Look around, first-year Mullen head football coach Jeremy Bennett said.
Standing inside the Mustangs’ indoor training facility and pouring through face after face of clearly excited teenagers, a man in his second day of actual activity in his new job acted with the glee of his players.
“This is amazing,” Bennett said. “Look at the smiles. It’s hot. It’s miserable. Can you imagine any other year with this? Not one kid has complained. It’s amazing.”
And so went Mullen football’s second day of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) on Wednesday. The Mustangs began on Tuesday with a group of 78 players, a number that delighted Bennett. Certainly, some hopefuls were on vacation, doing other things, perhaps even guarded against participating for fear of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the pandemic, but the interest is building for the coach and his program.
The restrictions are predictable, such as lots of handwashing, wearing masks, maintaining social distance, consuming water, no one-on-one drills, limited coach participation and keeping every drill centered on individual-player work, but no rules could prevent the smiles, welcomed interaction, much-needed physical release and outright relief of Mustangs players who needed something else in their lives than being quarantined at home.
“It feels good, especially after sitting around the house during the quarantine,” junior Micah Leslie said. “I couldn’t do much. It’s great to see the guys and the new coaches. It just feels good.”
It may feel better than good for Leslie, who a year ago had to play only junior varsity after transferring from Valor Christian.
Indeed, Leslie said he felt tested, “but I used what I had and did what I had to do the best I could.”
Another junior Kaleb Perea, said “the fact that I can get out here with my teammates is such a relief.”
Even incoming freshman Liam Finney, who sported a cast on his right arm, didn’t let it stop him.
“I’m very happy about being out here for football,” he said.
After checking in, players had temperatures taken, hands were washed, questions were asked and they got loose for drills.
Each participant was hopeful it was at least a start toward returning to normal for school and athletics, although they realize there is a long way to go.
“I’m very excited about the work we have to put in,” Perea said, “and I’m looking forward to having a blast this season.”
Cast and all, Finney refused to be deterred. The game he and his teammates love finally called and they answered.
“It’s not too bad,” he said of his introduction to schoolboy ball. “At least I’m out here.”
Bennett, as encouraged as he is relieved, is enjoying his opening days as head coach of the Mustangs and eager to build on them … and with the safety of everyone in mind.
“We’re moving forward,” he said.