I’m sitting in the stands at Truist Field. An undergrad from Wake Forest hits the big drum, setting the tone for the other band members. Boom, boom, boom.
I feel this blow in my stomach. The thud tells me that football is about to be played. You felt it. We all have. Even as children, when we started attending football games, marching bands revived our souls.
There’s nothing quite like that thud in your belly before the Demon Deacons took the field here at Truist Field.
The noise foreshadows as in a well-crafted emotional novel. We are five months away from Wake’s opening football game for the 2022 season. Still, the football feels present.
It’s the annual spring football game where Wake Forest players face off in a light scrum for the crowd of several hundred off-season football fanatics.
I’m starting to scout the new team, looking for new players that I’ve never seen before, guys that will take this team from not just Good to Great, which was the trajectory of the unforgettable team of the last year, but from Great to national champions, edging out Alabama in the national title game.
A few guys catch my eye. Top of that list is Redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Griffis. Looks like an above average athlete. Once he masters Wake’s patented run-pass option (RPO) delayed mesh scheme, he’ll make it tough for ACC linebackers and defensive backs because he’s dizzy to run away from them. .
But I’m moving forward. I spot Sammy “One More Year Mother So Dear” Hartman firing balls at sharp receivers. We should all feel excited and inspired to know that Sammy Dear has decided to return for one more year after going pigskin all over the world last season, including some 40,000 yards against Army.
Don’t you like guys who stay in college, rather than chasing NFL money, because they want to enjoy the college student-athlete experience? Shows character and wisdom.
I noticed a second guy, Gavin Ellis, a 6-foot-5, 226-pound tight end. Like Griffis, he is a redshirt freshman and is notable for his athletic movements. Caught a TD in the scrum. I can see Sammy RPO gearing up in 2022, deciding to pass and hitting Ellis for second-half clutch catches all season long.
And there was Spencer Clap on the field, all six-foot-six and 302 pounds from him, anchoring the offensive line. It’s comforting to know that the red-shirted senior will return because he stabilizes this football team and gives them street credibility. Huge, smart, tough and consistent, Clap gives me a warm feeling inside that our offensive line will be strong in 2022. Nothing is going to intimate Clap in 2022.
After the match, I joined the hundreds of children, parents and girlfriends on the field. Took a photo of one of the stars of last year’s team, Taylor Morin. As a rookie, he’s proven himself to be a legitimate ACC wide receiver and he’ll be even better in 2022 because the guy catches every ball thrown his way and punts reliably. This will not change.
But I have to ask: Was Sammy Sportface sniffling when he came within 10 feet of Morin?
Did he violate certain NCAA rules on name, image and likeness (NIL) by taking pictures of Morin without his consent? Perhaps. But these NIL rules remain obscure, so let’s not think about them too much.
I couldn’t leave the field until I clicked on some snaps of the football emperor of Wake Forest, the most eloquent and erudite coach in all of NCAA athletics, the guy who resurrected this program and elevated him to national relevance and national number 14 in last season’s final standings.
I salute, of course, head coach Dave Clawson. Fans lined up 40 meters deep to get a photo of the fearless leader as well as his autograph. Pressed to meet an editorial deadline, I just stood by his side and took several pictures of him.
Without his permission. Offense NONE?
Nobody cares. Nobody knows.
Seeing the big guy made my day complete. It was tantamount to a spiritual cleansing experience.
Ever since the ACC championship game when Pitt faked injuries to slow down Wake’s offense, I’d been in a mostly Pitt funk and disappointed the party in Charlotte with the biggest gathering of people from Wake Forest of history that never happened.
Because they lost the game. A bit embarrassing.
That night I drove to South Carolina even though I live in North Carolina just to get away from that stage where sadness was overwhelming me. I wanted to party with all those Wake folks after that ACC title — all night — but neither of us were in the mood. Big losses don’t breed fun parties.
I can’t decide which felt worse. How I sank that night or a few weeks earlier when Wake lost a 22-point fourth-quarter lead to Carolina. It crushed me. In a quarter of football in Chapel Hill, the perfect season Wake cracked into a million scattered, disjointed pieces.
But in the end, the team came together and wowed us all with a Rutgers whiplash in the bowl game.
It took me months to get over the emotions of Wake Forest’s 2021 football season. As great as he is in so many ways, he left scars on my soul.
These scars took months to heal. And yesterday’s spring game made me realize that I had fully recovered.
In a few months you and I will hear that drum beating before and during Wake Forest football games in 2022.
Deep in our bellies.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires and entertains the brotherhood of baby boomers. And you can learn more about his vision and join the group’s Facebook page here:
Sammy Sportface has a vision – Check it out
Sammy Sportface — The Baby Boomer Brotherhood Blog — Facebook Page