Doyin Jibowu felt like he was gearing up for a game day instead of the first day of practice for the Fort Hays State University football team.
“I was excited to be out here,” the Tiger senior defensive back said. “All the meetings (Sunday) just bored me to death. Hearing Coach (Chris) Brown talk yesterday, I was ready to throw on the pads right then and there. I thought we had Central (Missouri) outside. I was ready to play a game.”
Indeed, enthusiasm is at an all-time high for the defending MIAA champion Tigers, who opened fall training camp on Monday.
“I thought it went well,” said Brown, who is entering his eighth year as FHSU head coach. “Pretty crisp, pretty clean. You still got your young guys running around like chickens with their heads cut off, but it was good.
“I was proud of our guys. You could tell they put in a lot of work this summer. They were kind of all on the same page. It looked better than it has in the past on Day 1. Better since spring practice as well. They worked hard and did the conditioning afterward and didn’t complain, just got after it. I think these guys are ready to hopefully have another good year.”
The Tigers, coming off an 11-1 season, again have massive numbers with about 125 players out for practice.
“I think everyone’s willing to help each other,” said Tiger senior quarterback Jacob Mezera said. “I just met a lot of these guys for the first time today and they’ve been really cool and we’ve all been really accepting of each other. We’re all hanging out all ready.
“It’s getting better from when I was first here. There was a lot of cliques and groups that weren’t hanging out with each other. It’s a completely different environment now. That’s how you have a winning program.”
With a bullseye on the back on the Tigers, Mezera said he wants the team to continue to amp up the intensity.
“I really want everybody to understand how hard it is to repeat,” said Mezera, who has 5,377 passing yards and 42 touchdowns in his career. “I want everybody to start stepping up and putting a little more effort into what we’re doing, whether it’s on the field or in the weight room or anything like that. I just feel like it’s a whole effort thing right now.”
Jibowu said he can already see a difference in the Tigers’ work ethic.
“Guys are definitely working harder,” he said. “Typically when you have that kind of success guys get complacent. I felt like this summer we practiced every day like we had something to prove. It was phenomenal to see the young guys taking that responsibility.”
The Tigers open the season at home Aug. 30 against Central Missouri.
“These first two weeks we’ll just kind of focus on us, making sure we know what we're doing offensively, defensively and special teams,” Brown said. “We’ll prepare a couple days extra for Central Missouri than we would other teams, just because we’ve got those extra days to get it done.”