Fall Practice--Day 1: Indoor saves legs

I've seen players leaving practice after hours in the Texas August heat before. But thanks to the new McFerrin Athletic Center, the coaches and players didn't have the typical "dead man walking" look as they headed to the showers yesterday. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp caught up with Franchione and several players about what the new facility meant after day one of fall camp.

The 12th Man Foundation has been raising the $38 million needed for construction of the new McFerrin Athletic Center for several years. On Monday, all of those donations, including Artie McFerrin's $9 million lead gift, finally began paying off.

Don't get me wrong, everyone was tired after practice on Monday, but having covered post practice press sessions before, I was shocked not to see the typical looks of physical exhaustion and faces that screamed out at you ‘move out of the way, I'm fixing to faint on you.'

One by one in interviews, the players and coaches all seemed to comment on the same thing.

A&M tight end Martellus Bennett obviously had plenty of energy left over for day two's practice and was able to put his thoughts into words better than anyone.

"I like (practicing inside)," Bennett said with a smile, and then joked, "I try not to get too many shades darker. Then you wouldn't be able to see my tattoos, plus, girls like me this color, so I don't want to be too dark. Oh, and it's a soft cushion for when you fall on the ground, it's pretty nice."

The Aggies spent most of Monday's workouts inside, going outdoors for the last 30 minutes of practice to have more space to do the usual team drills.

Some question whether or not the new cross-country phenomenon of building indoor facilities is a sign that the players of today aren't as tough as the players 30, 40 or 50 years ago. That the old school tactics Bear Bryant made famous when he took his first Aggie squad to Junction, Texas was the right way to prepare for football season.

But A&M defensive coordinator Gary Darnell was quick to point out that Bryant was actually one of the first people to build an indoor facility to stay out of the heat while he was at Alabama.

"That's where this idea came from," Darnell said. "At Florida, we wanted to build one for lightening. The storms that came through during training camp were when the worst storms came through. It's interesting why people need the indoors for what reasons. Up north it's for bad inclimate weather, down here you need it to cool yourself off, the southeast coast you need it to get out of rain and lightening."

A&M defensive lineman Chris Harrington said he doesn't know how the Aggies managed it last August without the indoor facility after using it for the first time on Monday.

"Being able to get in there and get everything done and stay in there for the big first part of practice kept us out of the heat and kept us fresh. We were outside for a good 30 or 40 minutes and we were dead tired. I don't know how we used to do it, but it will really keep us fresh through two a days and into the season and really give us a chance to play well going into October and into November."

But the physical stamina isn't the only issue that the McFerrin Athletic Complex helps with. Harrington said that the ability to stay fresh physically, also allows you to maintain a higher level of mental focus, which makes every rep that much better.

"When you're not completely exerted and exhausted, you can work a lot harder," Harrington said. "Instead of going 70 percent, you're going 80, 90 percent. It helps you get good reps rather than just going through it.

Thanks to the donations from 12th Man Foundation donors, the Aggies will return to the indoor facility for day two of the fall camp this afternoon, which should mean fresher legs and sharper minds throughout August and into the 2007 season.

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