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There are few feelings within the lifetime of a university footballer that equal the adrenaline rush that accompanies a signature victory. The tailgates begin at dawn, the anticipation rises throughout the day and crescendos when the ultimate seconds check the clock and fans rush the sector .

Those are the moments often seared in memories, the tradeoffs for all the 5 a.m. workouts, endless film sessions and mandatory study tables that enable them. The 2020 season came with even more demands for the nearly 12,000 FBS college football players — frequent and invasive COVID-19 testing, the lack to interact with loved ones and therefore the refore the isolation from both the campus itself and the campus community.

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Notre Dame, for instance , travels with its own plexiglass to separate everyone at team meals. Boston College found out barriers on the road to form sure players stayed socially distanced from their families. USC coaches asked their local players to avoid going home for Thanksgiving, even scheduling a late-afternoon practice to discourage it. And at Army, the players have left the bottom just 3 times since June 1 — all for road games. “Not even to travel to the McDonald’s drive-thru,” coach Jeff Monken told Yahoo Sports.

 

So what has the 2020 season actually been like for the players? In some ways , the cardboard cutouts of fans within the stands are a fitting representation of the season itself — an imposter dressed up just like the real McCoy but barren of such a lot of the emotion and interaction that fuels the spirit of the sport .

Yahoo Sports attempted to peel back the curtain on the sacrifices, empty stadium realities and radical changes for the athletes who’ve alternately endured and enjoyed this 2020 college season. “The average person has no idea how hard it’s been for the players,” said Boston College coach Jeff Hafley.

Rain clouds move through the world of l. a. Memorial Coliseum during the primary half an NCAA football between Arizona State and Southern California on Nov 7. (AP)
Rain clouds move through the world of l. a. Memorial Coliseum during the primary half an NCAA football between Arizona State and Southern California on Nov 7. (AP)
Boston College party of 1
After Boston College scared the daylights out of then-No. 1 Clemson on Oct. 31, star center Alec Lindstrom navigated over to the Boston College buses. BC played valiantly, charging bent an 18-point lead, before falling short, 34-28.

It’s normal to ascertain parents hanging out with their kids within the bowels of stadiums after games, lingering near the running team buses amid the stacks of kit bags and boxed meals to travel . But when Lindstrom approached his family, he noticed two rows of barriers separating them. “I couldn’t go and provides them hugs and hang around with them,” he said. “That was definitely weird.”

So while they chatted about the sport and trapped for a couple of minutes, even the foremost basic of family interactions are warped by COVID-19. The barrier was designed during this COVID-19 world to make sure the virus didn’t spread from family and friends to players on the team.

Lindstrom wants to be clear that he’s not complaining, that he’s happy to be playing the sport he loves and would gladly make more sacrifices if necessary. But he juxtaposes that with the truth of 2020, which has no fans at BC home games, no chance for the players to flee into Boston for a couple of hours and has fundamentally altered even basic items like celebrating after wins.

“It’s been really hard for us,” Lindstrom told Yahoo Sports by Zoom last week. “It’s really beginning to take a mental toll. Guys can’t head home like they typically can.”

Boston College has been a part of one among the sport’s most remarkable stories this season. From the time the team returned to campus in June until last week, the team went nearly 8,500 COVID-19 tests with only one player testing positive.

The players took pride within the streak, which spanned nearly the whole season before ending last week before the Virginia game after a player tested positive within the wake of returning home for Thanksgiving. “It’s a special group,” Hafley told Yahoo Sports. “These guys are getting to achieve whatever they are doing in life. this is often hard and life is tough . they will overcome something most of the people in college football haven’t .”

For Lindstrom, the day-to-day reality of that has been taking some classes by Zoom, which he said has been a struggle sometimes because he’s a far better in-class learner. He and his teammates have found an escape through playing “Call of Duty,” a well-liked computer game . They’ve also binged “The Mandalorian” on Disney+.

Cut-out photos of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck positioned within the stands at Alumni Stadium before a game between Boston College and Notre Dame on Nov. 14. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Cutout photos of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon positioned within the stands at Alumni Stadium before a game between Boston College and Notre Dame on Nov. 14. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Lindstrom has also taken on baking as a hobby since March, learning his mother’s recipe for Whoopie Pies and making them for his fellow linemen this summer. apart from his own desserts, the closest thing Lindstrom has had to an indulgence was a Thursday tradition with fellow linemen Tyler Vrabel and Ben Petrula. They ventured to renowned local wing joint, Buff’s Pub in Newton, to devour plates of wings. They took advantage of the outdoor dining for a fast escape. “It was how we found to urge faraway from it,” he said.

Lindstrom also features a podcast, “Listen up My Dudes,” and is noted for his food reviews around town. Like many, he’s pivoted to ordering from apps during the pandemic — “always tip your driver,” he says with amusing — and has been getting delivery from local spots like Jim’s Deli, Eagles Deli and Amelia’s Taqueria.

