Ahhhh...winter has melted away. Across college campuses, endless games of ultimate Frisbee abound, outdoor keggers are tapped up everywhere and, of course, the almighty SPRING BREAK looms large. Spring is here in full force and that can only mean one thing:
That's right, it's pigskin season all over again. And while most college football fans look forward to the tailgating, body paint, beer, and maybe a first down or two, the truth is, so much more goes into the sport than what you see come fall. There's blood, sweat and tears that go into making the season what it is, and for several dedicated athletes, this all starts in spring.
Spring football demonstrates the dedication these student athletes have. While the Jager Olympics are underway in Cancun during spring break, linebackers are in the weight-room and corners are running laps. In colleges across the country—from LA to Boston—this season means, "GO TIME." It's hot, grueling, and tough to endure when most of the athlete's buds are away on spring break. But that's the beauty. Most of these athletes are there voluntarily; all trying to get an edge in securing their position by pre-season.
Believe it or not, several schools have serious spring football schedules. Several play their first game not in September, but on April 16th. At Marshall, you have the Green-White spring game, and at Louisiana Tech, Bone Bowl III. While these games don't count in the standings, you better believe there are more than a few bragging rights on the line.
Spring football means different things to many different programs. Notre Dame's new head coach is looking for top-line players to step in and prove themselves in his system. He's not looking for much, just a little Tom Brady somewhere inside Brady Quinn. Ten thousand crazed students - not to mention innumerable alumni"are looking for the same thing from the Irish. In South Carolina, Steve Spurrier is looking for a rerun of the "fun 'n' gun" offense that he created at SEC rival Florida. At Purdue, they want to see a reincarnation of Kyle Orton, but they'd be satisfied with anyone, as long as he throws forty touchdown passes come fall. While the goals of spring football are different for every program, by the fall every team wants the same thing: to win. And the more sweat poured in April, the better those chances.
While many casual fans are just now learning about what goes into spring practice, this is not a new ritual for most players. Just ask Jeremy Shockey. The star tight end for the New York Giants is constantly questioned by the media why he always stays in Miami instead of participating in pro mini camps. What many people don't know is Miami has one of the toughest spring regimens out there. He will be worked into the ground in one of the warmest climates in America. But that's the price paid to stay on top. Turns out it's not that different for the guys who play on Saturdays.
While most of the guys who line up this April will never get the glory that goes along with their sacrifice, they can look to Shockey as a good example of what it means to put it on the line in spring. These guys have skipped the parties to be worked into the ground instead. But if all the extra work done now gives them even a slight edge in the regular season, then good luck finding one guy who will say it wasn't worth it.