As spotlight fades, football team must adjust
Jay Benedict | Managing Editor
Following their NCAA Division II national championship, the Pittsburg State football team returned to a hero’s welcome and a town buzzing with excitement and pride. In the five weeks since the players reached the pinnacle of division II football, the limelight has faded and the team must adjust to a different lifestyle.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet. After all those wins, especially the big one, I just want to enjoy it as long as possible,” said senior defensive lineman Cody Moore. “It was just an amazing season.”
Senior quarterback Zac Dickey says he kept in contact with several players over winter break and the overwhelming sentiment was a desire to bask in the moment for as long as possible.
“The effects of winning that game have stayed with us,” Dickey said. “I talked to one guy who told me he woke up every morning with a smile on his face.”
Some of the younger players, like sophomore cornerback Israel Maselera, don’t have the luxury of relishing the victory as long as others. Members of the team that are returning next season have already started off-season workouts. Maselera says the workouts make you forget and get focused on preparing for what’s next.
“I’m still in the moment, but I’ve realized that it’s time to start working for another championship,” Maselera said.
Players have more free time now, regardless of whether they are returning to the team next year. Dickey says he planned to use the off-season to focus on his job search, getting his last classes out of the way, and graduating until he played in the Casino del Sol College All-Star Game on Jan. 16. He says he received a lot of positive feedback on his performance during the game and he’s interested in seeing how far playing football can take him.
“I thought there could be no better way to walk away from the game, and I’ve had some of the best memories and times with this team,” Dickey said. “But if the opportunity pops up, I’d be very open to it.”
Maselera is enjoying the free time. He and his teammates spend about two hours each morning working out with trainers, but the afternoons and evenings are theirs to spend as they wish. Maselera says he spends his free time at the Student Rec Center playing basketball and catching up with friends, but that he’s still used to the old routine.
“I feel like a normal student now, but when it’s time for practice, I find myself looking at the clock,” Maselera said, “I’m used to listening to coaches at that time, but now it’s teachers now and I’m still getting used to that.”
Not everyone is enjoying the extra spare time as much. Junior safety Bryant Sanchez says he misses the grind of the gridiron season. Sanchez enjoys seeing friends, getting his school work in on time, and the occasional video game now, but he was eager to get back to work.
“I’d rather be in season and playing every Saturday,” Sanchez said. “Practices are hard, but I love the game and I’d rather be out there in front of the fans.”
Like the others, Moore appreciates the ability to focus more on his studies, but he thinks he might be bored with all his spare time. His five years of eligibility are up and he still has a year of school left. Moore says he aims to find a job here in town and finish his physical education degree so he can pursue his goal of coaching football.
Maselera says the returning players are optimistic about next season.
“Our motto last season was ‘humble and hungry,’ but now we’re a target,” Maselera said. “Everyone wants that top spot, but we want to repeat as national champions.”
Moore says he’s looking forward to being on the other side next season. He says he wants to be in the stands rooting for his friends and the new players. Dickey says he’s most looking forward to picking up the guitar again and getting to travel a little bit, but he still loves Pittsburg.
“Pittsburg State is a great place to live and receive an education from,” Dickey said. “And I’m looking forward to experiencing it in a different way after the past five years.”