they have to depend on schemes and strategy in order to win games. From my experience here at the College, learning plays on offense can take hours in a day and that’s at Division III competition. I can only imagine what it’s like in Division I.
College football players don’t just play the game, they live it. From eating right and finding time to lift everyday, to studying film religiously, the grind for a football player may seem crazy to many. During my experience, there were times where I used to watch the same play on film over and over with coaches to see how I could improve my game. At times, football felt more like a job than a sport. I grew to love the game and all of its inner workings.
Here at the College, there is a clear focus on academics, meaning that for the most part, players focus on their duties in the classroom over their duties on the field. In Division III, that seems to be the trend. Unless you are a spectacular outlier of talent, you’ll most likely not make it into the NFL. So logically, you’d focus on getting a degree more than getting a ring on the football field.
In reality, playing the sport at any level is hard. The College prides itself on its academic standing and that of its athletes. But, the struggle to balance a difficult schedule for most majors on top of a demanding athletic schedule is underappreciated here at the College.
This past week, the College’s football team dropped to 0-4 and many will rush to say that they suck or that aren’t that good. The reality is that they have played some of the toughest teams in the country to start off the year and are under a new coaching system with 36 freshmen on the team. Most Division I schools would struggle in the same situation.
The fact of the matter is, each player on the field proudly represents his school. Players go to class, lift in their off time, study plays and film for hours on end, practice everyday on the field and somehow find the time for homework and sleep. All of this so they can have the chance to play for their school every Friday night or Saturday afternoon.
Football players here at the College are at a disadvantage compared to other teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. Schools like Salisbury University and Kean University have a much more lenient acceptance rate. Players that get rejected by Division I schools due to lower grades compete at some of these schools, creating an imbalance of athleticism on the field.
Yet, the College’s football team never waivers and goes out every game and play their hearts out. Each game, they strap up their pads, put on their helmets, partake in their pregame rituals and keep their heads up in order to give the opposing team all they have on the field. It’s never easy for them since most teams in the NJAC are some of the best in the country. In the past three weeks, the team played the number 23th nationally ranked Wesley College and the No.12 ranked Frostburg State University, according to the American Football Coaches Association.
Yeah, the team fell to 0-4 this past week, but they are keeping their heads up high for next week. After talking to coaches, the teams seems to never let its morale waiver for more than a second, regardless of their record or who they are playing. They keep a mentality that they can compete with anyone in the country and they believe it.
So, next time you think about saying that any college team is playing badly, remember the personal sacrifices those players make to be on that field in the first place. Those players have the same academic schedules you do and pack even more things into theirs to be physically prepared on the field. There are no athletic scholarships at the College or any Division III school, so each player plays completely for the love of the sport and for their school.
The next time you see a football player with their head down at the College, give them a pat on the back and encourage them to get the next team. A little support goes a long way, especially with so many new faces on the team and when playing in such a tough conference.