Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Life of a Redshirt

FAU football player Yourhighness Morgan rises each weekday at 5:30 a.m. for a schedule full of school and practice. But Morgan will not play a single game this year for the Owls – he is a true freshman who will likely redshirt this year and have to wait for his turn to take the field. Even Morgan’s regal first name won’t excuse him from the typical obligations of a freshman football player.

Redshirt players are college athletes who sit out and preserve a year of eligibility while still practicing with the team and attending classes. At practice, redshirt players run the plays of the opposing teams’ offenses and defenses to mimic what the starters will see in the upcoming week.

Their short-term job, at least for this year, is to get the first team ready. “We show them a picture of what the other team is going to do,” says freshman QB Graham Wilbert.

Redshirts’ long-term goal is to hone their skills and get ready for their turns to step into the FAU starting lineup. Current starting quarterback Rusty Smith and wide receiver Cortez Gent frequently talk about having an extra year of work together as freshmen that helped them become the prolific duo they are today.

Coming off arguably its best recruiting class to date, FAU will elect to redshirt most or all of their true freshmen to get them better acclimatized to college football. “There are a lot of very talented guys,” says Wilbert, “This should develop into something very special.”

“It’s frustrating,” says freshman linebacker Yourhighness Morgan about having to sit out. “But you have to understand it’s a process that you have to go through if you want to be a good player.”

Redshirt players recognize the importance of getting adjusted to the college game and know it will help them down the road. “We’re all preparing ourselves for our future,” says Wilbert. “We’re all getting better playing against the first team guys.”

“I’m glad we’re getting this work in against our first team offenses – because, obviously, they have the ability to be one of the top offenses in the conference,” Morgan says. “Going against them every day, when you get into a game, it should be pretty easy.”

Wilbert came all the way from California to play for FAU. While he bides his time on the practice squad, he is taking this year to learn from Smith and from coach Howard Schnellenberger, who has coached quite a few good quarterbacks in his day. Wilbert chose to attend FAU because it was his only Division I scholarship offer. He felt that it would be a “great opportunity” to play for Schnellenberger.

A redshirt player’s typical weekday starts with a 5:30 a.m. wake up to get ready for a 6 a.m. workout. After that it’s class from 9 a.m. until 1:50 p.m. Then it’s back to football with mandatory meetings from 2:30-3:30 p.m. After the meetings they have practice from 3:30 p.m. until, “whenever coach feels it’s necessary,” according to Morgan.

After practice there are two hours of study hall, and the student athlete’s workday ends around 8 p.m. All he has to do after a long day of school and football is go home and do homework and study his playbook – to keep up in the classroom and on the field – only to wake up and do it all over again the next day. “[It’s]one of the benefits, I guess, of being a redshirt,” says Morgan. “We get the weekends off.”

Right now, the only playing time redshirt players receive is in the Toilet Bowl, which is a scrimmage game on Sundays for inactive players. Wilbert, who sits behind Smith and backup Jeff VanCamp on the depth chart, broke his leg in a Toilet Bowl right after the Minnesota game. Wilbert must also compete with fellow freshman David Kooi but he says that it is a “friendly competition.”

The players have much higher aspirations than just Toilet Bowl and practice team duties. “I try to get on the field as early as possible. It all depends on how much work I put in,” Morgan says.

The current starters are helpful to the redshirts by giving them advice wherever needed. “They give me tips from their experience and what they know to help me run the offense,” says Wilbert.

“Everywhere we go, they give pointers.” says defensive lineman Kevin Cyrille, who is sitting out a year after transferring from Western Michigan. Cyrille, who was originally recruited by FAU and is from South Florida, made the decision to come home after getting a little bit of homesickness. “I made the wrong decision, and I had to come back,” he says.

Going against the first team obviously makes the redshirt players better and helps the starters, too. “The athletes we have on our scout team defense are more athletic than the other players who we’re going against that week,” says Morgan, who was also recruited by Michigan State.

Morgan said that Schnellenberger was a “big draw” for him, once he realized the history behind the mustachioed man in the navy sport coat. He wanted to be part of a program on the rise.

What is a Redshirt?

Webster defines a redshirt as, “a college athlete who is kept out of varsity competition for a year in order to extend eligibility.”

During practices, redshirt players run plays from opposing teams’ offenses and defenses against the starters to help them prepare.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Do you have something to say? Submit your comments below
All UNIVERSITY PRESS Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *