The calendar is turning to September, which means another college football season is near.
The Valparaiso Crusaders have been working hard since spring to prepare for the upcoming season, and there are high hopes for Valpo this year. The team will be relying on their upperclassmen to be role models for the newer teammates.
“Our strength right now is our experience,” said coach Dave Cecchini. “The seniors have all been in the fire before. We have a ton of juniors that have started an awful lot of football games for us, and we have a lot of sophomores on the team who have contributed as true freshmen.”
Valpo will have nine returning offensive starters and seven returning starters on defense. One of the returning players is redshirt senior defensive back J.J. Nunes, who is coming off of a knee injury that ended his season early last year. Nunes’ wife and child recently moved away from Valpo while he finishes up his college career, but he has his football family to keep him grounded during this difficult time.
“It’s been kind of hard without [my family] here,” Nunes said. “But playing for them has been a motivation and [the team] has been even more supportive now than they’ve ever been.”
“We have not reached our full potential here yet, and this year is the year that we will do it,” Nunes said.
Nunes has seen the team grow the past couple of seasons. He pointed out the Crusaders lost to Jacksonville by over 40 points two years ago, but then came back and beat them by a touchdown last year.
Nunes also wants to be a role model for the younger players both on and off the field.
“I can tell the warning signs better when things are going bad,” Nunes said. “I just try to be a mentor for these guys and show them the Valpo way.”
Another returning player for Valpo is senior wide receiver Frank Catrine, who also has high hopes for the Crusaders going into the 2017 season.
“Since my freshman year, it’s only gotten better,” Catrine said. “This is been the best camp I’ve been a part of. There’s going to be great things to come. We’re all very excited, and we don’t want it to end.”
Catrine was also named one of the team captains prior to the spring game last April.
“I take a lot of pride [in being a team captain],” Catrine said.
“I think it’s very special. I love that they can trust me [with the responsibility].”
The Crusaders will kick off the season at Montana on September 2, and the home opener against Duquesne will be on September 9.