From Arkansas State University
The Arkansas State football team welcomed back a large group of former lettermen to Liberty Bank Stadium on Friday afternoon to observe the Red Wolves' 13th spring practice, which ended with an opportunity for the coaching staff and both the current and former players to visit with one another about the program's past, present and future.
The team went through its final workout before its spring game Saturday in shorts and shoulder pads, then huddled at midfield to hear from head coach Bryan Harsin and former A-State running back and assistant coach David Mitchell. The Red Wolves then broke into position groups, where they visited with the lettermen who played their same position while attending Arkansas State.
"We want to continue to bring back some of the history with the program, and having former players here creating an environment where guys see themselves being a part of this not only right now, but for their entire lives, is very important," said Harsin.
"This is a great part of our lives, so we want to invite our lettermen to come back and we want them to get them involved," continued Harsin. "This was a great opportunity for our players to meet them and also let the ex-players come out and see what we're doing. It is their blood, sweat and tears that have put this program where it is now. They've put the time in and made a lot of changes for these current players, so we want them to come out here and see what their hard work has produced."
Following the practice, the team held a dinner on the Liberty Bank Stadium concourse for an extended time of fellowship with the former lettermen. Mitchell, who lettered at A-State from 1969-73 and served as an assistant coach from 1975-91, said it was an exciting event for all those involved.
"I knew when I got the invitation to come back this was going to be a great opportunity to be around a bunch of good guys who experienced the same success I did while I was here as both a player and coach," said Mitchell. "It was like a family reunion, getting together with guys you worked hard with and competed against in practice. It was a great chance for us to visit, see how everyone is doing and see how we've progressed."
The team was surrounded by the former lettermen in attendance at midfield when Mitchell addressed the players, talking about some of his past experiences and how they could relate to the Red Wolves of 2013. The first African-American to receive a scholarship at Arkansas State, Mitchell led the Southland Conference in rushing during his senior year that saw him earn all-league honors. He then started his coaching career at ASU before going on to coach at Syracuse, Arkansas, Missouri, North Texas, Lincoln University and Purdue.
"The former players and coaches here played a big part in the success of the Arkansas State University Red Wolves, and this was an opportunity for us to let the guys coming through now know they aren't just here playing football, they are upholding a tradition. These guys are continuing the success of the past with back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships and bowl appearances. I think they have a great coaching staff that is energetic, has a great plan and has the players flying around here in practice -- because that's where it all starts. You've still got to play the game, but if you take care of business in practice it gives you an opportunity to go win games."