Texas planned on having eight freshmen early enrollees on the spring football roster. Those plans have been shot, however, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down campuses across the country and forced programs to cancel spring practices. Players returned home, including the freshmen who had spent a mere two months on campus.
The real-life consequences of the pandemic hit particularly close for four-star wide receiver Troy Omeire. His mother, Adaobi Turner, is a clinical nurse who works in an acute care setting taking are of coronavirus patients. That means Omeire and Turner are forced to social distance at home. They only communicate through FaceTime.
“He helped me pass that initial fear of taking care of those patients who were positive,” she said. “I am careful, but you can never be too careful. There are days I don’t even see him.”
She said Omeire is in constant contact with his coaches online.
“I can tell coach (Mike) Yurchich and coach (Andre) Coleman are very engaging,” she laughed. “I can hear them from my room.”
These times are different for nearly everyone. We’ve all changed our lifestyle in one way or another. The streets are empty. The bars are closed. Heck, we’re not even supposed to shake hands anymore. And in these trying times, family becomes more important than ever. Just ask Turner.
“I know (Troy) can’t wait to get back to his teammates, but it’s been a blessing having him around a little longer,” she said.
Texas signed 19 players in its 2020 class that ranked ninth in the country and first in the Big 12. Eight of those players graduated from high school in December, planning to get a headstart on their fellow freshmen. Not only on the field, but in the strength and conditioning program.
Take quarterback Hudson Card. The 6-2, 179-pound four-star was counting on this spring to transform his body, adding weight and bulk to his frame. Texas fans will remember a similar transformation by Colt McCoy. Card can learn the playbook, throw with some local receivers at Lake Travis High School and work out at home, but that’s not the same as Yancy McKnight leading the charge.
“It is disappointing for him because he worked hard to graduate early in order to get the jumpstart on college life, on and off the field,” said Hudson’s father, Doug Card. “He was given a good taste of what living on campus and being a student will be like in that two months or so before the lockdowns, but nothing can replace spring football.”
The eight early enrollees take online classes and use video conferencing to speak with coaches and teammates. Card and his teammates can watch coaches explain concepts and review film, but nothing can duplicate live practice. The athletic advantage for early enrollees across the country was essentially eliminated.
This time is testing everyone’s work ethic and self-control as many people shift toward working from home, including students at every grade level. Instead of taking high school classes online, UT’s early enrollees are required to do online classes, have tutoring and be involved in team meetings. It doesn’t stop there.
“The coaches want the players to have the same routine as they would on campus,” said Traci Majors, the mother of four-star offensive lineman Jake Majors and a registered nurse. “That also includes proper nutrition and working out daily. He really has adjusted well. We are super proud of his work ethic.”
College programs are allowed to ship food to players, though it’s unrealistic to expect the same discipline at home when the rest of the family is eating meals than it is when everyone is in a cafeteria on campus. Working out is a unique challenge. Each player uses his own set of circumstances with gyms closed.
“He just does the best he can,” Doug Card said. “It’s tough with parks and fields getting shut down. We’re all doing the best we can under the circumstances.”