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(Rick Hickman/American Press)

(Rick Hickman/American Press)

Cowboys open camp with vigor

Last Modified: Saturday, August 09, 2014 2:14 PM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

You know training camp has started when you can hear Lance Guidry’s voice from the parking lot.

McNeese State’s defensive coordinator was in midseason form on Day 1, and quite a few of his defensive backs looked just as ready on a handful of athletic plays.

Veterans like Gabe Hamner and Brent Spikes were knocking balls from the sky, but true freshmen Andre Fuller, Tavarious Battiste and Kamon Darby stole a bit of the spotlight.

“It was exciting. Kamon Darby made a great play. Tavarious Battiste made a really good play. I certainly saw that,” said head coach Matt Viator. “Brent Spikes had a great interception. Certainly we expected big things from Tavarious and Kamon. They’re fast. The quicker they can learn and catch on to what we’re doing, they can play.”

But as is typical of a first day of practice, Friday was more about going through the ropes than spectacular feats of athleticism.

“We were probably a little slower than I’d like, but it takes some time to get into a practice routine,” Viator said. “All in all the kids moved around good. It seemed like we retained some things from our meetings. We didn’t look real sloppy.”

For some players, getting into a routine isn’t routine at all.

Wide receiver Ernest Celestie is entering his final training camp — this time he means it — and said he’s feeling fully healthy for the first time since his senior year at Barbe High School.

“I had a lot of energy and was able to run around pain free,” Celestie said, who was granted an extra year of medical hardship eligibility by the NCAA. “Everyone’s flying around, feeling good and being superheroes. It was my very first day of college workouts that I passed out and ended up in the hospital, and ever since then I’ve been unhealthy in some way.

“I’ve been 100 percent since May. I haven’t felt that way in forever. It feels good to say I’m 100 percent.”

Training camp days are usually hot and miserable, but Celestie said a light breeze and some cloud cover helped make the second half of Friday’s practice downright bearable.

“When the sun started going down and the wind started picking up, we were kind of rejuvenated,” Celestie said. “It wasn’t dead at the end of practice like it usually is.”

It was the first day practicing with new teammates for transfers like quarterback Daniel Sams, who said he feels comfortable in his transition from Kansas State.

“I can honestly say it wasn’t much of a challenge (fitting in),” Sams said. “Coming out of (Salmen) High School, I knew a lot of these guys from camps and combines. It feels good just to get back. God put us out here for a reason is one thing you can say. Moving on from summer workouts and just throwing the ball around afterwards, I feel like we’re in a good spot right now for this being the first day of camp.”


NOTES: The Cowboys are ranked No. 8 nationally in The Sports Network Preseason Top 25, which was unveiled on Friday. Eastern Washington was No. 1, followed by three-time defending national champion North Dakota State and Southland favorite Southeastern Louisiana in the next two spots. … Former Stephen F. Austin head coach J.C. Harper was added to the McNeese staff as a volunteer video coordinator. Harper’s role will be to assess practice footage and offer feedback to coaches. He cannot actively coach players. Harper won conference titles at SFA in 2009 and 2010 and was a McNeese assistant from 1999-2001.

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