Inaugural “Junior Day” bonds football and community

Angel Guerrero

The Sacramento State football program opened its doors to approximately 200 high school juniors from all over California in an event known as “Junior Day” on Saturday, April 9.

This gave young high school students the opportunity to watch a Sac State football scrimmage, tour the campus with parents, learn about the academic expectations that come with being a Hornet and meet with coaches.

Jody Sears, who is entering his third year as head coach of the program, spoke in front of an auditorium full of teenagers and parents at the University Union in an effort to emphasize that he and his coaching staff go much further than just the game of football.

“We’re educators, we’re mentors, we’re teachers and we’re motivators in that we’re building young men to be men of character and integrity through the game of football,” Sears said. “Football is a variable that we use to teach with and how we’re going to become great fathers, great leaders, great teachers, great husbands, successful men that have integrity.”

This philosophy was also emphasized by Director of Athletics Bill Macriss as he pointed out to the high schoolers in attendance that the various resources student-athletes have on campus—such as tutors, advisers and sports psychologists—help contribute to classroom success.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being the athletic director for two years, and during that time, every semester’s grades for roughly 550 student-athletes throughout the athletic program has posted above a 3.0 GPA” Macriss said. “Graduation rates have been anywhere from 19 percent to 29 percent higher than the general student population for athletics, and it’s because of the support we’re going to provide you.”

It was words such as these and factors as simple as the scenery that stuck out to many parents and players in attendance, including 17-year-old James Houston of Placer High School.

“I really liked the campus. It was a lot of fun just walking around,” Houston said. “I thought it was really nice, the emphasis on grades and everything, not just football.”

Junior Day may have only made its first appearance on the Sac State campus this past weekend, but it’s an event that Sears would like the football program to continue as it helps many kids in the community.

“It gives them an opportunity to get educated on what the process of being a college football player is and what the NCAA rules are and eligibility and to sell Sacramento State,” Sears said. “We have a gorgeous campus and we have tremendous people, leaders and facilities.”

Sears and the football program were able to accomplish this by holding a fully-padded scrimmage in front of the nearly 200 juniors in attendance at Hornet Stadium.

Rainy conditions weren’t enough to dampen anyone’s spirits, including Sac State junior defensive back James Ferraro, who felt the practice was filled with positive energy, fierce competition and learning from both sides.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for [high school] juniors to come out and see what a college program is like,” Ferraro said. “I’m glad we did it and I think it had a great impact.”

Sears said he believes that his team still has a lot of improving to do, but was pleased with the energy and passion that his players presented on the field, and hopes that will transfer over to the high school juniors in their lives.

“Hopefully the message that I sent was that we’re here to teach these young men how to be champions,” Sears said. “Not just football champions, but champions of their life.”