April 13, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - As Western Carolina heads for the end of its annual spring drills this weekend, former football player Nate Harris - who is completing an apprenticeship with the WCU Athletics Media Relations Office - took time to catch-up with several of his former teammates in a candid Q&A session following practice this week.
Western Carolina will hold its 2012 Spring Game on Saturday, April 14, beginning at 1:00 pm on-campus at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.
Nate Harris, a senior running back from Holly Springs, N.C., is majoring in Communication with concentrations in broadcasting and public relations, and is scheduled to graduate this May.
A team captain in 2011, Harris finished his WCU career with 486 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while also hauling in 23 passes for 255 yards and a pair scores. All told, Harris amassed 2,022 all-purpose yards including 1,281 on kick returns during his four-year career.
What are you expecting from the Spring Game on Saturday?
Eric Banford, senior defensive lineman: "I'm looking for high tempo. It's been a long spring ball. Everybody from both sides is going to come out and give it their all. That's all we have to do."
Michael Johnson, senior running back: "Just basically to see where everybody is. The coaches have coached us well. We've been working hard and running hard, so basically Saturday is like a self-assessment for each player and both sides of the ball."
Elijer Martinez, senior defensive back: "I'm expecting a lot of intensity on both sides of the football. Coach (Speir) said there are going to be a lot of people out there and this is the first time we're expecting that. I expect a lot of energy to get flowing."
Gary Green, senior wide receiver: "I'm expecting high intensity. I expect the offense to move the ball very well. I expect the defense to bring a lot of tempo out there. I'm looking forward to everybody playing hard, it's been a long time. All spring we have really focused on playing hard and competing until the clock hits zero."
With spring practice almost wrapped up, how is this year's offense different from last year's?
Michael Johnson: "It's a lot more fast paced. I feel it is a lot more complete as a whole system. It's fun to run."
Gary Green: "The offense is better organized. The schemes are better. It's fast and fun. We have more confidence everywhere on the field. Everybody is coming together and starting to believe."
Defensively, tackling was a problem last year, how have the coaches fixed that?
Elijer Martinez: "We go through tackling circuits every day in practice. We work on that every single day. There are a lot of guys that don't want to do it, but when the season comes around, it'll help. The tackling circuits are going to help."
With the predictions for the upcoming season coming out earlier this week, WCU was in a familiar spot, ranked 9th. What type of message do you want to send the SoCon about the upcoming season?
Eric Banford: "I can tell you now; this is NOT the same team from last year or from past years. Instead of talking about it, we're going to show everybody. The best part about being an underdog is that nobody expects it until you're at the top. We're going to knock the top seeds off one at a time but until then, we're just going to work hard."
Michael Johnson: "We can't deny the fact of our performance last year. We just have to accept the fact, get over it and work harder. We can't look back on it. We've just got to get better every day and work."
Elijer Martinez: "It's a new era. We're coming for the top. Last year was last year. It's the new coaches, new change and a new era."
Gary Green: "That's cool. Being that we went 1-10 last year, I'm perfectly fine with them picking us to be last. I won't accept it, though. It actually gives us something to look forward to and prove everybody wrong. We just have to go out and play hard. We have to show everybody that WCU can and will compete in the SoCon. We rather just show everybody what we can do and let our play speak for itself at the end of the day."
How is the team dealing with the news of the death of a former teammate from earlier in the week?
Eric Banford: "It's hard. He was a brother to all of us. It brought the past players together. We're going to ride it out for Buddy. Buddy was a cool dude. It definitely affected a lot of people."
Michael Johnson: "It's always sad that a former teammate passed. We're going to work hard in his honor. Personally, I knew Buddy and I know what kind of love he had for the game. I feel like it would be unfair to him if I didn't work hard as he did."
Elijer Martinez: "When we first heard about it, we took it real bad. We just looked back on the past and the times we had and just smiled and had a good time about those memories. It's just sad but we love him and came together as a team."