The 2014 football season has not gone as planned for the Syracuse Orange. Not in terms of wins and losses, injuries, or on the field product. Sitting at 3-6 and a banged up roster that will have them missing several key starters when they take the field against Duke on Saturday, it would be easy for a team to give up. To quit on the season. It would be easy to turn against each other and question the direction of the program.
But not this group of young men. Syracuse may be struggling on the field, but they are sticking together off of it. During his press conference on Thursday, head coach Scott Shafer gave a peak into how the players have dealt with the adversity this season has brought. It is rather lengthy, but well worth the read.
”They truly have a sense of brotherhood,” Shafer said of his team. “An unselfish brotherhood for one another. We get beat by NC State and everybody’s dabber’s down in the locker room as you can only imagine. You’re sitting in there and all of these guys on crutches and all these guys that can’t play are sitting there and they wish they could help. There’s all these excuses laying around the room. I remember Ritchy Desir stepped up and he said, ‘no matter what, we’re a family til the bitter end. And we’ll just keep fighting.’ Then we broke down family.
”That’s who these kids are. You guys will think I’m crazy, but this is actually one of the most fulfilling seasons for me as a coach because of who these kids that sit in this room are. They are unselfish. They don’t make excuses. All I told all week long was don’t change. Don’t change who you are. I said it’s easy to be a frontrunner when things are going great, and the ball is bouncing our way and we’re staying healthy and all the things are rolling. But really, you’re character is revealed when things are down. When things aren’t good.
”And that’s the thing I’ve been most proud of is they haven’t made excuses and they just come back out to work.,” he continued. “When you turn on the video tape of practice, I always look at it when I was on defense and now as a head coach, I watch the video tape of practice. Then I just try to watch what it looks like. A good practice, it looks like this. The play is over here let’s say and wham! Everybody’s over here and then they’re back here. A bad practice, the play’s over here and guys are lollygagging around. Or between plays they’re jogging off the field instead of running off the field and there’s no enthusiasm or slapping each other on the back. Our kids haven’t changed.
”You wouldn’t know if it was a team that had won eight straight or a team that’s three and six if you just watch the tape. If you do nothing else. And that’s what impresses me the most about these guys. And then the other thing is, part of our job in influencing the community around us, which is something that our kids have really bought into, is to be great examples for the people that have real life struggles. And to be a team that people look at and say, ‘you know what, they’re fighting through their tough hurdles that they’re going through.’ And maybe someone gets a little inspiration.
”We have young kids from Crouse come over here and our kids do such a good job with them,” Shafer said. “You have a kid come over that’s in the middle of his cancer therapy and he comes over to practice. What are we going to show that little guy when he comes to practice? That we’re feeling sorry for ourselves because we lost some games? Or are we going to raise that guy up a little bit and give him a little bit of spirit by saying, ‘ just keep fighting. Hey, we’re struggling too. But between you and I, we’re going to fight through these things.’ And that’s what I love to watch our kids do. They’re so good at that.
”So, you know, wins and losses and all of the things that put us in difficult situations, that are really important obviously are less important to me as long as our team continues to be of high character in how we approach difficult situations and that’s how we’re going about it.”