Mercer football ‘Day Ones’ enter final season

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Mercer football ‘Day Ones’ enter final season

The

The "Day Ones" are the group of players who helped re-start Mercer's football program.

Allyson Lamb

The "Day Ones" are the group of players who helped re-start Mercer's football program.

Allyson Lamb

Allyson Lamb

The "Day Ones" are the group of players who helped re-start Mercer's football program.

It’s fall of 2012, and 119 Mercer students congregate on a field. Without any official place to dress, they put on their jerseys and gear in the end zone, very unfamiliar with any of the other people around them they would soon call teammates — brothers, even.

On this first day of practice for Mercer football, there was no field house. There were no press boxes. There were no seats.

There were 119 hungry Bears and a few coaches who ran them. These players are the “Day Ones.”

“There will never be a class as close as this,” said Tony Perella, a “Day One” offensive lineman. “[We’re] as close as a group of guys could possibly be . . . I don’t think we could have been any closer just coming in starting competition that same year. It was either you bond or you didn’t when we all bonded.”

The official “Day Ones” are the players who battled through practices in 2012-13 before competition began in the fall of 2013. On that first day, which players described as more of a conditioning practice, Marvin Davis said it was weird because “we didn’t know each other at all.”

But now, five years later, he said the bond is inseparable.

I would describe them as my life-long brothers, guys that I can count on to spend my whole life with.”

— Marvin Davis

“I would describe them as my life-long brothers, guys that I can count on to spend my whole life with,” Davis said. “We’ll do anything to win a Southern Conference championship our last year.”

They have come a far way to have such expectations. After going 21-14 in the first three years of competition, Mercer — now on an equal playing field with 63 scholarships — is looking to compete with other SoCon teams for a conference title.

But in the beginning, the Bears competed against themselves. In the first year, Perella and Davis said practices were a battle among each other in order to impress the coaching staff.

“It was more of a docking for power,” Davis said. “We wanted to do this and that on the team; we wanted to impress the coaches. Now, we’re all together fighting for one goal.”

Accomplishing that goal would mean ousting eight other teams in the conference, including last year’s co-champions Chattanooga and The Citadel, who are ranked No. 7 and No. 15, respectively, in the FCS.

Perella said winning a championship has been on everyone’s mind during camp.

“We’ve been doing this thing every team meeting at night, we’ll have two [or] three seniors stand up every night, and we’ll do a one-word to describe you kind of thing, they’ll introduce who their hero is and what Mercer football means to them,” Perella said. “The one thing I can tell you that like everyone is answering what Mercer football means to them is that we’re trying to finish what we started and bring a ring home this last year.”

But this group of seniors, the “Day Ones,” are not looking too far ahead. Wide receiver Jordan Marshall and Perella said they won’t take anything for granted, because as the weeks wear on, the end of their college football career will grow nearer.

“I know every time I go out on the field it’s going to be one of the last times I’m able to,” Marshall said. “Just having that in the back of my head is making me appreciate everything a little more.”

But time is not the only thing garnering respect. Head coach Bobby Lamb said the “Day Ones” are highly respected because they “made this program.” Davis said the younger players on the team understand the road the “Day Ones” have traveled, so as a respected senior, he said he tries to preach the mindset the team should have.

“We just kind of instill it into the younger guys that it’s right there for our grabs,” Davis said. “Like, ‘Hey, we can beat these teams.’ Us losing is not an option anymore.”

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