CMU gets back to work
Sun Sports Writer
The past few weeks have felt like an entire football season for members of the Central Michigan football team.
With all the whirlwinds of a coaching change while trying to prepare for the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6 against Troy, the Chippewas needed a break.
The players got the break for the holidays and had a chance to unplug from the rigors of college football, but returned to the grinds on Monday with the bowl game now just a week away.
“I think the guys have been dealing with it very well,” CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour said of the distractions. “This is the second time through this for some of us and the young guys, this is their first time with something like this. The older guys are trying to help the younger guys through this and coach (Steve) Stripling has been doing a great job of preparing the team, so there hasn’t been a lot of change.”
The players will continue practice this week before leaving for Mobile, Ala. on the weekend. With the changes in the coaching staff, the players’ focus has been on winning for the team.
“We know that we are playing for each other,” CMU defensive end Frank Zombo said. “We are having a good time and Coach Stripling has made it a really enjoyable experience for all of us. I think all of the seniors are really trying to soak in these last days that we have together.”
Butch Jones’ departure to Cincinnati was a hard time for many of the players, but there has been closure to the situation as Jones returned to Mt. Pleasant before the holidays and spoke with the team.
“He is obviously a Chippewa and he cares a lot about Central Michigan,” LeFevour said of Jones. “But, when someone is trying to take care of your family for many years and offering you a substantial raise, you have to at least look at it and see if it is what is best for your wife and kids. You can’t blame him and he will always be a Chippewa to me.”
Jones also hosted a number of the players to his home for dinner before leaving once and for all for Cincinnati.
“Coach Jones is a class act,” Zombo said. “He (left CMU) the best way he possibly could. We understand that he has to take care of his family. I really do believe that he does love us and he is still going to be there for us. We all have his new number and we are all going to stay in touch.”
The lingering cloud of an uncertain future with a new head coach is not affecting the seniors on the team, but LeFevour and Zombo understand what the young players are feeling right now as they went through the same emotions three years ago.
“The guys just need to trust Mr. (Dave) Heeke,” LeFevour said. “He did a great job last time in picking a head coach and I guarantee there are some very qualified candidates out there for this job. The guys just need to trust in him and know he will do a good job for them.”
While they can’t control the coaching hire, the seniors are doing all they can to make sure the young guys are staying focused on the GMAC Bowl and not thinking about anything else.
“The young guys are probably feeling like it’s nearly the last day of school and they have the rest of the summer off,” LeFevour said. “But this game is important to them and important to us older guys too. This is a chance to leave our legacy and everyone needs to make the most of every opportunity because you never know when your last one is going to come.”
LeFevour will be playing in his final game with CMU next Wednesday, but the senior is doing all he can to enjoy each moment until the game is over.
“I am not looking to get this game over with. I am looking forward to playing it, but not looking forward to being done here,” LeFevour said of his last game. “This year has been the most fun I have had here in my career. I love these guys. I love these seniors. I love this place. I am trying to cherish every day that I have left.”
*Also on a side note Antonio Brown filed his papers to be evaluated for the NFL Draft weeks ago. Once he hears back on where he is being gauged to be drafted, it will give him a better idea on whether he should leave CMU early.