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August 3, 2012There are two words that every former college football player will recognize in a hurry.
On Wednesday all of the current Kansas football players checked into Naismith Hall. After dinner they went back to get a good night's rest for the next day, which started with a difficult running test. That is a tough way to start off fall camp, especially if you weren't in good shape.
Todd Reesing, the all-time passing leader in Kansas history, remembers that first day.
"There were always those guys that didn't work out as hard (in summer)," Reesing said. "When they did that conditioning test you could get a good kick out of watching them on that first day."
Over time some things change with the Kansas football program. There are new coaches and a new way of doing things. There are new philosophies. But every year they have to go through a tough start with fall camp. The Kansas players stay at Naismith Hall. However, in the Glen Mason era they stayed at Jayhawk Towers.
Dan Dercher, was a four-year letterman and played in the NFL with San Francisco. He graduated in 1998 but still remembers the start of fall camp.
"Every night at 9:00 the coaches came by and knocked on your door and made sure the lights were out," Dercher said. "That running test came the next morning. It was 16, 110-yard dashes. Each position had to do it in certain times. If you didn't pass the test you didn't practice. Fred Roll did a great job keeping us in shape or it would have been tougher."
Dercher recalls the Oklahoma drill was always a popular one with the coaches in camp. In the drill two players line up across from each other. When the whistle blows they go head-to-head with all their teammates and coaches cheering.
"I remember when Adam Marinello ripped Rod Jones helmet off," Dercher said. "Coach Mason just let them fight it out. It was not an easy camp. There were full-out fights between the defense and offense."
Both Reesing and former linebacker Steven Johnson described fall camp the same way.
"It's a grind," they both said.
Johnson is going through camp right now with the Denver Broncos. Going through a tough camp can help develop a player for the season ahead.
"It is difficult," Johnson said. "But in order to be the best player you can be you must be able to excel and block out all the distractions. Practices are long, and fatigue can set in pretty quick. You are also battling bumps and bruises that can be difficult at times."
After his playing days at Kansas, Dercher moved on to the NFL.
"Once I was in San Fran the camps at Kansas were much more difficult," he said.
Reesing said it wasn't uncommon to see players lose several pounds in a day.
"Before each practice we had to weigh in to see how many fluids we lost," Reesing said. "There were some offensive and defensive lineman that lost a lot every day. There were some practices James Holt, Mike Rivera, and Joe Mortensen would lose 15 pounds just in a practice."
Bonding as a team
One aspect of fall camp is the time players get to spend around each other. Once practice is over the players eat, go back to the dorms and do the same thing again the next morning.
"That's the team building time," Dercher said. "There are no girlfriends around. You are dead tired and want to go back to the room. You eat with all of the guys and do film study. It was a good time getting to know all of the freshmen and juco transfers. It was a good time to build camaraderie."
Johnson recalls the team had fun during the down-times playing baseball in the locker room. Fall camp is also a time to see who is going to make it through.
"During camp you find out those guys that are willing to go the extra mile for the success of the team," Johnson said. "That's how close relationships between players are formed."
Most camps last around two weeks. When it is over they can look back and come away with something positive as they get ready for the season.
"From 7:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night you are working hard in the hot weather, weight room, and team meetings," Reesing said. "It is a long two-week stretch. That first night you get back to your own bed it is rewarding."
Todd Reesing is currently working for Dimensional Fund Advisors, owned by David Booth. He is working in Vancouver and will return soon to their office in Austin.
Dan Dercher is the Vice President of Sales for Midwest Medical Resources an orthopedic based medical device distributorship based out of Kansas City.
Steven Johnson received the highest signing bonus of all the Denver Broncos undrafted free agents. He is going through camp with Denver.