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Springtime on Campus...A Tale of Two Pictures....

Springtime on a college campus…..

For most college students it can mean a lazy sunny afternoon with the hint of summer coming….For football players it means Spring practice which isn’t all fun and games.

The redundancy of battling your teammates with no outside opponent in sight can get tiring. (note: teams are allowed 15 practices and no outside competition—it used to be 20 and as high as 25). In Penn State’s old locker room each Spring the players put up 20 pieces of tape to signify each practice. After each practice, the team would cheer as a senior would tear off one piece of tape.

On really nice days, college football players finish class, walk across campus past students taking it easy and head towards a tough full pad practice. For veteran players these practices can drag at times because established players often get fewer reps than younger guys the coaches want to evaluate.

In the Spring of 1986 with a Penn State team loaded with 5th-year seniors, Joe Paterno worried about boredom and keeping them healthy. He gave a bunch of them time off, paying dividends with a National Championship the next fall.

But each Spring these guys know other students are lounging on Campus or enjoying a pitcher at an outdoor bar. There is always a slight temptation to wonder “What if I had the afternoon off like other students?”

Every once in a while a guy catches the bug……

In 1989 we were finishing winter conditioning just before Spring Practice. We concluded the last day with a weight room workout designed to be really tough but also fun. Guys dressed up as pro wrestlers and put other guys through extreme weight lifting workouts. Outside that sunny, warm March Day throngs of sunbathing students were in Pollock Quad trying to keep their Spring Break tans.

One of our players called the team doctor to report an “illness” (Spring fever). As the strength coach called roll someone reported they had seen him with his girlfriend in Pollock Quad.

About 8 guys, whose groups weren’t up for a half an hour, decided to get him. They stealthily moved out of the building to find a large cargo van with keys in it. This group drove the van up the sidewalk that runs through the middle of Pollock Quad. In front of a stunned crowd of sunbathers, big guys dressed as pro wrestlers jumped out of the van and grabbed the “sick” player, his towel, his boom box and threw them all into the van and drove away.

Needless to say his workout cured him of his “illness”.

Spring fever can get the best of us. But at schools across the country College Football players go to practice with no meaningful game on the horizon. They do so because they know Autumn success rests on fundamentals built in Springtime, when most people’s thoughts are on something else.

The pictures above tell the story, a tale of two Campuses if you will. Taken on one day on the same campus they show two very different Spring afternoons for student at the same school.

You have to respect the guys who can walk past this and head towards an afternoon of hard-hitting fundamental football.

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