It's easy to watch football on TV and have a vague understanding of how difficult a game it is to play.
The physical specimens that take the field on Saturdays and on Sundays in the fall very obviously train their bodies with great disipline, and being a team sport, there is no secret that a lot of practice is involved in being a competitive football team.
At Temple University, the winners of last year's Gasparilla Bowl, are already back on the field for spring practices under now second yead head coach Geoff Collins — more than five months away from playing a football game in 2018.
Metro was invited to follow along as 120 players reported for the first official practice of the calendar year. Here's what we saw as we experienced a day in the life of a Temple football player:
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6:05 a.m. — I met two players outside the practice facility. Here's how it went down.
Player A: "Yo man, I forgot my ID."
Player B: "S***, me too."
Bang Bang Bang.
We walked in.
6:13 a.m. — Most of the team had been working out since before 5:30, but those who were walking in fresh were grabbing a muffin and banana.
6:28 a.m. — In the coaches conference room, Collins greeted members of the media attending "All Access" day. He then explained an intensive schedule, breaking down drills to the minute and a brief introduction came from the coach.
"Today hopefully you'll get to see why we love them so much," Collins said of his players, going on to say that the idea for an All-Access day came during his three weeks off after the Owls bowl win in December.
6:48 a.m. — The offense and defense have meetings. In this particular meeting (the offense), Temple OC David Patenaude implores the student athletes, all wearing cherry and staying attentive, to D.W.W.D.B (Do what we do better).
"Last year we were just Okay," Patenaude tells the offense, which measured as the third best ever to play for the Owls last season.
7:04 a.m. — As the offensive meeting wrapped, I started to understand why coaches were such good motivators. Patenaude spoke about the movie "300" with a quote on a power point display from the movie "Molon Labe" (which means "come and take them.") The troops were rallied, and I, a 30-year-old out of shape sportswriter, was ready to slam into a tackling dummy.
7:12 a.m. — I was assigned to the offensive line team meeting, which began in the same room as the rest of the offense shuffled out. About 20 minutes of film study commenced led by line coach Chris Wiesehan. The linemen were active participants in a discussion of scheme and signals, and I was brought back to my days — also at Temple — in early morning lecture halls as an underclassman.
7:38 a.m. — Special teams coordinator Ed Foley oversaw a meeting about punting drills and schemes to come in practice. He gave what sounded to me like a rousing Jason Kelce impression, once again motivating me to desire to attempt athletic feats impossible for unathletic me. But did make me enthuised to watch the Owls cover the 5 and 10s on their coverage scheme.
7:55 a.m. — Before the team broke to practice, Collins showed a "pump up" film with highlights from 2017. Then, he called soon-to-be starting quarterback Frank Nutile up front and surprised him as Phillip Walker and Artrel Foster — two stars from last season — presented Nutile with a new number.
"I had no idea it was a surprise in the team meeting," the senior QB would say later. "It's an honor obviously for anyone to wear a single digit around here. To get to wear eight, the same number as some legends around here like Foster, Walker and Tyler [Matakevich], it is great."
8:20 a.m. — After two hours of meetings practice finally starts. The energy is palpable, as is the snow steadily falling as player start stretches and walk throughs.
8:40 a.m. — Select players participate in a tug of war at the 50-yardline.
9:13 a.m. — During offensive install team drills, Nutile drills sophomore wideout Freddy Johnson for a deep touchdown.
9:33 a.m. — Ventell Bryant shows why he has the makings of a potential NFL receiver, making plays in team drills. In the weight room, as I wandered to warm up from the 35 degree cold, I saw he holds Temple's all-time record for wideouts with a 36 inch vertical.
9:53 a.m. — As practice continues, likebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley nabs an interception.
10:29 a.m. — Practice finally reaches its climax as players run simultaneous drills down the field. As the 1s reach the 30 yardline, the 2s take over on midfield, then the 3s, then the 4s.
This, as I learned, was just the morning's activities.
"I'm a senior so I only have three classes," Bryant told me after practice. "My first class is at 2, so I am going to get in there, get some treatment in, watch film from today and talk to my coaches."
These players are compensated with an education — which is fair. But they work hard. They work long hours too. And they do it with a smile and enthusiasm. They work out and practice and study every day — and then they have a full load of college coursework. And a social life. And family.
It's inspiring to see, and makes me really, truely believe these athletes deserve to be treated better than the NCAA allows colleges to treat them.
And was on March 13. I can only imagine how intense and time-consuming it is to be a college football player come August and September.