The 2023 MIAC season officially kicks off Saturday, Sept. 2
Football practice, no matter the level, is tedious and repetitious, especially in the days leading up to the season opener. And the unseasonable heat in the last couple of weeks hasn’t helped as necessary adjustments had to be made for the players’ health and safety.
Last week we spent time with two conference teams, Hamline and Augsburg, two Skyline Conference foes as they prepared for their respective season openers on Saturday. Both programs allowed us to watch their practices, sit in on position and team meetings and the coaches’ skill sessions. We also talked to players and coaches to get their perspectives on training camp and the upcoming season.
Elijah Jamison, Hamline 6’0” soph defensive end, didn’t play last season due to injury. “This is my second year, but first year playing. I came back from ACL injury. The [rehab] process has been long, but it’s been good for the most part.”
Rahim Avery, a Hamline 5’10” junior defensive back, transferred from Minnesota State Moorhead: “We’ve been here since August 9. I feel like everybody has the same goal.”
Noah Hickman, is a Hamline 5’11” fifth-year linebacker: “We put in a lot of work in the offseason, in the spring, and even over the summer, bonding and getting it together, molding a new culture around here.”
Calab Lueders, is a Hamline 5’10” senior defensive back: “Every man matters on this team.”
Alec Ralph, Hamline’s 6’0” fifth-year quarterback, missed last season due to injury. “Being 23 [years old], it means something—like you’re a big brother to them. That’s a really big part, one of the reasons I came back.”
Mike Harris, Hamline’s assistant coach is in his second season: “We’re all working toward the same goal, and it’s little by little getting better.”
EJ Shelby, Hamline’s offensive coordinator, is in his second season: “We’re making sure the guys understand what we’re trying to do.”
Matthew Wood, a Hamline assistant coach, is in his fourth season: “I think our guys are doing a great job of embodying our culture and doing the little things well. They handled all the stuff so far in camp that we’ve thrown out.”
Seth Greenwald, Hamline’s assistant coach, is in his sixth season: “Guys are playing hard for each other.”
Chip Taylor, Hamline’s head coach, has been with the team for eight seasons: “I’m being a barometer, or I should say, the thermostat for the program, and making sure I set the temperature the right way.”
Jevon Jones, Hamline’s 6’0” junior linebacker: “We could be a team by working together and having the same goal.”
On the other side of the river, Augsburg may have the most diverse football team in the MIAC with 80 Black players on the 116-player roster. Head Coach Derrin Lamker believes the squad’s percentage of players of color may be among the highest, if not the highest among all NCAA Division III schools.
KiJuan Ware is Augsburg’s defensive back coach and recruiting coordinator, in his second season: “The one thing we worked on in the offseason was depth. We brought in a class of 54 to 55 guys and transfers. It takes time to build that trust and those relationships. We are moving in the right direction.”
Lamker, Augsburg head coach, is in his fourth season: “They’re here because they love the game. D-3 is different. No one’s given them a scholarship or forcing them [to play].”
Both Hamline and Augsburg will open their respective seasons at home on Saturday afternoon. As expected, optimism is all around both squads.
“Every head coach will tell you we’re never ready,” said Lamker, adding that his players and coaches are ready to get after their first opponent.
“We’ll be ready to go. We’ll be ready to play,” predicted Taylor.