Football. Coronavirus. Social injustice. This fall, the trend of “a new normal” continues on for so many of our students. For junior running back Ty Boles and sophomore wide receiver Titus Gardner, this could not be more true. The football team has made many changes in the way they practice, communicate and learn from one another.
The team was at a high in the spring before being sent home and separated for some six months. While there have been strict protocols put in place for the athletes to social distance and wear masks in the locker room, the biggest change has been in the conversations between the players and coaches.
In June, the team began having Zoom calls where they were able to openly discuss the social injustice and implicit bias in the U.S. with everybody truthfully sharing how they were feeling.
“I feel like that really brought us back together and when we got back, we were all in one accord and all had the same mission and felt closer to each other,” Boles said.
The team has also been having discussion forums on the first Wednesday of each month where they were able to dive into other deeply important topics and have honest conversations about world issues. These forums were first only for the upperclassmen but have recently been opened up to the newer players.
The squad has been holding practices despite the cancellation of their season. These practices have allowed the team time to coach things on the field that would normally be overlooked and seen as minor errors. In addition to this meticulous and tedious training, Samford coaches have been able to spend more time with the team outside of Seibert Stadium — time that would have normally been devoted to football and nothing else.
“We are actually spending time with our coaches not just talking about football, but talking about real life things,” Gardner said. “It’s given us more time to talk about what we are struggling with outside from football so this is a really good period to slow down, get closer with our coaches and get back to the basics.”
The comradeship doesn’t stop there. Boles expressed that the fun they have in the locker room is what makes playing the intense, stressful sport so worth it.
“Laughing. joking, dancing, singing in there. At the end of the day, having fun and being brothers is my favorite part of football,” Boles said.
Gardner agreed that without this family, it would not be worth it. He added how much he has grown as a person just learning about competition, responsibility, punctuality and integrity by observing those around him and pushing himself to be his best.
The team is making the best of this season, demonstrating the hard work and determination of every person involved in the process.