The Alabama State football team held its first practice in New ASU Stadium Tuesday night, and the newest star on the university skyline didn't disappoint.
There were many bright-eyed Hornet players as they looked around before, during and after practice at the new stadium, which glowed under clear skies and cold conditions as Alabama State began to prepare for the 89th Turkey Day Classic vs. Tuskegee on November 22.
"It's really a blessing that our administration had the vision to put something like this together," head coach Reggie Barlow said of the new stadium after practice. "This is really a luxury stadium. For our players to have an opportunity to come in here tonight (and to) get an opportunity to get a feel for it, I've talked with all our players and coaches, we're history in the making. We're the first, and that's an outstanding thing."
The new surroundings definitely added to the atmosphere and energy of practice, as the Hornets (7-3) get set to face the Tigers (9-1) live on WVAS 90.7 FM and on ESPNU TV. A limited number of tickets remain for the 3 p.m. game and may be purchased online at www.ticketreturn.com or by phone at (334) 229-4577.
"Whenever you come into a new environment and going at night time, there's going to be a lot of enthusiasm and guys excited," Barlow said. "When you have genuine enthusiasm, a lot of times that can cover up for mistakes and all that stuff. The energy level was good. We'll go and watch the tape and make the corrections."
The up-tempo Hornets moved quickly and efficiently on the astro turf playing field, which definitely appeases the speed in which Alabama State has played this season.
"This turf is a fast turf. It's beautiful, and it's refreshing to be able to come to your house, to your stadium on our campus," Barlow said. "When we pulled up, the excitement and the words that were used by some of the guys (was great to hear), because they hadn't come in here. To hear what they were saying and what they were feeling, it's an awesome thing and we're excited about it."
The enthusiasm of the players was evident from the moment they stepped on the field.
"You could see it in the eyes of all the players," senior wide receiver Landon Jones said. "We looked in and were like ‘Wow'. It's just so much excitement. It felt like gameday, but no crowd. It was fun."
The first game in New ASU Stadium is just more than a week away, and there is a heightened sense of anticipation for this year's Thanksgiving Day matchup.
"We just have to stay focused," senior free safety Kejuan Riley said. "It's a lot to look at (in the new stadium). It's a lot of amazing things out here. Great things are going to be happening in this stadium. We just have to remember the goal we started at the beginning of the season. We just have to stay remain focused and do what we have to do."
The Hornets return to practice Wednesday at 3 p.m. and Thursday at 11 a.m.
INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama State University Athletics Dept.