No days off
GVSU football team uses summertime to improve their game, communities
GVL / Emily Frye Coach Matt Mitchell during the game against Wayne State University on Saturday Nov. 12, 2016
For football fans across the country, the offseason is a long, brutal period that keeps the pigskin away from fans more effectively than the 2015 Denver Broncos defense kept opposing teams from scoring touchdowns. Nothing truly fills the prolate spheroid-shaped hole in the heart during the spring and summer.
The same cannot be said for the players. While fans daydream about their favorite team, that team is in the weight room daydreaming about correcting that one wrong step, penalty or ball that slipped through their hands the season prior.
For the Grand Valley State football team, the offseason is not a time to turn the switch “off."
Despite the fact that the regular season is still a couple months away, the Lakers are already on campus participating in involuntary workouts—sessions that the coaches are barred from guiding—and have been grinding since the final whistle that ended their 2016 season.
“It says a lot about the guys on our team," said quarterback Bart Williams. "Everybody shows up, and they’re not days off because the coaches out there. Guys are pushing teammates and pushing to get better.
“Fall camp is only about a month away, and we only have four weeks to get ready for it, so it’s kind of crunch time. You can’t take these conditionings or lifts for granted. It’s a grind. If you’re not taking it seriously, you run the risk (of not being ready for the fall and getting injured).”
Williams, who will be entering the season once again as the starting quarterback, has continued to show his ability to be a leader for the Lakers, and the coaching staff appreciates his maturity and moxie.
“Bart Williams does a great job," said head coach Matt Mitchell. "He’s more than just a great player: He’s a leader of this team. I’d point to him on the offensive side of the ball."
On the offensive side, in addition to Williams, wide receiver Brandon Bean and running back Bryce Young-Walls have been stepping up as voices for their teammates to follow.
“He’s got some fire to him. Everyday, it’s like life or death for him to be pushing himself and pushing others. I noticed it last year with him, too,” Williams said of Young-Walls. “He’ll be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, so I’m two years older than him, and he was pushing me. I have a lot of respect for that kid.”
The offseason is more than just lifts and sprints for GVSU, though. Once finals concluded in the winter semester, Mitchell took about 60 of his players to Timber Wolf Lake in Lake City, Michigan, for their annual community service trip. The players got an opportunity to bond with each other in a setting other than the football field, and they were able to put in tons of work for the lodge in preparation for the Young Life camps that go on there during the summer.
“We do a lot of manual labor, bringing up the brutes, lugging trees around," said linebacker Collin Schlosser. "I helped build a shed, spread the mulch, clean up the landscaping; a group did some irrigation. It’s a good experience. It’s a good way to give back.”
Additionally, GVSU hosted three youth camps in June and plan on having another three in July. These serve as opportunities for kids, from first graders to high school seniors with a deep-rooted interest in football, to have some fun with the players and coaches and learn about the game. Even with workouts, camps and retreats, several Lakers have even carved out time to visit children’s hospitals to brighten the days of the kids who need it most.
Despite everything going on in his football world, Collin Schlosser has fit in summer classes and has even submitted his application to medical school. He has taken the Medical College Admission Test once and plans on sitting down with it again. When asked how he manages to fit multiple massive commitments into his everyday schedule, Schlosser shrugged it off.
“It’s all about choices," he said. "When it comes down to the season and school, it all comes down to the choices that you make. I have to prioritize my time and look ahead—when I’m going to do my schoolwork, when I’m going to fit in extra film work, like that. It’s busy in season, but it is fun, too.”
Workouts. Summer camps. Community service. Game planning. Hospital visits. Classes. Medical school. Jobs. Film review. All of that, and we are only scratching the surface of what GVSU football has accomplished recently.
“That’s what’s unique about Grand Valley football," Mitchell said.
All that, and it’s still only the offseason.