It’s about that time of year when people are going to start debating over whether or not it’s appropriate to listen to Christmas music. Those arguments, while they can get heated, bring people together. Members of the Ball State Football team are coming together this week, but for a different reason.
“One phase of my life is going to end, and another is going to begin,” redshirt senior linebacker Jeremiah Jackson said.
The phase ending is playing the game of football for Ball State University. Tuesday is senior night for the Cardinals (3-7, 2-4 MAC), and nine players will be toting the home uniform one final time.
Mike Neu is wrapping up his third season as Ball State’s head coach, and he said saying goodbye to each senior class year after year never gets easier.
“You’re still brothers for life,” Neu said. “No matter what the future holds with anybody, I put on a helmet and uniform just like these guys did, so we’ll always be connected forever. Even though the player-coach relationship part of it comes to an end, you’re still going to maintain a relationship.”
With nine seniors on the Cardinal roster, Ball State has the second-smallest senior class among Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Next year, barring injuries and transfers, the Cardinals will have 24 seniors.
In a season with four games decided by eight or fewer points and six by 22 or more, redshirt senior defensive lineman Fred Schroeder said this team has been through it all together.
“This whole season has been a roller coaster. One thing that’s stayed consistent is the bond that we have as a team and the way guys play for each other,” Schroeder said. “I know the results haven’t always been what we’ve wanted. At the end of the day, I know the guys I’m going out there with are going to give it their all no matter what.”
In recent years, seniors haven’t exactly gone out with a bang. The Cardinals have dropped their last three senior nights. The last time Ball State won its final home game of the season was 2014, and only five players on the current roster were there to see it.
Jackson, a freshman on the 2014 team, said he has faith his teammates will send him off the right way this time around.
“This team is a close-knit team,” Jackson said. “I feel like I got a good relationship with most of these players and they would lay it on the line for me as a brother.”
After their loss at Toledo, the Cardinals fell out of contention for a bowl game. While there isn’t much left to play for with two games remaining, Neu said he wants his team to play for the seniors. He added that the underclassmen will be in the seniors’ shoes one day, and they should want to sing the fight song together in the locker room one last time.
“Everything we have left in our tank is what we owe to these guys,” Neu said. “We owe it to these guys to make sure that we give them everything that we’ve got.”
Kickoff against Western Michigan (6-4, 4-2 MAC) is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Scheumann Stadium.
“Knowing that it’s my last game at Scheumann, there’s a little added motivation there,” Schroeder said. “It’s going to be sad when it’s done, but I’m going to enjoy every moment of it with my teammates.”
Contact Zach Piatt with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zachpiatt13.