There was no shortage of red-, white- and blue-colored apparel among the many onlookers Wednesday at Whitaker Fields, where the U.S. and Swedish U-15 National teams had an early practice this morning.
“To be out here today and wear the colors of the flag is very special to me,” said linebacker Curtis Barnfield, at ninth-grader from Fairfield, Ill. “You don’t get to play football for your country on July 4th very often, so it makes us all proud.”
Team USA’s Red, White and Blue teams all practiced alongside Sweden for about two hours – drilling, working and hydrating. Coaches kept a close eye on the players as temperatures reached the mid-90s. Water breaks came about every 20 to 30 minutes.
“Texas heat is a lot different than Florida heat,” said Michael Bloomfield, an eighth-grade defensive back from Orlando, Fla. “Coach (Chris) Metzger doesn’t want anyone to get dehydrated, so he keeps us full of water.”
The three USAs and Sweden play wrap up the Under-15 International Development Week on Thursday at Burger Stadium, but there’s still plenty of time to learn.
USA teams Red and White kick off at 9 a.m. Team Blue and Sweden follow at 10:30 a.m. Admission is free.
A final walkthrough to get game plans executed properly was the final step Wednesday.
“We will go over everything one more time,” said eighth-grader Chaz Foster, a tight end at Walker Middle School in Omaha, Neb. “Then, it’s right to bed to rest before our game.”
Throughout the week, players worked on developing their skills while playing alongside athletes from across the country and around the globe.
On Thursday, they can showcase what they have been working on this week while wearing USA colors once more.
“We want all the guys to stay humble and hungry. That’s our team motto this week,” Metzger said.
CAN’T SLOW RHODES DOWN After jamming a finger on a Team Sweden helmet Wednesday, defensive end Labarius Rhodes, an eighth-grader from Greensboro, Ala., wasn’t sitting out too long to rest his hand.
“I want to get back out there and tackle him the right way this time,” Rhodes said. “He was real big and strong, but I’ll get him back tomorrow.”
GOTTA HYDRATE During one of the many mandatory water breaks, players discussed their college plans and how they see their football careers ending up.
“I’ll go anywhere that offers me a scholarship, honestly,” said Shea Bradley, a ninth-grader from Sterling High School in Baytown, Texas. “Well, as long as they have a good team of course.”
“But you’ve got to get an offer first,” responded ninth-grader Devonte Hines, who attends Bishop High School in Franklin, Pa. “That’s what we’re here to work toward eventually is having our school paid for. That’s a big dream of mine.”
SWEDEN EXCITED In anticipation of their matchup against Team USA, the Swedish players shared their thoughts on how they think the game will play out.
“Hopefully, we can hang around and maybe steal a win,” said Aron Tillstrom, a tailback entering the ninth grade in Malmo. “No matter what happens, it will be fun. We are all looking forward to showing the U.S. what we’ve got on the field.”