Hello Wolf Pack Fans!
My name is Nigel Haikins. I am a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Nevada and a senior on its football team. I was born in Berkeley, California and was raised in the Bay Area. Despite playing football at the Division-I level, I am rather new to it. This is due to the fact that I started playing the sport my senior year of high school. After high school, I attended Diablo Valley College where I played for two seasons before transferring to Nevada. Being relatively new to football, I have learned a lot about the sport and its culture in a relatively short amount of time.
The thing that has jumped out to me the most during my acclimation to the sport were the perceptions that came with it. For some reason, still unknown to me, football players are perceived as entitled, selfish, self-centered people. This generalization of such a broad spectrum of people, including myself, bothers me. I believe this warped perception of football players comes from a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding of what being a football player truly entails. Since most people are oblivious to what it means to be a football player, I will try to explain by mapping out what we do during the week.
Sundays: Because our games are usually on Saturdays, this day is used for evaluation and recovery. As a team, we come together in the late afternoon and go through various exercises and stretches that help get the soreness out of our bodies. We then have a quick team meeting then split up for meetings with our position groups. These position group meetings give our coaches the opportunity to critique individual performances and show us where we can improve. Sundays also feature a quick practice in the evening.
Mondays: For most students, Monday is the most dreaded day of the week. It marks the end of the weekend and the start of another class and work-filled week. However, for football players, it is the single best day of the week. This is because it is our day off. We have no football obligations for the day. Despite it being our lone day off, most players use it as an opportunity to start watching film on our next opponent and familiarizing ourselves with them. Many also use this day to knock out as many of their required study hall hours as they can.
Tuesdays & Wednesdays: I group these two days together because they are equally tough. Unlike Mondays, when we get to sleep in, we start these days off nice and early with 7 a.m. meetings. These meetings usually last about an hour and consist of coaches explaining the opponent. In addition to these morning meetings, we also have weights to attend. These days also feature the toughest practices of the week. Practices are long, grueling, and physical. Coaches and players refer to these couple of days as "work days."
Thursdays: This year, Coach Polian decided to place a bigger emphasis on the mental preparation for games. This led to "No Sweat Thursdays." This day is dedicated to the perfection of the mental aspect of our game plan. Instead of pads, we practice in shorts and t-shirts. Despite being a practice day, the atmosphere is much more laid back than the other days of the week.
Fridays: Friday practices are short and crisp. Although not as physically intense as Tuesday and Wednesday practice, the serious tones of those days are present. This is also the day that we depart for games.
Hopefully, this insight into the life of a football player helps you understand what we do on a daily basis. Although I have explained the obligations players have during the week, there is no way to truly convey the mental, emotional, and physical stress that players undergo on a routine basis. I don't write this to make you feel sorry for players; it is a life that we choose and enjoy. I write this just to give understanding to those that may hold those negative views towards football players. Instead of assuming that the player in your class didn't do his homework because he thought he could skate by due to the fact he plays football, you realize that maybe it slipped his mind because he is learning a new position. That player that neglected to hold the door open for you at the Joe? He wasn't being rude, his mind was simply on the game plan for that week. People aren't always what they seem, with football players being no exception.
Boise State week. Since I first arrived at Nevada, there has been a quiet reverence towards the Boise State football team. The practice week leading up to the Boise game have always been more intense. Coaches and players were more solemn and less likely to joke around. Despite being the perpetual underdog, Nevada football has traditionally placed special emphasis on beating Boise State.
However, the 2014 season marks the end of this placement of Boise on a pedestal. Coach Polian has changed the harmful habit of the team looking into the future and circling games on the schedule. This season, we make the effort to look at each game as a one game season. This has led to us putting our full effort and concentration into each game and an optimism surrounding the team that is not usually there. Time will tell if this new method of thinking will help the Nevada football finally defeat Boise State.