Tell us about your football past. High school, positions, youth, achievements.
I played high school football at Festus high school in Festus, Missouri. I didn’t start playing until I was 13. When I first started, I played running back, receiver and defensive back. I soon switched to just playing quarterback and defensive back. In high school, I quarterbacked our freshman and JV team to back to back undefeated seasons. My junior year I played receiver on Varsity and continued to gain experience at quarterback for the JV team and had another undefeated season. My senior year I was in a quarterback competition with a good friend of mine but I was able to lock up the position after a strong performance in our jamboree. Our team was rated 5th in the state for the entire season. However, the 2nd and 4th ranked teams were also in our district. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get into the playoffs after losing to both of these teams.
Why did you want to start a football club at SIUE?
After high school, I felt like I had worked so hard but was not able to accomplish everything that I wanted to on the football field. I had heard from an advisor that there was a group of guys at SIUE who were trying to get a team established. I was walking into an intro to drama class my freshman year wearing a high school football shirt and one of those guys stopped me and asked if I would be interested in coming to a meeting about the club football team. I went and heard that they were going to play three games. I was excited about the chance to continue to play and to meet guys who had similar interests to mine. I was pretty shy at the time and had very few friends at SIUE so I thought this would be a good opportunity to get out and meet people in a setting where I felt comfortable.
What is and has been your involvement in the club?
My freshman year, I started as a receiver but quickly moved back to playing QB. We had a couple of really good backs at that point so we ran the ball pretty heavily. My sophomore year I was a captain and quarterback. We played 6 games against semi-pro teams and won our first game the last game of this season. My junior year I was the president and this is when we started playing other club teams. We worked really hard on becoming the football team that everyone wanted us to be which was an organized, well mannered, and hard working member of the university community. My senior year we just tried to keep growing and playing hard. I was asked by the guys to come back out and coach after I graduated. Coaching has been a major learning experience for me. I have found it incredibly difficult to strike the balance between helping out too much and not enough. I do feel that it is important to have a head coach for the team but it is much more important to have the true leaders of the team be the officers and captains. The club is supposed to be run by the players, not by the coaches. Truly, the coaches should only be here as an advisor and to structure practices. Discipline for players is much more effective coming from the captains than the coaches.
Can you talk about the process of starting the club?
Really the hard work had already been done before I got here. A few years before, a few guys had written a constitution but never were able to get enough guys to get involved. When I got here Jon Shumaker had worked on that problem and recruited about 20 guys to play. What I believe I did, was focus the energy of the club and create a consistent and structured outlet for the players energy. I found it really frustrating the first year, when we would only get 5-10 guys at practice at 6:00 am. So I wanted to create a standard practice time and routine and also find competition that was more similar to us. At that point we were playing semi-pro teams who were filled with mostly over aged guys who played dirty and acted like children. I could never have done the things we did by myself. Without the help of the other guys on the team, and their continued support of decisions that I made, we wouldn’t have even had a team after the first couple of seasons.
How has the club changed since it started?
We have become much more organized and athletic. The talent on this year’s team is much higher than previous years and our equipment and facilities are much better than they were when we started. However, our competition is also much better than it ever has been. Club football is a much higher level of football than I ever guessed it would become. Unfortunately, due to the increased amount of time practicing, we have reduced the amount of charitable work that we used to do. We used many of those opportunities to build relationships with groups inside and out of the university. Every year we have increased the amount that we do on the field so this means that the officers have had to continually do more and more work each season. I don’t think that many of the players understand just how much these guys have had to sacrifice for the team.
How is the club football experience different or unique compared to other avenues of playing the game?
Club Football is special because you have all of these guys who just want a chance to keep playing a game they love. They are willing to work their already busy schedules around all of the practices and games. They are willing to come out and work their butts off every day and continually make themselves better for a very small reward. In addition to all of this sacrifice, they pay for their experience. To me, Club football is a pure type of football. This is just guys getting together to play the game, without all the distractions that a normal college football team has. My only wish is that each player gets everything they possibly can out of playing here. This will more than likely be their last chance to play organized football, so I hope they make the most of it. I feel incredibly blessed to have played my last game of football with my best friends, to have won the game, and to have had the opportunity to play that game in New Orleans in front of 4,000 people. That memory is so important to me but it never would have been possible without the sacrifices of so many of our players over the years. To get to that point, it took hours and hours of commitment to the program with the hope that we were making a difference. I believe that the foundation we laid is the reason that we still have a team today.
How would you like the club to change in the future? What should the club do?
I want to see us get back to winning half or more of our games. While many of our opponents have 40-60 players, multiple coaches, and much better funding, we can still beat them. It will take everyone on the team refusing to give up when something doesn’t go our way. Bearing down and fighting together. I want to see the team become larger. 40-50 players are possible but only when every one on the team agrees that this has to be accomplished. I would like to see the club get back to our roots more with charitable outreach in the community. Building these relationships always ended up rewarding us much more than the time it took to take part in these activities. Of course, ultimately it is up to the players to decide if these are things that they want out of the club.
How will this season unroll?
I think this year will be tough. We have a lot of very tough games ahead but I think if we can stay focused and healthy we should be a strong team. We are very talented but do we have the mental fortitude to forget about bad calls and teammates mistakes, and instead use that adversity to win games? Can we fight for 60 minutes without slowing down? I think if our minds are in the right place, we will be a very tough team to beat.
Who are some notables to watch for this year?
Of course, our returners are very good ballplayers. I am interested to see how the experience of a couple of season together is going to help Tony and Bryce in the backfield, as well as Jake, Casey, Nam and Song on the line. I am really interested to see some of our new players step up into leadership roles on the field, specifically, Mead at center and Nate at middle linebacker. So far I have been very impressed with Hendrix working as a receiver. I didn’t think he had the speed to play there, but I will be the first to admit that I was wrong. I am interested to see how Trevor does at DE, and to see how all the time that we have been putting towards the secondary will help Nick and Ryan as well as many of the new guys. Also, I am excited to see Joe, Austin and Doug play in shape, as I think all three have come into the season in much better condition. Emilio has surprised me the most by how much he has improved.
What can we see differently this year than any other year?
The athleticism is much higher. I feel like I can throw guys in a position that they are not familiar with and they can pick it up really quickly. This is incredibly beneficial in Club football, where the depth isn’t great, and we have many injuries throughout the season. I look at some of these new guys like Pat, Ryan, Ethan, Dom, Wes, and Mead, and these guys can play anywhere. They are smart players who are just natural athletes. That makes my job much easier. I look forward to seeing who steps up as the future leader of club football.
Anything else you would like to add?
I feel really blessed to get to be a part of SIUE Club Football for my 7th and final season. I hope that playing can have the same impact on our current players as it has had on me. I want our players to know that it is incredibly easy to find someone or something to blame for failures, but it takes a real man to admit his mistakes and shortcomings. Step up to every thing that gets thrown your way, keep a clear head, and be ready to fight. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. You are all incredibly talented and can accomplish so much if you are willing to set your mind to a goal and go get it. Be proud of who you are and what you are working towards and forget about anybody who gets in your way. Only you can control your future.