Courtesy: Todd Goldbeck, Xcel Sports Training
Friday marked the last day of preparation for the players and coaches before the game. The coaches had the players practice all of their special teams alignments, as well as several live drives and situations. The players were on high alert, and it was evident that both teams were fine-tuning the plays they felt would give them the best chance for success in the game. The players are definitely anxious to tackle someone in a different colored jersey.Both teams practiced twice on Friday with the morning session in full pads. The East team came back in the afternoon wearing their game jerseys but no pads. They ran some plays, practiced some special teams and made sure everyone knew their assignments in various formations. They will be doing a classroom review Saturday morning to keep everything fresh for the game. The West teamâ??s afternoon practice consisted of playing â??Air Force Footballâ??, which is a fast-paced game, up and down the field, throwing, running and catching. There are no pads or helmets and the players really enjoyed doing the different pace without their pads. They are definitely feeling loose for the game Saturday. They also will be having a classroom session right before they take the field for pregame warm-up. Friday evening was the All-Star Banquet, where over 300 people were in attendance to meet and greet the players. Parents, family and friends saw their players for the first time all week and had a chance to find out what the players have been experiencing during the week. The players and coaches took turns introducing each other, and the night culminated in a motivational message from guest speaker, Jeff Olson, Head Coach of the State Champion Ishpeming Hematites. Coach Olson talked about the loss of his son, Daniel, the improbable state run of this yearâ??s football team, and how to overcome adversity. He explained that football teaches you life lessons and encouraged everyone to develop their â??Strategyâ?? for overcoming obstacles that inevitably will appear in your life. He asked, â??When life gets you down, when you have an obstacle in front of you or negative things happen, what will be your strategy for overcoming it?â?? Olson went on to describe parts of his own personal journey, and how he, his family, players and community got through the tragedy they faced and found themselves standing atop the State Championship podium. Overall, it was an excellent message that touched each person in their own way. There is lots of diversity in the players, so whether a player continues their football career in college, or not, they could all take the message to heart. Some players will attend college, and some will go straight to their next career, but everyone should learn to give back to their communities and be ready to seize the next opportunity when it comes your way. Afterward, Jeff had many parents and fans in attendance that wanted to talk with him, and he stayed and gave each of them his undivided attention. The Traveling Trophy was also on display for all to see. Parents and fans saw it up-close for the first time and many took pictures of their players with it individually. The trophy will be presented to the winning team, where it can be passed to other teams representing the winning squad throughout the year, before returning to Marquette for next yearâ??s game. The U.P. Football All-Star Game will begin at 3 p.m. Doors to the Dome will be open at 2 p.m. Cost is $6 at the door.