Texas Wesleyan football is gearing up — for spring practices, an intersquad scrimmage in April and, of course, the 2017 season.
The team is practicing in the afternoon Monday through Thursday and at 5 a.m. on Fridays and will start practicing in pads on March 28, said head coach Joe Prud’homme.
“[The morning workout is] to instill toughness,” Prud’homme said. “It’s got different components to it but it’s different every week. We’re trying to instill a mental toughness and physical toughness that we want to play with. We want them to understand that there are sacrifices that have to be made in order to do this. Getting up at five and being here at five and doing that workout is not easy. I don’t pretend it is.”
The team is excited to begin tackling, running plays and preparing for their scrimmage, tight end Logan Butler said.
“We are really excited about it. I mean I’m really excited about getting pads on and just start hitting. It’s like being a kid in a candy factory,” said Butler, a sophomore biochemistry major.
The team’s uniform, made by Adidas, will be revealed at a Thursday press conference.
“That’s for a lot of boosters and things of that nature want to see it first,” Prud’homme said.
The team’s intersquad scrimmage will be held at 3 p.m. on April 22 at Farrington or Clark, Prud’homme said.
The team is extremely self-motivated, Prud’homme, and the closer to pads and actual games the more excited the players are getting.
“They know pads are coming and it’s more like football,” Prud’homme said. “It’s tough to go through a year without playing and everybody else is and stay at that heightened alertness and awareness is tough.”
The 2017 season begins with an away game against McPherson College on Sept. 2; the Rams’ first home game is Sept. 9 against Millsaps College.
The season was originally going to be 10 games, but Wesleyan added a game with Oklahoma Panhandle University to the schedule. The teams play at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11 in Goodwell, Okla.
“We picked up Oklahoma Panhandle State [University] joined our conference so that was the eleventh game so it changed a little bit,” Prud’homme said.
Prud’homme and his coaching staff have been scouting the other teams in the Central States Conference.
“We went and watched them during the season,” Prud’homme said. “We saw several of them play so we got a feel for what we’re going to be competing against.”
The schedule looks good but traveling so often will be a challenge for the Rams, Prud’homme said.
“The traveling piece is going to be pretty challenging,” Prud’homme said. “We’ve got a DII on our schedule first year which I think is pretty ambitious but I feel good about it.”
Prud’homme said that running a startup program with 100 players is challenging.
“And now you add in all the factors of what all we’ve got to do to get ready for practices,” Prud’homme said. “The equipment piece, the storage of the equipment, managing our practice schedule, ‘Where are we going to be?’ ‘How are we going do it?’ and the transportation issues.”
Before the pads go on in March, the players are practicing skills within their position groups, lifting weights and running, said fullback Zack Lanham.
“We’re spending a lot of time not only relearning the skills of football as a college athlete on a new level but we are learning new skills that are really going to prepare us for that college level and how to play a position that we’ve grown up playing,” said Lanham, a criminal justice sophomore.
The team has been practicing on the mall and at the practice field across from the Law Sone Fine Arts Center, Lanham said.
“We’ve been in two places,” Lanham said. “The reason why is that the grass gets torn up because of the cleats so until we have a sufficient play to practice with turf and or more than one field in one location we’ll keep alternating.”
The team will have an 18-day period for the offense and defense to practice in pads, Lanham said.
“We will most likely be staying away from tackles on the legs stuff like that because this is just to get us back in that feel of aggression so [there will be] a lot of hits up high,” Lanham said.
The program is a lot to keep together, especially considering that the team does not have its own facilities, Prud’homme said.
“I never would have thought at the beginning of my career that I’d be doing this,” Prud’homme said. “A startup college program, but I do find it very exciting and rewarding so far. And I do believe that we’re going to have something people are proud of.”
Prud’homme wants the Rams to be a Metroplex team, not just a Fort Worth or Polytechnic or Tarrant County team.
“It’s not just this little area of Fort Worth where we’re going,” Prud’homme said. “I want it to be that everybody wants to come see us play. That’s in the back of my mind on a lot of decisions that are made.”