Somehow, in my four years as a student at Wake Forest, I never managed to make a spring football game. Whether I was out of town for conferences, sick, or in the case of my freshman year unable to wake up on time, I managed to miss every spring game during my time in college.
That said, this year was the first time I ever attended Wake Forest's spring game, and as I was driving to Winston-Salem this morning I consistently kept asking myself "Why are we not playing at BB&T Field?"
And, reflecting on the afternoon's scrimmage and my experience attending it, I'll never ask that question again. The Doc Martin Practice Complex is the right location for our football program's first showing of the season.
Sure, the practice facility isn't the most fan-friendly of venues. With Earth Day, guest lectures and a million other things going on on campus this Saturday, parking was in short supply for those who didn't want to walk from one end of the campus to the other.
Further, once fans made their way into the practice complex, seating was at a premium, and a number of people found themselves climbing the uncut hills around the facility to try and get a better view of the field.
However, these minor annoyances did little to take away from what I found to be a truly unique college football experience.
Arriving about an hour prior to kickoff, it was very cool to see campus, rather than the off-campus stadium, abuzz with visitors, all decked out in their black and gold.
Everywhere I looked, Wake fans of all ages were out in force, the energy level similar to that of an actual game day. Everyone was excited to be there.
What's more, in addition to perfect weather and a game day atmosphere on campus, scrimmaging on the practice fields allowed for some picturesque sights that were breathtaking for Wake fans.
Just getting the chance to stand in the corner of the south end zone and watch Riley Skinner drop back to pass with the steeple of Wait Chapel in the background made the six hour drive all worth it.
More importantly, since the scrimmage was on a practice field, not in a stadium, all of the fans that showed up got to stand on the sidelines with their team. And Deacon football supporters took advantage.
Another of my favorite moments of the day came when Jordan Williams dropped a wide open pass on the sideline. On the next play, Skinner went right back to Williams, who made a superb catch down the sideline that put his side in scoring position.
Ball in hand, play made, dozens of Wake fans got a chance to give Williams a personal thumbs up, telling their receiver that he made a nice play and knowing he heard it.
Meanwhile, younger Wake fans all got to see their local heroes up close and personal, even getting to toss their own footballs around on the field following the scrimmage.
This was truly a community event, and truly representative of the community Wake Forest University prides itself on. Everyone, the players, the coaches, the fans, all got to be on the field Saturday, not a few miles away in the shadow of Deacon Tower, but on the campus that is our team's home.
Sure, when compared to Alabama packing 90,000 fans into Bryant-Denny Stadium, Wake's spring game might seem amateur.
But, even though Jim Grobe and his program continue to turn WFU football into a program capable of contending with the best in the nation, it's important to remember that no matter how many bowl games the Deacons go to, how many ACC titles they contend for, Wake Forest will never be an Alabama.
The Wake Forest football community, just like the University it represents, is a small and tight-knit unit. And that community felt right at home, on campus, at Doc Martin on Saturday.
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