It’s a tough step up for any freshman football player from high school to collegiate athletics. Wabash has 63 young men trying to make that transition.
"We try to be patient," Little Giant Coach Erik Raeburn said. "I always think back to what it was like when I was a freshman. I was so completely confused as what to do those first few days. That’s really demoralizing because the season before you were a senior and you had it all down pat and everything came easy to you then you had to start all over. That’s a tough deal."
Raeburn reminds the youngsters that even his best players started as bewildered freshmen.
"I wish somehow we could go back in time and they could see guys like C.J. Gum when he was a freshman, a guy like Kody LeMond when they were freshmen. Those guys are unbelievable players but it took hard work it took to get to this point."
For the Class of 2014, it's hard work and new routines.
“We get up every day at 7 o’clock and eat breakfast as a team and we don’t usually get done until 11 that night,” said Michael Del Busto, an offensive lineman from Carmel. “Practice is just as intense but longer and more complex. Competition is fierce, everyone is working hard trying to make each other better.”
Players like Del Busto and Indianapolis Chatard graduate Drew Schmutte come from top programs which compete against Indiana’s best.
“Being the young ones, the freshmen out here, you try to learn from the seniors but you also have to go out there and try to beat them up which is hard to do sometimes,” Schmutte said. “Even within the freshman tight ends group it’s hard as well. We’re all top players from our high school teams and we’re all out here trying to win a spot.”
The job is even tougher for the 227-pound Schmutte. He is moving from an interior offensive line spot in high school to tight end for the Little Giants.
“Even from a top program like Chatard, there’s a lot to learn here,” he said. “There’s a whole different tempo to the offense. There’s no huddle and we have to learn all the signals.”
That job gets even tougher for incoming quarterbacks. Ross Hendrickson won a state championship and piled up big numbers at Indianapolis Ritter. Henderson talks about the first few days of camp and what he hopes to bring to the program.
The freshmen have been practicing separate from the upper classmen but will combine squads starting Sunday for two-a-day practices.
But some players are already feeling the camaraderie.
It’s been different, in a good way,” said Markell Brown, a linebacker from Mt. Carmel in Chicago. “I like football and this whole family environment is kind of what I came from . It’s just making the step to a bigger family.
“It’s different, everybody is competing. It’s not like I’m better than this guy or this guy can’t compete with me. It’s who is going to put in more work and the most effort is going to come out on top.”
Brown said his challenge is standing out in a group of 63. "I'm working hard and trying to show the coaches I’m a hard worker. I want to make an impression on the older guys so they say ‘ok this guy is serious about it.' I want them to know I’m serious."