By Daniel Johnson, Sports Editor
Their names aren’t on a stat sheet, and they’re not the players usually quoted in the paper, but without its offensive linemen the ACU football team wouldn’t gain a yard.
And after a summer of Schlitterbahn, s’mores and 7 a.m. workout sessions, starters Nathan Young, Cody Savage, Matt Raesner, Joseph Thompson and Sam Collins say they’re ready for the upcoming season.
“This is our year,” Savage said. “This is gonna be my sixth year here, and this is the closest I’ve ever been to my teammates.”
Although they weren’t required to, the starters and two backups, sophomores Haskell Hall and Adam Meyer, spent most of their summer strengthening their friendships and bodies to make sure that if ACU loses this season, it isn’t because of an unprepared line.
“We just met at the end of the year in the spring and decided we were gonna get up and work out at 7 in the morning, every morning,” Young said.
The plan was to work out, but the result was more than improved weight totals-it was a summer they say they wouldn’t trade for anything.
“I don’t think I should have done anything else this summer,” Thompson said. “If I would have done something else I would have regretted it.”
ACU’s 8-3 record was one of the best the Wildcats have had in almost 30 years. And thanks to last season’s success and a long list of returning starters, ACU is picked to win the Lone Star Conference South Division in 2007 and is ranked No. 11 in the nation by the American Football Coaches Association. But the linemen say there is still work to be done.
“A lot of people see it as we won eight games or whatever,” Savage said. “But our mindset is that we also lost three.”
The linemen lifted, ran and even flipped tires; the work paid off. They improved their average lift total to around 420 pounds from 370 pounds, a feat they said they would have had a hard time doing on their own.
Young said. “If you missed you were gonna get called out on it and even made fun of a little bit.”
And because of that accountability, the summer was a success.
“I never saw so much accountability,” the junior left tackle said. “It’s the looks; it’s always the looks you get.”
What motivated Raesner, who will be playing his last season as a Wildcat, was the fact that this season will be his last shot to contribute to the Wildcats.
“Before the spring started, I was talking to my sister on the phone and she was like, ‘You know, this is the last spring you’ll ever have to go through,’ and she kinda looked at it as a good thing,” the senior right tackle said. “And I started thinking this is the last spring I’m ever gonna have to go through, this is the last summer workout I’m ever gonna have to go through, this is the last of everything for us seniors so we want to go out with a bang.”
And for Savage it was meeting the expectations of his fellow linemen.
“For me it was not wanting to let the rest of the offensive linemen down,” the junior center said.
But whatever motivation for their choosing to stay in town, the result was the same: a cohesive and stronger offensive line.
“When the five of us are in we click so well,” Raesner said. “I mean it’s like no worries; we know each other and are gonna get the job done.”
When the linemen weren’t bench-pressing they were team building. Three of the seven roomed together at a house near campus, and the group took trips to make sure its entire summer wasn’t spent in Powell Fitness Center.
Whether it was waiting in line at Schlitterbahn Water Park in New Braunfels or camping at the Abilene State Park in Buffalo Gap, fun was had. In fact, the linemen said they piled into a car at 5:30 a.m.. to make the trip to New Braunfels and once at Schlitterbahn, it wasn’t your ordinary trip to a water park.
“Imagine a whole bunch of 300-pounders walking around a water park,” Young said.
While camping, they made personal and team goals, played Monopoly and even ate the American classic camping dessert: s’mores.
“We got fat on s’mores,” Young said.
After the summer ended and preseason preparation began, the success of their summer may be seen on the field. But Raesnar said that isn’t the most important product.
“Wins and championships are really nice, but the thing I’m gonna take from this season is just the relationships we built really,” Raesnar said.