Aug 15, 2013 7:18 PM by Jordan Mason
The sun shined down on the field. A cool breeze swept the stadium making for a cool day. Sleds and tackle dummies filled the endzone.
You can practically hear the cheers and wolf howls already.
Wednesday, CSU-Pueblo Football returned to duty to prepare for fall camp and a defense of its spot as head honcho in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Their bid at a third straight RMAC title will commence Sept. 7 at NCAA FCS opponent Northern Colorado. But before the magic begins on the field, there were essentials that needed to be handled off the field.
Players reported to the ThunderBowl Wednesday to get physicals, equipment, bio information, and take photos for GoThunderWolves.com. Throughout the day, laughter, jokes, and smiles from coaches and players occupied each station.
Much different from the seriousness we are used to seeing from the Pack on the field.
Players crowded the downstairs area of the ThunderBowl to be fitted with equipment and select their lockers for the season. Many of the freshmen looked like kids in a candy store throughout much of the process. Some of the vets remained cavalier, but did share their enthusiasm.
"I'm excited. I'm ready for the season to start," said junior wide receiver Paul Browning (Jr., Colorado Springs, Colo.). "I think we can be better than last year."
With that eagerness to return to the field, it was important for newcomers to get a whiff of expectations as a ThunderWolf.
"The first day is really important," said wide receivers coach Bernard Jackson. "They have to see how we operate. Some guys may not get the things they want. They have to work for it. They have to earn it. It's part of our tradition."
After shuffling through boxes of practice gear and getting lockers, players took photos for the website-and took time to show off their looks and muscles.
Many of the returning players continually joked, "Can I tell them to follow me on Instagram?" after seeing their photos, or clowned their teammates for smiling in pictures.
The jokes and smiles didn't come without the stresses of setting up for the start of football season.
"It's not too fun of a day, but it's important," said athletic trainer Nick Horman. "It's a big day to make sure everyone is healthy. We have to make sure we have everything to help everyone get on the same page."
Player demographics was the final station for players Wednesday and after, they were off to prepare for their conditioning test late Wednesday night... or early Thursday morning.
NCAA rules permit Division II teams to begin practice Thursday, and CSU-Pueblo took full advantage, firing the gun at 12:01 a.m. for the first official practice of the 2013 fall camp.
The T-Wolves coaching staff tested out players' conditioning - a 300-yard shuttle - something that had hit players hard in the past.
"There's probably going to be a lot of puke out there," Horman said with a smirk prior to the start of the drills.
The midnight practice has become a tradition for CSU-Pueblo football, and each year, the stories of the program's first midnight drill in 2008 - and the legends of guys struggling through their tests in the required time - take on a life of their own. CSU-Pueblo head coach John Wristen said the midnight practice has turned in to a rite of passage and a great team-building opportunity.
"We want to take the first opportunity we can to get on the field and get going," Wristen said of the midnight drills. "It's kind of our tradition. It allows us to get our conditioning out of the way, then we get to go to work on football."
The next practice is Thursday at 4:30 p.m. with the first two-a-day practices beginning Tuesday, Aug. 20.