Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Members of the 1100 Club, the Central Michigan football boosters, got a first-hand look at the 2017 Chippewas on Saturday at the annual scrimmage at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Third-year CMU coach John Bonamego put his players through their paces on the stadium turf in front of hundreds of 1100 Club members and other program supporters ahead of the Aug. 31 season opener at home against Rhode Island.
A handful of veteran front-line players sat out the scrimmage to rest and recuperate after two-plus weeks of training camp. Most, however, took the opportunity to show their stuff to some of the program's most ardent supporters.
Afterward, a barbecue dinner was served as players, members of the coaching staff and university administrators mingled with the boosters.
The scrimmage/barbecue marked the 10th anniversary of the 1100 Club, which provides crucial financial support to the program.
Shaun Holtgreive, the executive director of student affairs at CMU, attended the event.
Holtgreive earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from CMU, has worked at the university for 35 years, and has been a member of the 1100 Club since its inception.
He said he is an ardent believer in the role that athletics plays on a college campus, and in the lives of those who participate in any of CMU's 16 varsity programs.
"I think the piece that matters most to me is how Coach Bonamego develops young men," he said. "We always have some folks who go to the NFL, we've got some folks who are there this year, but for most of these student-athletes the important piece is getting a degree.
"I think one of the things that (CMU President) Dr. Ross talks about all the time is that Central graduates leaders, and I think athletics is part of that experience. That's why I have been a supporter, I think it's important. Not just this program, but the Olympic sports as well. It's important that those folks have the same kind of experience that they would get at a Power Five (school) and we are all responsible for ensuring that can happen."
Freshmen in the spotlight: In brief remarks during the barbecue, Bonamego brought up all of the freshmen on the roster and then turned the microphone over to the players to introduce themselves.
The freshmen then sung "The Fighting Chippewa" after which they received a rousing round of applause. it is the first time that Bonamego has had the team's freshmen up for such an introduction.
From the sidelines: Roaming the sidelines during Saturday's scrimmage was former Chippewa Jabari Dean, a defensive tackle and one of the captains on the 2016 team.
Dean earned his bachelor's degree last spring in health administration and recently started a job in Gladwin as an employment specialist with Community Mental Health for Central Michigan.
Fast start: The first play in Saturday's scrimmage went for a touchdown. Quarterback Shane Morris delivered a perfect strike to sophomore Cameron Cole streaking down the sideline. The play covered 65 yards.
Finals: The Chippewa roster includes 24 seniors, a large number, and, for those players, every step is a "last," the last first practice, the last 1100 Club scrimmage, the last opening game, etc.
Bonamego, who is in his third year in charge of the program, said a team that is laden with seniors can be highly motivated by the fact that it is the group's final opportunity to leave a legacy with the program.
"I think it comes down to leadership and embracing it," he said. "They are the ones that enforce the culture. The culture is something that has to be passed on from generation to generation, and it's more than just the colors you wear, it's how you conduct yourself, how you prepare, how you think, even how you carry yourself from a body language standpoint.
"When you have great examples on your team and when those players are able to enforce the standards that we set - which are sky high in everything, across the board – it gives you a tremendous foundation to build off."