"He told us about it before the practice this morning," said one Cowboy defender. "We still practiced hard and didn't want to give Coach (Mike) Gundy a reason to take it back. But I didn't see him going back on his word. He told us we were going to the movie."
The Cowboys morning practice was in full pads and lasted close to two and a half hours, which has become the normal amount of time on the field in the morning this week. The team used both the Sherman Smith Training Center and the Astroturf field to the immediate east of the Smith Center.
Joe Wickline, the longest tenured assistant on the staff, was positive and cautious about the practice and how the team is advancing.
"They're continuing to get better, but we are in no means ready to call practice off or shut it down," said Wickline, apparently not yet aware of the scheduled trip to the movie Friday afternoon.
"To say we have a long way to go would be an understatement, and they know it. They're working hard. It's a grind and it's a process. They're working little by little and they're taking baby steps and getting better at different things.
"They're starting to clean some things up as a group. I'm seeing some progression that I'm happy with, but it may be week 13 before we get it all together."
Wickline may have been thinking in myopic fashion and focused in on his offensive linemen. Wickline has his starters but then he has a lot of young and inexperienced linemen to fill that third tackle, third guard, and second center spot, not to mention a complete second offensive line.
"They're getting there," said Wickline of the progress. "Of course they're on different scales. We're talking about this tackle or this guard or this guy is a senior, junior, sophomore or freshman. We've got a bunch of different guys and we have a ways to go. By design, if everyone is staying healthy and they continue to get better every day they will start to fit in a lot of those molds.
"We want tough guys," he continued. "Everybody is different and nowadays it's a different brand of people but we really want tough people. That's what is going to get you through physically and mentally. You just want tough guys.
"Next, you want smart guys that I like to call low-rep guys. They're common-sense guys that understand concepts, changes and adjustments. That third thing you can ask for is great effort. Are you getting the effort and intensity? Are you getting the drive and the sweat and the technique and the work and everything put together and finishing that makes a great work ethic?"
Wickline usually gets what he wants. As for Friday afternoon, the Cowboys got what they wanted. All the players outside of the freshman class knew that a good week, in the eyes of the head coach, would get you a movie or some other fun activity.
"It's up there with winning a game," said wide receiver Austin Hays of the feeling when they tell you no practice and get ready to go to the busses. "Especially in the middle of two-a-days, it's awesome."
"He's known for doing things like that for the team," said senior defensive end Tyler Johnson, who has been complimented often by the defensive staff during camp. "He's a great coach and he knows we're deserving of something like that."
It really is not a guaranteed event. Gundy has felt his team deserved it most year, but there have been a couple of fall camps where the movie went unseen and the practice went on as planned.
A scrimmage will go on as planned Saturday as that will put a wrap on fall camp. The team will have Sunday and the first day of classes, Monday, off in a smart tradition started by Pat Jones and picked up by Gundy. His challenge to his team will be to come out on Tuesday ready to work on Mississippi State.