By NFF Correspondent Bo Carter

FORT WORTH, Texas -  It was a bit like the Carter household in past years on Christmas Eve when anticipation was building for a certain upcoming feast day and event.

In this case on Aug. 16, though, it was head coach Joe Prud’Homme and the revitalized Texas Wesleyan Rams program chomping at the bit for the first preseason workout in pads Aug. 17 and the first TWU football contest in 76 years Sept. 2 when the Rams travel to McPherson (Kan.) prior to their Sept. 9 home opening celebration at Farrington Field against Southeastern power Millsaps (Miss.) at 2 p.m. (CDT).

And Prud’Homme had the anticipation of a youngster as he prepared for his college head coaching debut after an ultra-successful coaching career at Nolan Catholic High School – some two miles north of the Wesleyan campus in Fort Worth.

“There is just something about that pop when you hear pads hitting together,” he said with a smile. “It’s like the thump-thump-thump of the ball on the basketball court, but as a coach you love the sounds of the first football day in full pads."

Prud’Homme had several other reasons for delight and an eager outlook at the news conference attended by and featuring such Wesleyan dignitaries as President Fred Slabach and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Tim Carter.

“We played our last football game down the street at Farrington Field (then in its third year of operation) in 1941 for Homecoming Nov. 15, 1941, and defeated Trinity (Texas) 39-0,” remarked Slabach. “Then practically the whole team went into the service after the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, and the end of the program that season. We are excited to be returning to the field.”

“Since the announcement that football was coming back,” Carter noted, “we have been wearing T-shirts that read ‘Texas Wesleyan Football: Undefeated Since 1941’ at all the board meetings.”

“This is just the start of a dream,” Prud’Homme added. “I won’t speculate on how many wins and losses we will have in our first season back, but we do hope that this team will carry each game and be in contention in the fourth quarter every time we are out there. Coaching older players and some who have returned to school for a variety of reasons gives us the idea that these guys have something to prove and aren’t afraid to put out that extra effort. That has been the case in practice throughout last fall and into the spring.”

The first-year Wesleyan mentor also likes the blend of some 20 percent of players with college or junior college experience and a willing group of freshmen and sophomores.

The new roster includes transfers from Arkansas, Millsaps (the home opener), Angelo State, Southwestern (Kan.), Tyler JC, East Texas Baptist, Glendale (Calif.) College, Southwestern, Benedictine (Kan.), and Garden City (Kan.), among others.

“These players are coached by a veteran staff with experience at several colleges, the NFL, the Big 12 Conference, and other major programs,” Prud’Homme explained. “They also realize the challenge of starting a program where we did not have a football, a pair of cleats or even shoestrings when we took over, and thinsg have progressed nicely since then.

“This is a true challenge for everyone,” he added, “but from beginning on a bar table and laptop in the loft of the gymnasium, it has been rewarding to see the effort put into the program by all involved.

“We have the philosophy of wanting to run the football and have ball control on offense from a variety of formations,” Prud’Homme continued, “Defensively, we will be running out of the 4-3 with the hope for a lot of turnovers and pressure on the ball. Our assistant coaches and players have shown commitment to these philosophies, too.”

Wesleyan players echo their coaches’ optimism and desire to get onto the varsity playing field and see what may occur.

“We are definitely pumped to start the season,” said freshman LB Dewaun Colbert who starred at Garlnd Naaman Forest HS during his prep days. “We have prepared well and are ready to go out and hit somebody else.”

“There is excitement about the program all over campus,” noted junior LB-safety Vincent Stephenson from Roland Park., Kan., via Benedictine. “People are coming up to us all the time and telling us they can’t wait for the season to start.”

With the countdown less than three weeks away and hearts pounding, the whole Wesleyan family is ready for a celebratory tailgate, new Gold Mine dance team, pep band, cheerleaders, and all the pageantry associated with college football.

“This group does not take anything for granted,” Prud’Homme stated. “We have worked hard on and off the field, emphasized academics and the opportunity that an education at Wesleyan affords and built and worked in one of the finest weight rooms in the conference. Everything has been coming together well.”

Even Wesleyan radio play-by-play voice Jimmy Christopher is making a grand return to the gridiron booth after previous announcing assigning assignments with SMU, Long Beach State, Mary Hardin-Baylor, UT Dallas, Euless Trinity HS, Coppell, Trinity, Denton Ryan, McKinney, and multiple Frisco High Schools over the years. The radio voice of the baseball Frisco Roughriders, Orem Owlz and basketball Fort Flyers of the NBA Development League also had a little extra spring in his step at the Aug. 16 gathering.

That little additional spring in everyone’s steps associated with Texas Wesleyan football is evident.

Now all that remains is that opening whistle and the results of almost two years of planning and preparation for football’s return after a long 76 years.”