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Lamar football coach looks at 39 walk-on candidates
They came out of the stands and from across Texas to take a chance on a sun-splashed field that had not seen that kind of action in 20 years.
Some of the 39 participants at Lamar University’s open football tryouts on Monday looked as though they belonged. Others looked as though they were there as part of a fraternity stunt. Some were smooth and practiced. Others clumsy and overmatched. But they were all at Provost Umphrey Stadium competing for what likely will be only a couple spots on Lamar’s 2010 football team.
The Cardinals coaching staff will meet this morning to rate the players, with the final decision resting with head coach Ray Woodard on whom will ultimately make the 65-man roster.
“Overall, I was really pleased with the conditioning and effort,” Woodard said after the 75-minute workout. “We’ll be in the process of ranking them with other players that are still in high school and we’ll put them all up on the board.”
The Cardinals have 32 players currently on scholarship. The workout was open to all academically eligible Lamar students.
LU decided in 2008 to bring football back from extinction for a third time in school history. The first time Lamar axed the historically poor program was in 1927 when it was a junior college. It started again in 1932, then was dropped through World War II (1943-45).
In 1951 it became a senior institution and a part of the Lone Star Conference. It was a charter member of the Southland Conference in 1964 before failing again in 1989.
The open auditions Monday were held in front of 56 curious on-lookers as part of Woodard’s search for a Vince Papale-like athlete. Papale, a one-time high school teacher, played three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles (1976-78) after making the team as part of an open workout.
One player that caught Woodard’s eye through a series of obstacles, timed sprints and skill demonstrations, was Michael Black. Black, a receiver/running back and special teams player from Houston George Bush High, caught just about every pass thrown his way and ran a 40-yard time right around 4.5 seconds.
Black hoped he made a good impression. He has already counted on the fact that he would.
“That’s the reason I came here (to Lamar),” he said, “to play football. I heard about football starting up and figured it’s better to be here when it first started.”
Another player that Woodard will follow is Grambling State transfer Van Franks. Franks ran the 40 at about 4.6 and worked well in the one-on-one offensive drills.
“I caught the ball real decent,” said Franks, an Austin McCallum graduate, who received his high school’s Heisman award. “I feel real good. I like my chances. I would love to play receiver. A little special teams as well.”
McCallum was an all-district selection for the Knights.
“He just got here, we didn’t know much about him,” said Woodard. “I know some of the people he went to high school with.”
Woodard, once a walk-on himself, ended the tryout by huddling all the players together. He told them that if they made the team they would be treated like any other player. They would have the same kind of locker, the same kind of coaching, and most importantly the same kind of opportunity.