First impressions aren’t everything, but they can set the tone for a relationship.
After the opening day of practices Thursday, the U.S. Under-19 National Team coaching staff is looking forward to what the future will hold.
OK, it’s not exactly love at first sight, but let’s just say the first date went off without a hitch.
“I’m really impressed with all of the players so far,” said offensive coordinator Brandon Faircloth of Port Neches-Groves (Texas) High School, who is running the team while head coach Aaron Brady of Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga Prep recovers from an emergency appendectomy. “So far, they have stepped up to the challenge with the effort, the enthusiasm and the energy we’ll need to see all week.”
Team USA takes on the IFAF World Team on Tuesday, Feb. 5, in the fourth annual International Bowl. Kickoff is 8 p.m. CT (9 p.m. ET) at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex in Austin, Texas.
Of course, Faircloth and the Team USA staff didn’t exactly go into this like a blind date. For months, they watched video of the players, assess individual strengths to not only select team members but develop a game plan.
To see the athletes in action, though, helps clear any doubts.
“These kids are great players, great athletes, but it is tough to get them ready in just six days,” Faircloth said. “That’s why our meetings are just as important as our practices. We present them the information on the field then reinforce it in a classroom setting. It’s a lot of information, but these players are as smart as they are talented.”
Team USA will practice every day between now and kickoff to be ready. As Faircloth stressed to the team, the International Bowl is not an all-star game. The losing side doesn’t just shrug off a loss and go home happy.
National pride is on the line, and for most of the Team USA members, this will be their one shot to represent their country.
“You do not want to be the USA team that loses this game,” said Faircloth, who also was the 2011 U.S. offensive coordinator, helping Team USA win, 21-14. “Winning next Tuesday starts in practices. You set the tone that you carry through to the game. That’s the only way to get it done.”
AT YOUR SERVICE For most U.S. players, having “USA” on their uniform will end Tuesday night after the International Bowl.
Aubry Beal is not most players.
The offensive guard from DeSoto (Texas) High School near Dallas accepted an appointment with the Air Force Academy earlier this week and will play football with the Falcons. As part of his commitment, he will serve at least two years in the U.S. Air Force.
“Serving our country is a real honor,” Beal said. “I felt that (Air Force) was a good fit, a good step to having a great future.”
NO SLACKING Team USA ran through a full rotation Thursday, including individual drills, one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens, full team action before closing the day with special teams.
Running backs coach Claude Mathis, Beal’s head coach at DeSoto, has coached in the Under Armor Bowl and saw right away that the International Bowl is different.
“Originally, I was surprised we were running two-a-days for practices, but when I saw the intensity, the focus that these players have, I can see why,” Mathis said. “This is no pleasure cruise. This is business. We don’t just want to win this game, we are going out to win this game.”
GET MOOOOVING Think you’ve had odd summer jobs? Talk to Wyatt Teller, a Virginia Tech commit and one of the most gregarious members of the 2013 U.S. Under-19 National Team.
He moves cattle.
“My godmother owns a big farm in Virginia with hundreds of cattle that, basically, she needs to move and get from field to field,” the defensive end from Bealeton (Va.) Liberty High School said.
“There’s basically a science to it. You’ve got to put your shoulder as hard as you can into the back of their rib cage and they’ll move – very slowly, but they’ll move – and it takes a lot of work. They’re 400 to 500 pounds and are just solid. It’s not easy, but if you hit ’em, they’ll move.
“If I can move a 500-pound animal that doesn’t want to move, I’m pretty good at moving a 300-pound animal – or … player – who wants to move me, so it kind of helps.”
ROOSEVELT RESEARCHER Bound by common interests, Team USA’s 6-foot-7, 250-pound offensive tackle Jake Campos of West Des Moines (Iowa) High School picks former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt as someone he would have liked to meet.
“He’s always been a big idol to me,” Campos said. “I’m a sportsman, and he was a big sportsman, and I really love the outdoors – it’s one of my big passions – and he was a huge conservationist as president.”
SOUND OF MUSIC U.S. running back Terrell Newby marches to his own tune – in a good way. The future Nebraska Cornhusker is an accomplished saxophonist.
“I’ll write my own music sometimes,” the senior from West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade College High School said. “It’s just a fun hobby. I can play anything.
“My favorite is, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ but anything you want me to play, I’ll figure out a way to play it.”
Newby was introduced to music when his father talked him into joining the school band four years ago.
“I didn’t want to do it at first, but I got to pick an instrument and it just went on from there,” he said. “I started liking it and began playing a lot more.”