Florida Tech Football Officially Begins Practice
By Florida Tech // August 13, 2012
125 Players Launch New College Team
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Dodging raindrops under an umbrella, longtime Panthers athletic director Bill Jurgens beamed with pride Sunday night while watching the first-ever official practice of the new Florida Tech football team from the sidelines.
“I wouldn’t miss it rain or shine,” Jurgens said. “This is an exciting day for all of us.”
About 125 players suited up in jerseys and helmets for the practice, which was held at Panther Field on the south end of the school’s campus near the new Olin Varsity Sports Complex.
For Jurgens the day was a long time in the making, but well worth the wait.
He became Florida Tech’s athletic director in 1976 and said that over the years he often wondered what it would be like to field a college football team here.
That dream was unfolding Sunday night as Florida Teach coach Steve Englehart led the Panthers through a light workout.
“I’m sure that there will be other milestones along the way, but this one tonight is really special,” Jurgens said. “It truly memorable seeing the players and the team and the all the enthusiasm out here.”
Jurgens said while taking in the practice, he couldn’t help think of all of those who made the moment happen.
“It was fortunate for us to have a president like Dr. Anthony Catanese that values sports and supports our athletic program,” Jurgens said. “It hard to talk of this day arriving without mentioning everyone in administration and on the faculty who championed the creation of this team. And where would we have been without the Founders Club and the Panthers Football Club, the 12 donors who unselfishly gave $100,000 each to get this program started? And I also can’t help but think of everyone from the community and sponsors who have supported and backed this idea. None of this would have been possible today without them.”
It was an impressive sight to see the collective sight of all of the Panthers working out together despite a light rainfall.
The team will return to practice wearing jerseys and helmets again today before donning shoulder pads for workouts Tuesday and Wednesday. Starting Thursday they will practice in full protective gear.
As he stood on the sidelines during the practice waiting to be interviewed by a television crew, Englehart was joined by Jurgens and the two shook hands.
“This is awesome,” Englehart told Jurgens. “It’s a very special and exciting day for all of us.”
The coach led the squad through a variety of warm-up exercises and individual drills, then had the team do position work and also had time to squeeze in some special teams preparation and offense versus defense skill training on Panther Field’s new green synthetic turf.
“It was exactly what I expected it to be,” Englehart said Sunday night about the practice session, “I expected it to be a lot of energy and emotion, so that was positive and I loved it. I knew it was going to be sometimes pretty hectic in regards to getting everyone where they belong. There is no leadership yet. We don’t have any juniors or seniors who have gone through our routine and could lead the freshmen when we blow the whistle.”
The coach said it was great to actually conduct a practice on the playing field.
“We tried to prepare our guys as much as we could in meetings and I think we did a good job of it,” Englehart said. “I don’t think there was anything on our schedule that didn’t run smoothly. It’s tough at the beginning because the offensive players need to learn a whole new system.”
The Panthers will officially begin play in 2013, but will compete in four scrimmages starting in September in Melbourne.
“It’s a great feeling to see this day arrive at last,” Jurgens said. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of this program and seeing these young men on the field practicing today is a tribute to all the hard work so many people have done to make this day become a reality.”