hirty years since graduating from Brownwood High School, Sammy Burnett on Wednesday afternoon became the first Lion to lead the football program onto the practice field as the head coach.
“It's nice to be in the Brownwood colors and be back home,” Burnett said during a break in the first practice of the season on the high school campus. “I worked 25 years to have the opportunity to be back, and the Lord blessed me with the opportunity. It's surreal being here, knowing the grounds ... I practiced on this field. I'm blessed to be here and be in a leadership role. I don't take that for granted and we won't waste a minute of the day.”
Burnett stated prior to the start of preseason workouts that conditioning would be a priority, especially early on, which was apparent from the opening whistle. The Lions rotated through stations for nearly a half-hour to begin their initial practice of 2018.
“We're not even close to where we need to be, but come Aug. 31 we're going to be there,” Burnett said in regard to the overall shape of the team. “Today's a measuring point, but once they learn the drills and understand them we'll see a little better progress.”
With the Lions not putting on pads until Friday, conditioning — along with the installation of new offensive and defensive schemes — will be the focal point of the practices for much of the week.
“I want to see mental growth, the mental preparation of getting through the physical part of it, the conditioning and the cardio that we have to get through,” Burnett said. “That comes with the first part of the season and once we work our way through that, then we can work more on the teaching stuff. The kids are excited, but there's a long way to go and a lot that needs to be learned like the intensity and the way we're going to do things. We're going to pick it up over the next couple of days.”
Burnett stated approximately 125 players reported for the first day of practice, much fewer than he anticipated.
“I hope our numbers pick up a little bit, we're down a little at the freshman level,” said Burnett, who expected 20 to 30 more players to attend Monday.
Looking ahead, the Lions venture to Liberty Hill on Aug. 17 for their first scrimmage, then host Burnet on Aug. 23 in their last scrimmage prior to the regular season opener at Gordon Wood Stadium on Aug. 31 against Brock.
Burnett and the Lions aren't focused on the future, however, as all their attention is on the present.
“In all things we work today to get what we want tomorrow,” Burnett said. “We're going to win today and show up tomorrow and win tomorrow.
“It's a true blessing to be standing here today and I'm extremely humbled and won't take it for granted. I'll work every day to be the best that I can be so that the program can be the best that it can be.”