BC has gone 6-5 in Hafley’s first season and is predicted to play during a bowl game. As Lindstrom and his teammates established a replacement identity for the program amid an empty stadium, he’s adamant he’d roll in the hay everywhere again. “It’s 100% worthwhile ,” Lindstrom said. “If I had to try to to more stuff, more tests or whatever, I’d roll in the hay . i really like playing football. I’d 100% roll in the hay again.”

Home faraway from home at USC
USC star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown’s birthday is Oct. 24. Last year, his girlfriend took him to the Cheesecake Factory and arranged a surprise gathering with all his friends when the couple returned from dinner.

Two of St. Brown’s good friends have birthdays round the same time, in order that they all enjoyed the sort of communal celebration inherent to the school experience. the choices were as endless because the Cheesecake Factory menu.

This year, St. Brown’s birthday featured dinner together with his girlfriend. No gathering. No community. He said he’s based his habits on the daily advice from coach Clay Helton. “He tells us we’ve to form smart decisions a day ,” St. Brown told Yahoo Sports. “You can get the virus just by touching something. Every decision we make, we’ve to form with the team’s best interest in mind.”

That’s why St. Brown has essentially established two residences for this semester. He’d been slated to measure in an off-campus apartment with two teammates and a lover from Mater Dei, where he visited highschool . But he’s primarily lived by himself on campus during the season due to the threat of contact tracing. Essentially, if a player lives with other players and gets COVID-19, all of the roommates would be put in quarantine due to contact tracing rules.

So putting players in their own silos may be a strategy to form sure any positive tests — which are a near inevitability of the season — don’t wipe out an outsized swath of the team.

With the Pac-12 not starting its schedule until November, USC’s semester has been during a state of flux. First the conference planned to play the 2020 season, then they decided to not play, then league officials reversed course and decided to start out in November.

It has played out against a backdrop of local restrictions, as USC is playing despite what’s essentially a stay-at-home order in l. a. . The state of California is averaging 21,000 COVID-19 cases each day .

The majority of USC students aren’t on campus, because the school transitioned to online learning in March. Only 10-20% of classes are held face to face , and people are labs, performance and instruction that necessitate in-person attendance.

“Not getting to class is weird,” St. Brown said. “Going to class and meeting new people and new professors is a component of the entire college experience.”

St. Brown, a junior receiver, has thrived on the sector for the 4-0 Trojans. He caught four touchdowns against Washington State on Sunday — yes, a wonderfully 2020 Sunday afternoon college game — and has caught a minimum of five passes altogether four games this season.

Every day remains strange. St. Brown said the daily team meeting at 2:15 p.m. would be held within the team room in normal years, with the entire group of quite 100 players during a movie theater-style auditorium. Now players see Helton virtually while they’re sitting socially distanced in their assigned position rooms. “We’re all watching the projector and it’s Coach Helton talking,” he said.

There’s no experience more surreal than gameday, as USC plays within the Coliseum, an immense structure that holds 77,500 and until a recent renovation accommodated quite 90,000. Now, it’s just a huge sea of emptiness.

“I definitely miss our fans, that might be the most important thing,” St. Brown said. “Playing within the Coliseum without fans are some things we all miss as players. they carry the juice, the fans put such a lot energy into the sport .”

Subdued Swamp
Florida wide receiver Justin Shorter transferred from Penn State and arrived in June. With the country already within the throes of the pandemic, Shorter has completely missed the normal University of Florida experience.

He’s missed simple things like walking to class on campus, which he doesn’t do because all of his classes are online. He’s never played ahead of a poker hand at the The Swamp, the affectionate nickname for Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. He’s really yet to experience local restaurants because he’s been encouraged to not sit and dine anywhere.

Shorter said his only contact outside the team facility is together with his mother and girlfriend, and both are browsing great lengths to be safe amid the pandemic. After an enormous win, like Florida’s recent home blowout of Kentucky, Shorter summed up his celebration this manner . “I sat here with my family,” he said. “I didn’t really go anywhere, the danger of getting COVID is much too high. I don’t want to spend 14 days [quarantined]during a bedroom .”

Florida coach Dan Mullen waves to the gang before a game against Missouri at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Oct.31, 2020. (Alex de la Osa/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
Florida coach Dan Mullen waves to the gang before a game against Missouri at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Oct.31, 2020. (Alex de la Osa/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
As he’s adjusted to a replacement team, campus and city , Shorter hasn’t really been ready to experience much outside Florida’s football facility. He’s passed his free time by playing “Madden,” the computer game that’s spanned generations. “Football is my life,” he said. “I’m doing schoolwork, football or playing ‘Madden.’ It’s quite boring. You’re doing it a day .”

 

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