Column: Behind the scenes, an inside look at the Packer football team

Published 3:44 pm Monday, September 7, 2009

For the average fan, a football game starts on the opening kick off and ends with the final whistle. For the average sports reporter, that’s usually what they report on.

But this last week, I had the rare opportunity to join the Austin Packer football team in the locker room for pregame, halftime, and postgame meetings.

Here’s a timeline of what unfolded during the Packers battle with Red Wing last Thursday at Art Hass Stadium.

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Well before players arrive to the game, they usually take in a big meal, so as not to feel any hunger around game time.

“I’ll usually have a huge breakfast and then we always eat something afterwards,” Austin wide receiver Jamaal Gibson said.

5:15 p.m.

The defense is already going through their pregame meeting. They’re told to focus on Red Wing’s option attack and hit hard early and often.

5:30 p.m.

The offense begins it’s meeting. Austin head coach Tim Hermann drills his team to stay disciplined, protect the ball, and protect the quarterback.

The purpose of the meetings are clear and simple — get the team focused.

“There’s no messing around. You just get your head on the game and stay focused,” Austin running back Jerrad Ryks said.

“It gets everyone on the some page,” Austin quarterback T.J. Fritz said.

Unfortantely, Hermann said that focus is one area that his team could use a little practice.

“We need to be focused and we want to prepare ourselves and get in the mode,” Hermann said. “I’m not sure that they are there yet with that. In preparation our players don’t always focus on the task at hand. Several guys know how to, but not all 71 guys do it.”

5:40 p.m.

Players start their stretching routines and a few start throwing on their I-Pods to get pumped up for the game. The mood is still generally relaxed.

5:50 p.m.

Special teams take the field to go through their warm-ups.

6:05 p.m.

The entire team takes the field in full pads. Before they leave the locker room, Hermann tells his squad “Put your game faces on. It all starts now.”

As he always does, Ryks makes sure he is the last Packer to take the field by standing about 10 feet back in the hallway before his teammates clear out.

6:41 p.m.

After running through some stretching drills and warm-ups, the Packers head back to the locker room. The intensity is in the air as silence blends with a few random screams of anticipation. It feels like you’re about to get on the craziest roller coaster you’ve ever seen in the middle of a midnight thunderstorm.

6:47 p.m.

Hermann steps up to give his pre-game speech. It’s short, but to the point and effective.

“The groundskeepers have done their job, the coaches have done there’s. Now it’s on the players. We’re getting the kickoff and then it’s score baby score! What’s important is what is now and that is getting a victory!”

6:49 p.m.

With pictures of the Austin football teams that won the Big Nine Title in 1958 and 1959 looking over them, the Packers leave the locker room and head to the main hallway. As they storm the field, every player taps the sign next to the door. It reads ‘PLAY LIKE CHAMPIONS.’

Once they get on the field it’s time for the National Anthem, and then the game gets underway.

7:03 p.m.

Just three minutes into the game the Packers answer Hermann’s call by scoring a touch down on their first drive.

7:24 p.m.

The lead is boosted to 20-0 and the team is juiced.

8:09 p.m.

After their most dominant half of football under Hermann, the Packers storm into the locker room with a 45-0 lead. The cheers and celebrations of the players are immediately silenced by Hermann’s whistle.

“We were good but we’ve got to be better,” he shouts. “Some of the things we did can’t happen against good teams. Stay focused.”

The mood calms down and the team starts its halftime meetings.

The offense is told they won’t pass and it’s going to be all power run. Since the starters are done for the night, starting offensive lineman Joe Diggins takes it on himself to fire up the back-ups who will play the line in the second half.

“The game isn’t over,” he tells them.

The defensive meeting is focused on how the substitutions will be rotated and how the younger players will handle the varsity schemes.

8:23 p.m

The Packers take the field for the second half, and roll on to a 45-7 victory.

9:13 p.m.

Hermann leads the team to its victory celebration – 38 pounds on the tops of the lockers. One for each point they outscored the Wingers by.

“I don’t want homecoming to be our next win. I want to win next week,” he tells his squad before letting them mingle.

After a solid victory, the Packers chow down on some post-game snacks.