When Nick Miles entered the Ball State football program as a freshman, he said it looked different than it does now. Sticking out in particular is how much closer the players are to one another.
“I’ve seen us go from a team that didn’t have much camaraderie to a group of guys I know will go out and battle for each other,” Miles said. “We genuinely care about each other and even after football, we’ll still communicate with each other.”
Miles and the rest of the Ball State football seniors will be running out of the tunnel onto Scheumann Stadium for the final time on Saturday when Ball State takes on Eastern Michigan. It’s Senior Day, the final home game of the season.
“This is my final home game, I’m truly a Cardinal now and I want to go out with a bang,” free safety Gilbert Stlouis said. “It’s like a brotherhood here, we all get along … I’d do anything for these guys.”
Miles and Stlouis have seen the Ball State program change immensely. They entered the program at the same time head coach Pete Lembo did and watched a 4-8 team transform over three years into one that finished 10-3 and made two consecutive bowl games.
Stlouis started some games in the past but was later buried on the depth chart, not playing at all last season. He wasn’t sure how much game action he’d see this season, but has been elevated back into a starter role after numerous injuries that the defense has suffered.
Although the depth chart for Saturday isn’t finalized, he’s happy that he’s been able to play a role on the field this season.
“Whatever happens, I’ll be happy,” Stlouis said. “Final home game, I’m going to go out there and give it everything I have.”
For Miles, he wasn’t sure what to expect coming into Ball State. The team had just fired former head coach Stan Parrish and Lembo had been brought in.
It didn’t take long for Ball State to start rising up and appearing on the national stage. This season, the Cardinals have had two games on ESPN2, one on CBS Sports Network and one on ESPNU.
Mid-American Conference teams typically don't get that kind of airtime on national television.
“I wasn’t supposed to be playing on ESPN, that sort of stuff,” Miles said. “I’m a better person, a better professional, and coach [Lembo] has taught us how to carry ourselves ... preparing us for the real world.”
He named his best friends on the team as Eric Patterson, Mike Ayers, Brian Jones, Jahwan Edwards and Horactio Banks. He said they weren’t just teammates, but people who have impacted him, and he plans on keeping in touch with.
Until then, they’ll keep going to practice together, going to meetings together, and strengthening the camaraderie that’s formed since they met.
Then they’ll all run out of the tunnel together in front of a Ball State crowd on Saturday, for the last time. The game begins at 2 p.m.