Out of the darkness of the night, those residing nearby T.J. Mills Stadium on North Circle Drive saw the bright lights of football season and heard the pads cracking once again in Tiger Town.
If it wasn’t the Tiger spell-out at the beginning of stretches that woke people up, it could have been the loud boom Garrett Redden brought down upon the teammate that drew the short straw and lined up opposite the AP All-American linebacker for the Oklahoma drills that drew everyone’s attention.
The midnight practice has been a staple for head coach Shane Mobley’s staffs to participate in and with more word out about it this year, fans were given a hearty midnight snack of football.
“Last year we had about 40 or 50 people show up, not too many knew about it but this year it was on Facebook and people were calling me and it’s just fun for the kids,” Mobley said after it was all said and done around 1:45 a.m. “I’ll be honest with you; we’re evaluating, we’re trying to teach them the right way to tackle we put the one drill we hit each other right here in front of the parents.”
It was a full circuit workout with stations manned by a different member of the coaching staff who bring their own flair and passion to their position just like every other day around campus.
“You feed off your coaches,” Mobley said of keeping his energy running high into the middle of the night. “I saw Coach (Kamm) Coker just bouncing up and down all night in his corner and I thought it was really, really good.”
Seniors Reece Novicke and Hunter Clark also mentioned the novelty of the workout but appreciated having the entire program doing the same things.
“I think it’s just something you don’t get to do but once a year,” Novicke said.
“The atmosphere is cool, we’ve got everyone out here, all 140 kids running around and tackling and it’s just a great experience,” Clark added.
When it was all over and done with, Coach Mobley brought his players over closer to the home stands and allowed the opportunity for student-athletes to introduce their parents to their teammates and thank them for getting out of their normal routines and staying up late to watch practice.
“I gave the kids an opportunity to call their parents out, there’s a sacrifice the parents give the whole time but whether the parents know it or not, these kids right here love their parents and grandmas and aunts and everybody else,” Mobley said. “They may be bashful or shy but it gives them the chance to say, ‘hey that’s my mom or that’s my dad,’ and parents need the recognition too, you’ve got to show pride in your family and that gave the boys a chance to do that.”
Novicke and Clark reiterated the coach’s thoughts and added they wouldn’t be here without the support of their parents.
“It’s like the people who have supported you your whole life, I’ve been playing football since the second grade and my dad especially has been the one to always push me and support me, so to be a senior now playing for so long and always having them behind me is a good feeling,” Novicke said.
“Takes a lot of love to show up at the football field at midnight and stay until 1:30 just to watch your kids hit some dummies so definitely appreciative of them and supporting us,” said Clark.
Of course, those parents aren’t the only ones out of their realm of normalcy, as Mobley understands the group of fathers he plucks away from families for months on end.
“I know I’ve got these dads away from their families but I promise you on Sunday when we work, the kids are allowed to come up,” Mobley said. “I want them there, I want (offensive coordinator Chris) Carruthers walking off the field with one daughter walking on each side of him. That’s what I want to see, that’s what needs to happen because we are coaches and that is our profession, but we’re dads forever and that’s what it’s going to be.”
In the end, the late-night practice was just another step toward gearing up for the season that inches closer with Friday’s scrimmage against Columbus and Edna serving as the first outside competition the Tigers see.
This Friday’s exhibition game will come after the Meet the Tigers event where all fall sports teams will be introduced to the crowd on hand at T.J. Mills Stadium Friday night at 7 p.m.