Thursday, August 4, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Enthusiasm in Hawks’ camp

August’s arrival means many things – another birthday, back to school and a favorite of mine, football season.

Monday morning early I was at Holly Springs High School, and liked what I saw. New head coach Clifford Brown is filled with enthusiasm.

Brown stood in the middle of the practice field as his Hawks rotated to different stations, all based on learning the fundamentals and getting in shape.

But Brown didn’t just stand in the circle and watch. He constantly shouted words of encouragement to his team and his assistant coaches and pushed them to succeed.

Most of the words focused on work. Things like – “Work hard. We’re going to outwork the competition.”

This was about 8:30 a.m., and it was the second workout for the squad. The Hawks actually started their preseason practices at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, a concept Brown brought from a previous school and one he hopes will help instill pride and excitement into the Holly High football program.

Brown himself has his work cut out for him. I’m entering my fifth season in Marshall County as publisher of this newspaper, and Brown is the third head coach of the Hawks in the same period.

This program, more than anything, needs stability, and here’s hoping Coach Brown is the man.

He was the defensive coordinator a year ago, and he’s a Holly Springs native, a graduate of Holly High now coaching his alma mater. And he brings a wealth of coaching experience, most of it coming in Indiana.

And from what I saw Monday morning, he brings discipline, desire and dedication – and lots of enthusiasm.

It was hot, but not as hot as the previous Monday, the last in July, when Coach Wade Griffin and his Marshall Academy Patriots took to the practice field for the first time. Both Mondays I’ve had to change clothes before returning to the office. I was soaking wet from sweat.

Coach Griffin and Coach Brown are giving their teams plenty of water breaks, making sure they keep fluids in their hard-working bodies.

Switching gears to the college game, us weekly newspaper folks don’t normally take in the Southeastern Conference media days in Birmingham, Ala. But the media circus was held last week, and I read about many of the coaches and the teams.

Tennessee is picked to win the Eastern Division and the overall conference crown this year. LSU is tabbed as the favorite in the Western Division.

Steve Spurrier is back in the conference, at South Carolina. And Ed Orgeron is the new main man at Ole Miss.

The Rebels and the Mississippi State Bulldogs will try to prove the forecasters wrong. They’re selected fifth and sixth in the Western Division by the media voters at the Southeastern Conference preseason media days.

Alabama, my team of choice, is picked third in the West. The Tide’s success weighs heavily on whether or not quarterback Brodie Croyle can stay healthy.

Croyle was on hand for the media days.

His hairstyle is normally long, with his bangs in his eyes. That wasn’t the case last Friday in Birmingham. He had a shorter, cleaner cut.

Naturally, the media asked about the new haircut.

“I actually went and got it cut yesterday just for my mother so she wouldn’t cut me off from financial support,” said a smiling Croyle.

The football season is just around the corner, and so is the birthday. I’m excited about the previous.

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