ABILENE, Texas - While the 2013 McMurry University football schedule may have Mt. Everest proportions compared to any other slate of games in recent memory for the program, first-year McM head coach Mason Miller knows that all journeys begin with the first steps. Today, Miller's War Hawks officially launched into their 2013 preparation, with a morning practice session at Wilford Moore Stadium.
Miller welcomed a total of 114 players as he begins his tenure in guiding the team after four seasons as an assistant for McM.
"(The first day) was good," Miller said. "There was a lot of energy. It was like herding cats with some of the new guys. We've got to get everybody going in the same direction. At least if they made a mistake, they were doing it at full speed, so we're excited about that. We've got a long way to go.
"The biggest thing (today) was showing the new guys the way we do things; the McMurry way and how things run. It is about the ‘little things'."
The best example of one of those teachable moments in the inaugural session came as the backs and ends were getting their first taste of the pace of the War Hawks' frenetic offense. After watching several receivers tossing the football to the "referee" to spot the ball after the play was dead, Miller chided them for not handing the ball to the mock-official instead of throwing it.
"I'll bet you a dollar most officials can't catch the ball," Miller said somewhat tongue-in-cheek to his young charges.
While Miller's poke at the manual dexterity of football officials may have been a stretch, the importance of what he was trying to ingrain right off the bat was not.
"We try to play at a high rate of speed," Miller explained. "We try to teach our kids to hand the ball to the official - don't throw it to them - so they can place it down and we can play faster. It can cost you a couple seconds if we're lined up and ready to play, but the official can't spot the ball because they drop it and it's rolling around.
"We want to do things at such a high rate of speed that we are doing it in our sleep."
McMurry continues with single practices each day through next Monday, before having its first full contact next Tuesday during the morning in the first of two sessions that day.
Information for this story provided by McMurry Athletics.