YPSILANTI — The sun worked its way toward the sunrise.
Saturday morning Aug 4, 2012 and across the Huron River valley the sounds of the early morning Amtrak train heading for Chicago rumbles across the railroad track that hugs the shore line of the mighty Huron River is interrupted by the high pitch of a whistle and the sounds of voices yelling orders-the first official morning of the 2012 Eastern Michigan University football season.
The players have arrived on campus and have found there dorm rooms, went to bed Friday night for a good night’s rest and then they all woke up to a steamy Saturday morning, ready to get to work out on the practice field with hopes of making a statement that will be season enduring.
Eastern Michigan University football coach Ron English is beginning his fourth season in charge of the Eagles.
Last season the Eagles finished with an overall record of 6-6, Eastern Michigan University found themselves in first place in the West Division at the beginning of the month of November and that the final games of the season really meant failure or success.
The Eagles dropped a heart breaking 28-22 lost to Kent State University at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio and then losing the following week in DeKalb, Illinois against Northern Illinois University, the 18-12 score placed a very sour taste in the mouths of Eastern Michigan University football fans, players and English and his coaching staff.
English is turning the program around, last season the Eagles were 14th in the nation rushing the football and the defense finished third in the conference and all of the success of last season earned English the Mid-American Conference Football Coach of the Year award.
English came to Ypsilanti and to the Eagles from Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan with a reputation as a coach that understood defense and he would be able to take the floundering program in Ypsilanti and lead the Eagles to the promise land.
A place that many Eastern Michigan University football fans knew that it existed, a place never dreamed of but yet we all knew of it because Eagle fans witnessed other football teams making the journey from being insignificant to respectability in matter of just a few games.
Like the instant respect that Boise State University has earned, the fans that follow the Broncos now enjoy football even being tucked away under the shadow of the magnificent Rocky Mountains and living in the state of Idaho. Then there is the resurrection of Texas Christian University from Fort Worth, Texas. Now for decade the Horned Frog struggled in the now defunct Southwest Conference under the shadow of the University of Texas but the football power to be cast down there decades of doing nothing on the football field to suddenly becoming the new football powerhouse in Texas.
A program that Eagle fans can relate to and closer to Ypsilanti than Idaho or Texas, a program that is closer and somewhat resembles Eastern Michigan University football program and from the Big Ten Conference is Northwestern University.
At one time, plenty of athletic directors across the country were making the Wildcats one of the most popular program across the land because they would want to schedule Northwestern University as the homecoming opponent and like the Chicago Cubs the Wildcats were adorable losers.
The Wildcats are now a formable team they even have a bowl game. Appearing in the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl which is played in the city of Houston, Texas. Those athletic directors that looked forward to the embarrassment of the Wildcats are no longer calling because the tables have turned.
The common thread that each of these program shear with each other is at one time they were the laughing stock of the NCAA major college football conferences – programs that with no respect. They have found and hired the right football coach to show them out of the valley of despair and into the bright sunshine of victory.
At the 2012 Media Day event for the Mid-American Conference, July 24, 2012 in the city of Detroit at Ford Field, English sat at the round table with his back up against the wall talking about his team.
English did not want to talk about the past but he wanted to talk about championship football at Eastern Michigan University.
“Lets talk about championship football,” English said. “You do not know until you get into a championship game were everything is on the line. How are they going to respond that is the reality from a guy who has been in a championship game, a lot of championship games. I’ve played for championship a lot of times, you find out when you get there were a guys is.”
“It is how the pieces fit together,” English said. “Really to me, it is not the talent level, I think we are good enough that we have to play as a team on how we handle adversity because we all know that there will be adversity.”
Does Eastern Michigan University have the players and the coaching staff to get to a championship or a bowl game at the end of the season?
The road to the championship of the Mid-American Conference is a journey that stretches a long way and it takes a long time getting to the promise land of milk and honey and it does take hard work and confidence to reach a successful goal.
Under a hot early morning August sun on the practice field in Ypsilanti next to the train tracks and the silent rushing of the water of the Huron River the journey of 2012 football season begins.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.