The Cru’s quest to once again win the American Southwest Conference title and go further than they have ever gone by winning the National Championship began Aug. 15.
Last Monday was the first day for both the newcomers and returners to hit the field and put their helmets on for the first time for the upcoming season.
Incoming students started an hour and 45 minutes earlier with more of a focus on the fundamentals of Cru football.
More than 200 players reported for practice, making this the second largest group in the 13-year history of the program.
With so many players, the team understands that to make it far in the playoffs, teamwork is crucial.
Senior business administration major and quick tackle Nate Menkin said players need to “come together as a team, from the incoming freshmen to seniors, and to become one single unit known as the Cru.”
The team includes not only players and coaches, but also everyone associated with the university.
“Our team is our school. All our fans and supporters, the students, the mascot, the Couch Cru and faculty are just as important to achieving our end goal,” Menkin said.
He, along with his teammate junior sports management major and linebacker Javicz Jones, was named to the Sporting News Magazine Division III Preseason All-America Team.
“The award makes me work hard as usual because it’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Jones said. “Pre-season is the beginning, and it’s all about the end of the season,” Jones said.
Menkin is just as thankful for winning the award as his teammate.
“It is just amazing to hear, and I still don’t believe it,” he said. “All the hard work over my whole career and all the people who helped me get here. The coaches, teammates and most of all the glory goes to God. I couldn’t have done anything without them.”
This season the Cru returns six offensive starters and eight defensive starters from a team that went 12-1 last season with a perfect record in regular season play.
Even though the team made it to the playoffs, they are still working to become a stronger and better unit.
Head coach Pete Fredenburg said, “We strive every year to do things a little different to make sure that we don’t become apathetic to the accomplishments of the past and always strive to get over the hump.”
With a new school year starting, there are new faces to Cru football. The team and coaches are hoping that these additions will help them reach their playoff goals for the upcoming season.
Fredenburg said the incoming students “have to really buy into this team. I told them when I welcomed them the other day that we have Wildcats, Tigers, Mustangs, all of those, but they have to quickly become Crusaders. When young guys achieve that, it is very easy to tell because they work extra hard and they really buy into it.”
Jones emphasizes the quality of becoming a family unit in order to take their team all the way.
He said they need to “make sure that we all become one family because a bunch of guys playing together on a team can maybe win some games, but a family can take it all the way. As a family, you fight to the end for them.”
One of the Cru’s first goals is to win their season opener against the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Sept. 10 in Belton at 6 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.
“You can’t win all of them if you can’t win the first one,” Fredenburg said.
One key element in helping with the success of the Cru’s season is the support they have from the fans who enjoy watching them.
“To all of our fans out there, we love you all and love the support that we get. We couldn’t do it without you,” Jones said. “We just want y’all to know that you all are just as important in anything we do.”