An Open Letter To Incoming Football Freshmen

Columnist Phillip Marshall has some advice for the 2002 football signees.

An Open Letter To Incoming Football Freshmen

Dear Freshman:

These are exciting times. You've dreamed for years of this, the opportunity to play college football. You earned it and you got it. In less than a month, it will be official. You will be on the practice field as a college football player.

You need to be prepared for some changes.

The coach who so charmed you and your parents in the living room of your home is going to undergo a personality change. He'll be in your face, yelling. It will seem you can't please him no matter what you do. You'll wonder where the nice man that bragged on your mom's fried chicken went.

That pretty girl that showed you around campus when you made your official visit? She might not even remember your name.

You thought you worked hard in high school to get to this point, but you haven't seen anything yet. Two-a-days will be the hardest thing you've ever been through, mentally and physically. And that's just the beginning.

It was fun hearing from the recruiting gurus and reading about yourself on the Internet, but your new teammates aren't going to give a hoot how many stars you had in front of your name. They are going to test you early and often to see what you have in your heart. Those recruiting rankings don't mean a thing anymore. The college football landscape is littered with can't-miss prospects who did miss and with supposedly marginal prospects who became great players. Maybe you are one of the special ones who is talented enough to play early, but you're probably not. It's more likely that you'll be redshirted. That will mean you get to get knocked around as a member of the scout team. It also means you will be expected to work hard to get bigger, stronger and faster. After all, it won't matter if you're worn out by Saturday.

For maybe the first time in your life, you're not going to be one of the best on the field. You pushed people around or outran them in high school. You won't be able to do that now. You'll be surrounded by people who are bigger, faster and stronger than you are. They will know what they're doing. They will know what the coaches mean when they say all that stuff that seems so confusing to you. You'll wonder how you will ever get to their level.

You are going to have to watch what you say. Sportswriters will be around at every practice. They might want to talk to you. They'll report what you say, whether it sounds good or not. Auburn had a freshman wide receiver named Willie Northern a few years ago. He spouted off to sports writers on the first day about how good he was and how he planned to be a starter. His teammates were not amused. An upperclassman said before the first day in pads: "Willie has written a big check. It's going to be interesting to see if he can cash it." He couldn't cash it and didn't last. On the other side of that, Carnell Williams arrived at Auburn last year with great hype. Instead of bragging, he said he'd not proved anything at the college level and went about his business. He soon had earned the respect of his teammates.

It might not seem fair, but you can't be like most other students. If they go out and get into trouble, nobody will know but their families. If you go out and get into trouble, it will be in headlines. Other students can eat pizzas, drink beer, stay up until all hours of the night and spend the next day hung over. If you do that, your career will be short.

You have earned a valuable opportunity. Millions would give almost anything to be in the position you are in, to be able to put on that jersey and run out on that field on Saturday. You have an opportunity to get an education that will last you a lifetime.

Sometimes it will be fun. Sometimes it will test the limits of your endurance. If you make it, you will celebrate big victories and you will mourn disappointing losses. You will make friends that will last a lifetime. College football will be many things. What it will never be is easy. Have a great time and remember how fortunate you are.


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