ROME, Ga. — How does a football team find out who is committed to helping point the program in the right direction during the off-season?
For the past two weeks at Shorter, head coach Phil Jones and coaching staff issued an early — very, very early — wake-up call for the Hawks, who after a disappointing outing last fall is determined to turn things around this year as Shorter celebrates its 10th anniversary of fielding a team.
While the rest of the campus on “The Hill” slept soundly, the Hawks made their way to Ben Brady Field six times every morning during the fortnight starting the day at 5 a.m.
“We wanted to challenge them and get a feel of just how much they really want to play,” Jones said about holding hour-long “mat” drills that saw more than 70 Hawks brave cool and for the last three outings 20-degree temperatures. “They’ve done a good job with it.”
After stretching out their morning stiffness, the Hawks made the most of their time, improving their footwork, agility, speed and quickness and — thanks to a pair of huge tractor tires — strength as five different stations manned by the coaches were spread out across the field.
Each group rotated to every station twice (with a sixth stop allowing the players a break) and if one of the coaches felt that they were moving slow, every member of the group was told to return to their previous station and sprint back or had to do up-downs… or both.
The Hawks, however, responded each and every morning, all eager to do what is needed to get ready for what will be Shorter’s first season as a full NCAA Division II and Gulf South Conference member that will be eligible for postseason competition and honors.
In addition, the up-tempo workouts will help even more next week when the Hawks begin their annual spring drills on March 10 and hold 15 practices that concludes with conference officials on hand in the final days.
“I feel good about it right now,” Jones said. “They’ve been working hard on the field and in the weight room where all of them had a gain in how much their lifting.”
The Hawks begin their 10th season of playing football on Thursday, Sept. 4 when they host NCAA Division II member Paine, which will be fielding its first-ever football team, in an opener set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Barron Stadium.
“They want to get back to winning,” said Jones. “It’s a long road. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”