A family that plays together, stays together. Only a practice deep into the 2013-2014 season and the CSU football team knows a thing or two about being a family.
Senior tackle, Jared Biard hails from Texas, the land where, “football is not really a sport, it’s a religion.” Two of his fellow senior offensive lineman are from the same great state, and though Biard admits they carry a certain amount of “Texas pride,” there’s no superiority complex amongst them.
“Two or three years ago, there was a lot of segregation, and clicks on the team,” Biard says. “[Coach] Mac came in, and told us to shake hands with everyone in the locker room. I feel like I know every single person on the team now.”
This Ram family extends off of the field and out of the locker room, into after hours, when the boys are given their free time.
“We didn’t used to hang out outside of football,” junior Garrett Grayson, who is competing for the starting quarterback position, says. “Now we go back to the dorms, and play some Nintendo 64 for a few hours every night.”
Grayson and Biard both believe that this new sense of family will help the team in completing a successful season. In some cases that means changing positions, as more than a few players learned this off season.
Senior Weston Richburg, who has played center for the Rams the past three years, may see the game from a different angle this season.
“I like playing center,” he says. “But it’s a team game, wherever I need to be to contribute to my team, I’ll do it.”
This sort of team-first mentality has spread throughout the team, in terms of leadership as well. Over the off season, the Rams accrued an impressive group of recruits, some of whom may start come Sept. 1.
Still, no matter how talented they may be, the transition from high school football player to collegiate athlete is magnanimous without the guidance of veteran players. But the older Rams have stepped up to the challenge.
“He went into last year as the guy,” offensive coordinator, Dave Baldwin said of redshirt freshman wide out, Jordon Vaden. “Now these guys are pushing him. He knew it, and he still helped them, so I think he has really bought into the team concept.”
Vaden isn’t the only one; Matthews described the team as a brotherhood, working as a task force to assist the younger guys.
“I’ve been through that pit of fire, I’ve been the chicken with my head cut off,” he says. “I want them to be relaxed; it’s okay if you mess up, it’s okay if you don’t get it the first time.”
Coach Jim McElwain, coming straight from winning a title at Alabama to going 4-8 in his first season at CSU, is looking forward to showcasing the improvements his team has made this summer.
“I haven’t been around many losing seasons. There wasn’t anyone who was more miserable during the offseason than me, I wasn’t a lot of fun to be around, but part of that is the responsibility of building a winning program and a winning tradition,” he said. “Their team affirmation of ‘One Town, One Team, One Dream’ shows me they are getting it.”
The familial bonds have certainly strengthened the Rams as a brotherhood off of the field, and it will be for them to prove whether or not that has extended onto the turf.
Come September 1, when the Rams travel down to Sports Authority Field to take on the Buffaloes, they will have something to show for the hot summer months they have spent growing stronger and closer.
“This year will be a breakout year,” sophomore quarterback-hopeful, Conner Smith said. “We can’t use first year excuses anymore.”