Sulaiman Kamara and the rest of the leadership committee for Wake Forest’s football team received word Sunday night that Nathan Hatch, the school’s president, could be coming to Monday morning’s practice.
“I saw him out there and I was like, ‘OK, he’s for real, he’s out here. So this will be the perfect time to say what we need to say, this will be the perfect time for him to hear our voices,’” said Kamara, a fifth-year defensive tackle.
The message, in these pivotal hours for college football when even President Donald Trump is weighing in, was to make sure Hatch knows the Deacons’ dedication level — and that they’ve done too much to have their season called off before it even starts.
“We came in a month early just to get protocols down, get our quarantine in, just to show him we’re ready to do this and we’re ready to do whatever it takes,” Kamara said. “We want to let him know how much the football season really means to us, how much we enjoy being around each other and how much this means to us as the fifth-year seniors and the older guys.”
Hatch addressed the team at a tumultuous time for college football, when the entire season appears to be hanging in the balance.
The Big Ten is reportedly set to announce Tuesday that it’s postponing football in the fall with the hope that it can be moved to the spring, and the Pac-12 is expected to follow suit.
An edited video of Hatch’s address to the team included comments from fifth-year players Ja’Cquez Williams, Luke Masterson and Kamara, along with quarterback Sam Hartman.
“The role you play as student-athletes, being excellent on the field and off the field, really fulfills what this university is all about,” Hatch told the team.
It’s not uncommon for Coach Dave Clawson to invite guests to address the team either before, during or after practices — though Hatch’s address seemed more informative than motivational.
“You guys have never had a bigger voice in what’s happening in college athletics,” Clawson tells the team in part of the video. “So I wanted to invite our president, Dr. Hatch, to speak with you guys. And then I want you to be able to ask him stuff.”
The message the Deacons wanted to deliver was received, they felt.
“We put in a lot of time and effort and it’s good to know that somebody has your back that has a voice that’s going to be very important when it comes down to it,” Hartman said. “We trust him and believe that he’ll make the right call.”
Hartman mentioned that “a few” players have opted out of the season for health-related concerns, but a school spokesman said the program would leave it up to the specific players to announce that type of news.
Hatch’s appearance came on the heels of another monumental weekend for the future of college football, and on a day when news and rumors of postponements and cancellations zipped around at a speed similar to Wake Forest’s offense.
On Saturday, the Mid-American Conference pulled the plug on its fall season for football, becoming the first of 10 FBS conferences to nix the fall season.
Monday’s headlines started with rumors of the Big Ten’s presidents meeting and included Coach Scott Frost of Nebraska suggesting his team could seek another conference to play in. Later Monday, the Mountain West became the second FBS conference to postpone football.
Around noon Monday, news came from Old Dominion that it was canceling fall sports — meaning Wake Forest’s football program is again looking for a non-conference opponent to fill its schedule. The Deacons were going to play host to the Monarchs on Oct. 9 on a revised schedule released only five days ago.
“It’s certainly a rollercoaster of emotions. It seems like you go from extreme optimism to almost extreme pessimism within the same day,” Masterson said. “As a team, we’re just trying to take it day-by-day and control what we can control right now.
“Because at the end of the day, it’s kind of out of our hands in some sense. We’re just assuming we’re going to play and we’re going to get ready for Week 1.”
Week 1 for the Deacons, by the way, is a Sept. 12 meeting with five-time reigning ACC champion Clemson, which has two national championships in that span.
Wake Forest’s players are asking for a chance to reach that date.
“The least they could do is just give us a try,” Kamara said. “Now, if during the season it gets out of control, we understand, shut it down. But at least give us a try. …
“It might not work out perfectly this season, but we’ll find a way. It might work and keep everybody healthy and safe, it might not. You’ll never know until you try.”
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