Waking up early for practice. Working out in a strict regimen. Spending about 40 hours a week hard at work in addition to classes. Loosing out on the social life enjoyed by others.

However, there was the competition and the camaraderie – belonging to something special, as a group of about 60 fellow student athletes were united by the game of football. More than a dozen of those athletes are gone now that Fairfield has ended the program, and there are no incoming freshmen recruits to replace those who have graduated.

But the camaraderie is still there.

The football players remain close, according to several that were interviewed. Some have even joined together as a flag-football team.

Many of the former players have chosen to live together in townhouses and in the residence halls, and they still see each other almost every day.

“[We have] been through a lot together, so we will stick together,” said Desmond Morris ’05.

In an interview, Morris asked who else The Mirror had talked with. When he heard Robert Hoey, ’05, was interviewed, he responded enthusiastically, “‘High School’ Hoey!,” a reference to an old nickname the team had for Hoey’s typical experience in high school as a star athlete.

This spirit of a team remains a part of their lives at Fairfield.

Both Morris and his roommate, Quincy Reid ’05, said they did not want to leave their old friends at Fairfield, even if it meant the continuing collegiate football.

Hoey decided to stay and said, “Why not get the best education I can?”

Other players, such as Mike Mertz ’04, agreed that they should continue at Fairfield because of the opportunity to have an excellent education.

Some players had very specific reasons for staying at Fairfield. Shamil Turner ’04, said that he likes his faculty advisor and did not want to change engineering programs. Turner said he has brought some of his football discipline into being a better student.

Both Mertz and Turner said their GPAs have risen since the cancellation of football.

Another concern was that transferring schools would require them to take additional courses in order to graduate.

Every player interviewed referred to the additional free time as an adjustment that each has had to cope with.

While Turner is taking more classes and becoming more active in student organizations, Mertz has joined the Rugby team. Most of the players interviewed continue with their work-out regimen in some way, though some have scaled back the amount of work they would normally do.

Morris said the adjustment has not been easy, though he will be glad he does not need to attend the cold 7 a.m. practices.

Almost all players interviewed mentioned the odd feeling they had watching college football games on Saturday afternoon.

Mark Baumer ’05, mentioned that typical fall weather last weekend reminded him of what he would have been doing on Saturday if not for the program’s cancellation.

“Last Saturday it felt exactly like a football day,” he said.

Other players commented on the odd feeling they have had watching college games on television.

“Sometimes I don’t even want to watch it,” said Reid.

There are also elements on campus that provoke former football players to think about what it was like when they were a student athlete competing for Fairfield.

When other teams arrive on campus the, “memories come back,” said Reid. He added that he does not “feel like an athlete anymore.”

Each player must now deal with what they thought was inevitable, yet was still thought to be off in the future. They all have to come to terms with the end of their football careers in college, something that Mertz was expecting to come at the end of senior year.

“I am at peace with the fact that I am not playing – but I don’t like it,” Mertz said. “A lot of us are happy, but not perfectly happy.”

Patrick Murphy ’05, decided to take advantage of the free time and flexibility the cancellation of the football team provided. He decided to study abroad in Ireland.

“When the team was dropped it left a hole in my life, so I decided that going abroad for the semester would be a good way to fill that hole. It would be a good experience and one that I felt I should take advantage of.” Murphy wrote in an email.

Murphy also wrote that the loss of the football program had given him a sense of purpose and he misses being part of a team or a “close knit family” as he worded it.

“I miss being part of the team; I miss the camaraderie and the feeling of great accomplishment that I used to get after walking off the field on a crisp fall Saturday afternoon surrounded by my closest of friends,” he wrote.

However, the opportunity to study in another country has been a fulfilling one thus far for Murphy.

“As far as studying abroad goes, I am having a blast here. I have never been to Europe before, and I am enjoying every opportunity that I am getting here,” Murphy wrote.

The sudden cancellation of the program left Murphy with a lack of closure, similar to what other former players have expressed, to his college football career.

“Deep down inside every athlete knows that one day you will have to stop, somewhere down the line there will be a last snap or one last pitch or one last shot,” Murphy wrote.

“I guess the worst part is that I never knew that my last snap would be my last; I never got to walk off the field a senior, knowing that I had played my last game. And as fun as being in Europe has been, I wouldn’t even think twice about trading it all in to catch one last pass or make one last tackle,” wrote Murphy.

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