Tarleton State head football coach Cary Fowler feels like it's a brand new beginning.
In a way, it is.
Besides checking 100 Texan football players into dorm rooms today for the start of preseason training camp on Thursday, Fowler will be introducing many of those players to new coaches.
"I got to really put some time and effort into assembling a great coaching staff here and I feel like that's what we have now," said Fowler, who added a former NFL player, a record-setting college quarterback and a defensive back who played for him when he was defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at Midwestern State.
The only new full time addition - besides offensive coordinator Lee Hayes, who was introduced last spring - is offensive line coach Marcus White, a former Murray State standout who was part of the NFL's Tennessee Titans for two seasons before bouncing around Arena leagues.
"Marcus has exactly the demeanor you want in an offensive line coach," said Fowler. "He's a big intense guy with great determination, and he played in the National Football League. Players at this level respect that. When they're looking into the eyes of a man who has played the game at the highest level, they know they can learn from him and better themselves if they follow his instruction."
White has quite the football story, having suffered a neck injury serious enough that his career appeared to be over. The injury occurred while he was at Auburn, and coaches and athletic trainers there never cleared him to play.
"He was one of the best defensive tackles in the nation when he was injured," Fowler said. "Then, just like that, he was told he would never play again."
But White transferred to Murray State, where the university was able to get insurance so he could play. It was a wise investment on the part of the school, as White went on to become on of its all-time greats.
"Marcus is proof that a man can accomplish great things if he has the will and the determination to do so," Fowler said. "That's a message I want our young men to understand, and there's no better way for them to grasp it than to be around Marcus and develop that unique relationship that only exists between a coach and his players."
Raymond Nelson is a new graduate assistant who will work primarily with running backs but will also assist with quarterbacks and inside receivers.
"Coach Hayes is the type of offensive coordinator who likes to be able to roam a bit and work with different positions," Fowler said. "Having a guy like 'Ray' around will allow him to do that, because Ray is an old quarterback who understands several different positions."
Nelson passed for more than 10,000 yards during his time as a Samford quarterback.
"He ran this exact offensive system in college," Fowler said. "He knows it well, and knows how to teach it effectively. That makes him a huge addition to our staff."
Ryan Craven is a graduate assistant who was recruited to Midwestern State by Fowler and will re-join his old coach and help with strong safeties.
"When I left Midwestern for Tarleton, one of the hardest parts was leaving Ryan," Fowler said. "He's one of my favorite players I've ever coached because he was a little guy who always overachieved. A couple things I can promise you about Ryan - no one will ever outwork him and no one will ever be more determined to succeed than him."
Craven was a four-time all-conference player and became one of Midwestern's all-time leading tacklers.
"From a player's perspective, Ryan knows this conference very well," Fowler said. "You don't get to be a four-time all-conference player in a league as tough as the Lone Star Conference without being a great player. He has a very high football IQ and a passion for the game I can't wait to watch him pass on to other young men."
Fowler introduced the coaches to the public at the Texan Club Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday, which he said was White's second day and Nelson's first.
"Some of these guys are still getting acclimated to Stephenville and to our campus," Fowler said. "But they need no acclimation when it comes to college football. They're ready to get to work and get our guys prepared for the season."
Tarleton freshmen check in from 10 a.m.-noon today, followed by upperclassmen from 1-2 p.m. Fowler said a team meeting will be held tonight, followed by the first preseason practice at 10 a.m. Thursday.
"It's that time again," Fowler said. "With these quality coaches added to the quality players we've been able to bring together, I feel better going into this season than anytime before in my coaching career. I'm excited, these coaches are excited and I know the players are excited and ready to go to work."