168 Days. 168 days since the Cougar football team clinched the NSIC title for the first time in school history. 168 days of waiting for the ring. Not an engagement ring or not a promise ring. The diamond championship ring.
With the change in coaching staff over the winter break, players were unsure as to when they would receive their rings.
New Head Coach Jon Anderson made things clear; the ring ceremony was set for April 29t, the day after the annual spring game. The rings would have to wait, the 2016 season was over and the team had work to do.
Waking up before six A.M. for five days a week, the Cougars crushed winter workouts during February and March. Once the spring football season rolls around, things get easier for the team. Just play football.
“[Playing the game] is probably the easiest part of being a football player,” Tucker Stout says.
Spring football is a chance for the new seniors to test their leadership skills. It also gives the younger players a shot at the starting lineup. 52 players will fight to make the travel squad for the fall season.
Spring football concluded with the annual spring game on April 28th at Bob Young Field. The game was dominated heavily by the defense of both teams with the white team edging the black team in the end 9-6. No played scored a touchdown, until, junior wide receiver AJ Garrow hauled in a pass from Sophomore quarterback Noah Butler in overtime to win the game.
The following day, the 2016 team, along with their family and friends gathered at the Holiday Inn downtown to celebrate their record breaking season. The Cougars were joined by USF alumni and staff, President Brett Bradfield, and Athletic Director Josh Snyder. Former head coach Jed Stugart, who is now the head coach at Lindenwood University, also made an appearance.
It was time. The players had waited 168 days for this moment. In alphabetical order players and staff were called up to receive their rings. This was not the best method according to junior offensive lineman Nick Zimmerman, but no one was complaining.
The banquet concluded with people crowding to take pictures and talk amongst each other. The positive vibes and energy in the room had been accumulating for five months.
The Cougars will begin their season on August 31st in Duluth, Minnesota when they face off against NSIC giant, Minnesota Duluth.
Story by Jeffrey Harman