The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

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Football prepares for the fall season

Leon Ono

UNA’s football team finishes spring practices and focuses on workouts while preparing for the “24 season. The team is eager to show who they have become in Head Coach Brent Dearmon’s second season at the university.

Dearmon has proven to be the addition UNA needed for the football program to grow. The coach explained his administration is based on shaping the team’s collective identity in “two words, toughness and family.”

According to ESPN, within the coach’s first year at UNA, the team has increased its numbers on passing yards and tackles.

Since December 2023, the team has signed twenty-eight new players. There were sixteen freshmen and twelve transfers, fourteen being from Alabama. 

The final decisions were seemingly strict and thought-heavy. Dearmon mentioned, “We were looking for great players with great character. It is tough to find both in the same person.”

Jackson Bratton, Muscle Shoals native, is the UAB transfer the head coach mentioned to be particularly excited about.

He said, “[Jackson] is a good kid. He is a representation of what the [football] program is.”

Another awaited signee was the awarded “7A Defensive Player of the Year” Drake Fowler from Arkansas.

With the new additions and an almost blank slate opportunity to create something new, Coach Dearmon exemplified his unique care for the team when he explained how the program differs in training freshmen and transfer players.

He said, “We find ourselves to be tougher with the transfers, they are developed with a more solid base. With the freshmen, you just gotta love them up a little. It is their first time away from home. They are homesick, so we seek to show them a new family.”

It is important to notice how Head Coach Dearmon possesses a personal relation to UNA. The Alabama native claimed to find the Shoals area a much-needed and appreciated balance. He said, “It is not too big, not too small. It is a great place to raise my kids and also a good area to find players. It is the right size of unity.”

Dearmon explained this semester’s practices and Spring Game have confirmed to the coaches how the new signees can play, the progress the team has made, and the holes to be worked on.

The coach claimed, “We can always add depth in the offense line.”

Looking forward to a winning season, Dearmon claims his risk-taking team is eager to achieve success. All are motivated by victory, but when it comes to the intrinsic self, he says, “You have to find what motivates each one of those players. Once you find it, you are all set.” 

As one of the largest sports groups in the university, the football team has more than one hundred players. The sizeable and young body may sound like an intimidating management, but “breaking things down” is the administration’s objective. 

Coach Dearmon explained, “I meet with two to three players one-on-one every day, that is fifteen to twenty guys every week.” 

Those meetings are about having honest conversations regarding personal development, emotional state, and in-field particularities. 

When asked about short-term goals, the head coach said growth is the everyday target, where seemingly small victories, be it in speed, strength, overcoming personal difficulties, and more.  

He adds, “Always on track, always wanting to compete.”

The amalgamation of football in technique and numbers and as a passion is a differentiation the hard-working coaches of the program possess. Dearmon explains, “We try to create a perfect balance.”

The head coach explained no aspect of the players’ lives does not affect their performance; therefore, they must be all taken care of. 

“Growth in life and in the field,” said the coach, “Be an example to men.”

Schoolwork does not fail the program’s standards either; the team has a current average 3.8 GPA. The coaches and staff aim to shape physically, emotionally, and academically intelligent players.

Gage Saint and Avery Howard are two examples of the results of the intensive work and thought process that goes into managing and leading the team. 

Dearmon explained, “Gage is a leader for the team. He uses his experience to mold the people around him. Avery is becoming a leader; he uses his ability to mold people.

Saint, an offensive lineman, graduated from Hatton High School, Ala., and moved a few hours away from home to start his football college career at Troy University. The player explained that coming from a former 1A, current 2A school, he felt people did not believe he could succeed.

“Coming from a smaller school, I was not ready for college football. I arrived in Troy and felt like an outcast,” he said.

In 2022, Saint played his first season at UNA as a transfer student; his air had changed.

The player said, “I wanted to prove everyone wrong, to prove I am a great player, to do something special. […] At UNA, I got the chance to grow a community, to do something real, and people believed in me.”

Howard is a Floridian from Tallahassee who arrived at UNA in 2023 as a freshman. Far from home, the player assisted the team in the defensive end position in his first season.

He said, “UNA provided me with a whole different experience from what I was used to. I felt homesick my first weeks here, but I have matured a lot as a player and a person […] I even learned how to make my own meals.”

Howard cherished the closeness and connectivity the program conditioned him, “[Assistant Defensive Line Coach Thomas] Johnston is always here for me. They all just really care about you.”

Regarding field performance, both players mentioned how the trust the coaches have in them helps with confidence and outcomes.

Saint said, “We practice and understand the tactics [and] plans, but they give us the liberty to let it all out on the field. I do not stop to think about little stuff. I play free and fast.”

Both also look forward to great achievements. Saint aims to be given the All-American team honor, Avery the Freshman All-American one.

The players have a vast train of support, seeing their own families as the biggest motivation to achieve a winning season.

Howard claimed, “I miss my dad every day. Back home, he was always pushing me to be the best. I am doing it for him; I am going to keep pushing.”

Saint added, “All I have ever done is for my family; I want them to see a winning season since this will be my last one. […] I believe we can. Coach Dearmon is doing things right. Hungry dogs run faster.”

With Aug. 24, the first game of the season, in mind, the team is eager to achieve new victories and shows to be dedicated to it.

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About the Contributors
Manuela Ludolf
Manuela Ludolf, Staff Writer
Bre Goodwin
Bre Goodwin, Former Lead Graphic Designer

Bre Goodwin is a junior majoring in Cinematic Arts & Theatre with a concentration in Acting. As a graphic designer for the Flor-Ala, she is passionate about art and the ways it can heal individuals and unite communities. She is from Leighton, Ala.

Leon Ono
Leon Ono, Staff Photographer
Leon Ono is a sophomore from Tokyo, Japan. He is majoring in photography and taking journalism as a minor. He focuses on street photography and photojournalism. Leon previously volunteered as a photographer for the Flor-Ala, and became a staff photographer in Fall 2021.

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