An Insiders Look At College Football Part 1

Life as a college student can be one of many adventures. Life as a high profiled college athlete takes things to another level. Former Bearcat and Bearcat Insiders very own Bob Duckens Jr. takes you inside the game with this first part of "An Insiders Look At College Football".

Playing college football is one of the biggest thrills a young athlete can experience.

Showcasing your talent in front of large crowds, appearing on television, being adored by many fans young and old, and being able to travel and see places that you only dreamed about. But there is a reason why only a select few can make it to this level and succeed and as a former player, I will give you an Insiders look of what college football players go through.

It's August, and the college football season is right around the corner. Camps are coming to a conclusion and it comes just in time because it's hot, muggy and players are really tired of hitting their teammates in practice. While at UC, camp was not at Higher Ground in Indiana as it is today, it was on the UC campus and we stayed in Daniels Hall. Camp really tests your love for the game of football because you realize for the first time that college football is a business before it's a game. Within the first three days of camp my freshman year, I saw at least five guys quit the team because this was not what they thought college football would be. Scholarship players not walk-ons were leaving school for minimal reasons and there were still two and a half weeks left to go in camp. The first week is dedicated to the freshmen who reported five days before the upperclassmen in order to get the freshmen use to the tempo of practice so that they can hang when the upperclassmen arrive.

You are instantly put through running tests, lifting tests, vertical jumps, body fat tests and many other tests to get a read on how good or bad of shape you are in. These numbers will follow you for the rest of your career because they will be the basis of how you will progress or digress over the next few years. Your body is sore and you constantly lose track of the time and the days, the only thing that matters is making it through to the next practice. Your legs become extremely weak during each practice because the heat is zapping every bit of your energy. An upperclassman told me that if I wanted to get my legs back after each practice then I must sit in a cold water tub full of ice for at least 15 minutes. I was skeptical at first but after the agony of getting in the water and your body adjusting to the temperature, it worked wonders for my legs. After the second practice, you are just looking to wind down, eat and possibly go to sleep but after dinner, there were a marathon of meetings that lasted up until 9:45 pm. Curfew was at 10:15 and lights out was at 10:30 so really, the only thing that you could do was go to sleep to rest your body.

Competition in camp is fierce and the upperclassmen would always try to spook the freshmen by constantly reminding them that they can't wait until full pads are put on. That usually would tell the difference between a talker and a real player because if you can back it up when the pads go on, you have the respect of the upperclassmen. The best time comes when you finish the last day of camp and you get into game week preparation because finally you get to one practice a day which means more rest and free time. More importantly, you move closer to hitting and competing against another team not your teammates. The one luxury that we have at UC is that classes are on a quarter system, which means that we played three games before our first class started. During this time, you can get a feel of what it's like to be a pro football player because all you do is rest and practice, sort of like a full-time job. When classes start, the term student-athlete is exactly what you are because classes dwarf your role as an athlete.

The most important thing that you can do as a team is to get off to a fast start. The last thing that you want to do is come out of the chute and lose two of your first three games. This will erase any early confidence that your team may have built up in camp and turns it into pointing fingers at each other and the coaching staff. Athletes are human and the way they respond is through results and the best thing that a head coach can do to keep the attention of his team is to win! This will cure any doubts or insecurities of his players because they cannot argue with positive results. Besides people will always support a winner and you will become a closer unit when you have success and win. This is what eluded us in my first three years at UC and all we needed what a taste of success to turn the corner.


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