It was an army 150 strong and it came from the North, South, East and West. It arrived from parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia and Maryland.
Now comes the tricky part, getting everyone pulling in the same direction in time to be a smooth functioning football team by Aug. 30.
The Ashland University football team reported to preseason camp on Wednesday (Aug. 8). As has been the case throughout the nine-year tenure of head coach Lee Owens, the Eagles are not lacking in numbers or enthusiasm.
"I love camp," gushed senior quarterback Taylor Housewright (Ashland, Ohio). "But I'm a quarterback, I'm not hitting all the time. I enjoy all the practices."
Owens says he's been at this business so long he's lost count of how many preseason camps he's attended. The one thing he does know is that the excitement of the first day never grows old.
"It's still the same way, the night before you're so anxious to meet your team you don't sleep much," said Owens. "I get excited and I look forward to it."
Owens and his staff face a challenge this August that's different than what they've seen in the past. AU opens the season with a home game against Indianapolis on Thursday, Aug. 30 (7 p.m.). Classes at AU begin Aug. 20. This preseason camp is shorter than what players and coaches used to go through.
"Maybe in the past it was a little over the top," conceded Owens. "In the old days you had 24 days. With our young guys, they're going to be lost after three days and they're going to stay lost. Last year, we had to play a lot of those guys and this year, I don't think we will."
The point Owens is trying to make is that the emphasis for this camp will be in getting his veterans and select youngsters ready to go. There's a sense of urgency in preparing for a season opener that's just around the corner. In the past, more time could be spent on getting freshmen acclimated to the college game.
On the other hand, the Eagles have had exceptional attendance throughout summer workouts. The coaching staff has a good idea of where the veterans stand. In the days before Owens arrived, attendance at summer workouts was often sporadic. The opening days of camp were spent getting players back into condition. Owens addressed that early in his tenure and now the Eagles can begin camp installing all the schemes for the season.
"The nice thing about camp is getting everybody working for a single goal," stated Housewright. "It's exciting to see who shows up, what freshmen show up. Spring ball in college is used to find out where you stand. Now you find out who's matured. That's exciting.
"We've had the best winter and summer conditioning since I've been here, at least it's been the hardest," continued Housewright."
Another facet about a shorter camp could be the chance of injury being reduced. Assistant coach Tom Stacy, who tutors the quarterbacks and coordinates the passing game, recalls one year when he was at Akron when he had two quarterbacks at the start of camp. That duo faced 19 days of two-a-days – a total of 38 practices. Stacy is in his 31st preseason camp and he begins this camp with nine quarterbacks. The Eagles bring back nine starters on offense.
"I think we have a chance to be pretty good," remarked Stacy.
The annual Gridiron Club breakfast will be held this Saturday, Aug. 11, at 11 a.m. Later that day at 1 p.m., the Eagles will host their annual Photo Day. Information on the Gridiron Club event can be obtained by calling 419-289-5475.
Season tickets and single game tickets are now on sale. Those can be ordered by calling 419-207-6163.