Every football team has traditions to help them prepare for a successful season ahead. For the Muskies, the Midnight Practice represents one of their most beloved rituals. A popular event for players and football fans too, the Muskies started fully padded play with this noteworthy practice on Saturday, August 17th.
A tradition passed down through at least two different coaching staffs, Muskie’s Head Football Coach Jake Mueller shared that the practice grew out of wanting to start the fully padded part of the season at the earliest possible time. “Each year, the state gives us a date that is the first legal day to practice full pads. Usually, it is a Saturday. We practice at midnight each year, so we are able to get a full-padded practice as soon as we are legally able to.”
When Mueller started as head coach in 2009, the midnight practice already had a long history. “The head coach before me (Tony Napieralla) started doing it. When coach Napieralla left, I remember talking to our senior captains about several changes I planned on making. I remember having a conversation with a senior captain, Chad VanderLinden. Chad really wanted to make sure we would keep having the midnight practice. Since I was making a lot of other changes, I thought it would be a good compromise to keep the midnight practice.” Mueller made the right call to keep the practice, as it has only grown more popular over the last ten years.
The night of the event, players and fans gather at midnight on the football field for the first fully padded practice. For an hour and a half, players work through warmups, tackling fundamental circuits, and offensive and defensive periods. At the end of the night, players and everyone else who came out to watch get to enjoy fresh, free watermelon, courtesy of the National Guard.
Although the midnight practice takes place in the wee hours of the morning, Muskie football fans still turn out in force. This year, Mueller reported that between 300 and 400 parents, friends, and alumni came out to watch, helping players get excited for the season ahead. “Our players really enjoy having the support and interest that the midnight practice generates. Just having all those people there really increases the enthusiasm for practice and shows our players that people care about what they are doing.”
Following the midnight practice, football players have worked hard over the past week and a half to prepare for the first game of the season. On Friday, the whole community will get to see their prowess on the field during their first home game against Davenport Central.