If body language means anything, Arab football fans may be in for a special season.
Without question, the four seniors head coach Lee Ozmint took with him to Albertville last Thursday comprised the most impressive group of players at the Marshall County Media Day.
At these type events, 17 and 18-year-old kids are asked to speak to reporters in a press conference-style set-up. Usually, their coach introduces them or asks them to introduce themselves.
Most are shy and why not? It’s not easy – for anyone – to speak publicly, much less a teenager not accustomed to such attention. How would you like for someone to put a microphone in your face?
But Arab’s foursome did themselves – and their 16 other senior teammates – extremely proud. They were confident and self-assured. They had something to say, and they said it well – extremely well.
John David Hall was first and he set the tone. Asked only to introduce himself, Hall launched into what appeared to be prepared remarks, though they weren’t.
He was just that good. He spoke confidently of the team and his teammates. He’ll play center and after hearing him speak, I’m confident that position is in good hands.
Quarterback Aidan Cox was next and he was just as impressive.
“We have a chance to be historic this season,” Cox said without flinching.
Patrick Lawler and Josh Roe, returning linebackers, spoke right up, too.
“We have a lot of good players,” Roe said.
“We’re ready,” added Lawler.
Ozmint had to be proud.
“We have 16 more at home we left,” he said. “We have a special group of seniors. They know the level of effort that’s expected.”
That’s because most of them have been in Ozmint’s program since he came here four years ago. Arab lost a lot of good players off last season’s 8-3 team, there’s no doubt.
But the program keeps rolling along, fueled by intense offseason workouts that seemingly produce bigger and better players every season.
It’s producing better young men, too.
Arab took the bold step two years ago of embracing a 6A schedule. It was tough the first season but last year, the Knights took Oxford down to the wire, losing a nail-biter at home to “settle” for the region’s No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
It was a bitter disappointment for Arab, which just five years earlier went 1-9 – in 5A. That’s how far the program has come since Ozmint’s arrival.
“Two times last year, we had a chance to win and call ourselves champions,” Ozmint said, “and we failed both times.”
Now the Knights are back in 5A – probably for just two years – and the outlook is brighter than ever. Not one team on Arab’s schedule outclasses the Knights. They might not win them all, but they’ll be competitive in every game.
“We have a really big chip on our shoulders this year,” Cox said, referring to last season’s disappointments. “We have worked hard all offseason.
“We are ready to get after it this season.”
“Our expectations motivate us,” Roe said.
When asked if Arab had a particular game circled this season, Ozmint was quick to answer.
“Albertville,” he said, referring to the team’s season opener on the road.
Cox went a little further.
“We don’t circle games,” he said. “We’re trying to be our best every game we take the field.”
Hall, Cox, Lawler, Roe and Ozmint certainly were on their games on Thursday. That likely will be the case for the Knights all season, beginning Aug. 18.
The seniors will make sure of it.