When the Valparaiso University football program hosts its annual Spring Game on Sunday, the day will unite members of the program’s past, present and future.
Players from the program’s past will be on hand as part of an alumni weekend. Head coach Landon Fox has invited alumni to Saturday’s practice, the program will hold an alumni social event on Saturday evening and Sunday those alums will be on hand to witness the Spring Game, which kicks off at 1 p.m.
“We’re continuing to connect the past with the present and future,” Fox said. “Our alumni will have a chance to be part of the game. I feel strongly about bringing those alumni to campus and giving them a chance to share their experiences with our team. When alumni share their memories, some will be funny, some will be serious and some will be emotional. Our players will realize that others before them have gone through the same things that they are going through now.”
Sunday marks a big day for the program’s present as well, as the Spring Game serves as an opportunity to compete in a game environment for the 15th and final spring practice.
“The spring game is a reward for the players,” Fox said. “As coaches, we’re evaluating the other 14 practices, and the spring game is the icing on the cake. We’re looking for consistency and what players can show from practice to practice. From an evaluation standpoint, the spring game is just another practice, but it’s also an opportunity for the players to compete in a big-time atmosphere.”
And the future will also be part of Sunday’s festivities as 100 juniors will be visiting as part of a junior day. In addition, many high school seniors who have signed to continue their careers at Valpo this fall will be on hand for the game.
“They’re excited about the direction of Valpo football,” Fox said. “It will be nice for our incoming players to be there live and in person to see how we play and how we practice. More importantly, they will get the chance to meet their teammates and forge those relationships even more than they already have. The relationship building goes beyond player-to-player, it’s also player-to-coach and parent-to-parent. It takes all of us to be successful as a program.”
In addition to furthering the connection between the program’s past, present and future, another connection that will be strengthened this weekend is the one between the program and the community. A pair of community members, local business owners Dave Poteete and Jim Alvarez, will serve as honorary coaches for Sunday’s game.
“Cultivating relationships in the community is an important aspect of our program,” Fox said. “We want to reach out to community members and let them know what Valpo Football is all about. It’s important to me to engage the community and give community members the opportunity to experience a gameday atmosphere. They get to be on the sidelines, and that gives them a different perspective on how fast and physical our players are and how exciting they are to watch.”
Poteete owns Tri-Star Pipe & Supply, which is adjacent to the University.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” Poteete said. “Being a Valpo resident for quite a few years, I’ve followed the team. I’m very excited about the progress that Coach Fox has made with the team and the direction that they’re heading. I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Alvarez is the owner of Innsbrook Country Club.
“I’ve coached my kids in 12U soccer, I’ve coached AAU basketball, so I figured why not skip right to Division-I football,” Alvarez said with a laugh. “I’m hoping I can share some of the life lessons I’ve learned as a business owner and have a small, positive impact on the players. Coaching football is a new experience for me, so I’m excited to see the game up close and personal. Coach said he’s going to allow me to call two or three plays. My personality is that we better score on those plays.”
The game will utilize one of two formats. The team will either split into two groups for a Brown vs. White split squad with a running clock until the last few minutes of each half. The second option for Sunday is an offense vs. defense scrimmage with a modified format. That format would also resemble a game with the defense starting ahead 24-0 with the defense only able to score on fumble or interception returns and the offense going back to a specified yard line if the defense stops them. The 24-0 format was utilized for the team’s 2019 spring game.
Admission is free for the game, which begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Brown Field.