Sam Houston High School football players receive instruction during workouts early Wednesday morning in Moss Bluff. (Kirk Meche / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, July 03, 2014 2:15 PMIt’s a hot, humid Louisiana morning in early July. The alarm clock sounds and it is already 5:30 a.m.
In the streets you will find adults scurrying to work, most yawning and clutching a cup of coffee. There are no teenagers in sight, most of whom have six more weeks of freedom before returning to whatever level of school they are in, most will be snuggled tightly in their beds.
But not the football player.
In Southwest Louisiana, much like everywhere else in the southern United States, football takes a special precedent in every community. And for the football player, no amount of preparation is too much.
On the football field, underneath those ever-so-daunting-yet-glamorous lights, there is no room for error. One mistake, one step in the wrong direction or just a millisecond of hesitation can be the difference between a win and a loss, a celebration and a long night alone, a playoff run and cleaning your locker out for the final time.
So on that Wednesday morning in July, just days before one of the biggest holidays of the year, the football player rolls himself out of bed, pulls on whatever workout clothes he can find and heads to work. It’s not a job that he is being paid for, in fact the only compensation that he can hope to receive is that with just one more rep in the weight room, 10 more yards of sprinting or climbing five more bleachers will make him as physically prepared as possible, ensuring that it is not him who makes that fateful error this fall.
“Ideally it is for them not to just maintain, but also to get better,” says Sam Houston head coach Vaughn Eggleston.
The drive to school in the middle of summer is not an easy one. The one place the football player spent nine months waiting to get a break from is the last place he wants to be. The idea of turning around and crawling back into bed sounds better by the mile.
But in the end he slides into a parking spot near the locker room and takes a deep breath, killing the engine.
As he steps out of the vehicle he looks to his right and left, just a simple head nod will do to greet his equally as weary teammates. They know that conserving that little bit of energy will benefit them shortly.
The clock strikes 6 a.m. and it’s time for work. A 15-minute stretch ensues before the players split into positional groups.
First up, the weight room.
It is a full hour of inclined bench presses, power cleans and deadlifts to start, followed by a mixture of auxiliary lifts. The young men quickly pile into the weight room behind the shouting of two coaches, the yelling is not done out of malice, but rather is meant to be motivational. Each rep burns a little more, but he cannot show any sign of pain or weakness, not that it is not allowed, but he must look as tough as possible in front of his teammates.
The weights finally come to a halt and it is a rush outside for running and agility drills. He grabs a quick sip of water, his last before the running is complete.
An hour has passed and the only legs not wobbling under body weight are that of the coaches; it is time for a brief water break before moving on to position drills. Learning was not finished in May for the football players; formations, blocking schemes and hand signals will be drilled into their heads while running a noncontact version of practice. This is essential, not only to keep them in shape, but to ensure they haven’t forgotten a single play or call in their month off.
The final whistle sounds and it is time to meet with the coaches before making the long walk back to the locker room. It isn’t even 9 a.m. but he has expended every ounce of energy he could muster, the job is complete.
“A lot of these guys have jobs, and a few may have summer school, so there is always an issue of when they will be able to show up,” Eggleston says. “It takes dedication to be here at 6 a.m. and go through these workouts.”
But for most players, the job is not complete, there are still 15 hours in the day for summer jobs and social lives. It is not an easy balance when everyone else their age is living carefree throughout the summer, but it is a necessary one.
It is necessary for him to become the best athlete and football player he can be.
It is necessary for him to gain the self-discipline he will need.
It is necessary for him not to hesitate for that split-second.
It is necessary for him to win.
Posted By: Angela Kiser On: 7/5/2014
Title: Proud Bronco Mom
I know first hand the dedication and determination of these football players. Coach Egg and his staff give just as much dedication and determination to those early mornings as the boys do.
Posted By: Brandon D. On: 7/4/2014
Title: Great read!
This is very well written. It gives great insight into a side of football and growing up to be a man that a lot of people don't get to see. One of the better sports articles I've read in some time.