The Bruins practice for the first time at Stoffer Family Stadium, where they will play the school's first game in 46 years Sept. 6

When members of George Fox’s first recruiting class of football players arrived on campus in 2013, they pretty much were the new football program.

There was no football stadium or even practice facility, just a grass field next to the baseball and softball complex. They didn’t even have anywhere to store their pads and helmets, so they carried them back and forth from the dorms.

Worst of all, there weren’t any games.

That was not the case this year, as those same players, along with head coach Chris Casey’s second recruiting class, arrived last week to find Stoffer Family Stadium, featuring a pristine new field, the nearly-completed Duke Athletic Center and just about new everything at their disposal. Photo Credit: GARY ALLEN - Leader - Head coach Chris Casey fires up his players during a brief huddle before Thursday's practice at Stoffer Family Stadium. The Bruins continue practices this week in anticipation of their Sept. 6 opening game.

So when the team took the field Aug. 14 for the first practice at the new facility, with all the players together for the first time on what will literally be their home turf come Sept. 6, it was a big moment.

“Seeing stuff like that going up really gives you extra motivation, that this is really happening, they’re really putting that turf field in and that huge video replay board,” sophomore nose tackle Justin Kruse said. “It was kind of a sense of reward, being rewarded for all those extra hours you put in that you weren’t able to be rewarded by playing in games.”

That energy carried over into the practice, which Casey said was infused with “great enthusiasm and a special feeling” because it was the beginning of something big, a new tradition.

Freshman Bertognitti Tayetto, a running back from Forest Grove who goes by “Gio” for his middle name, Giovanni, said the feeling was so intense and overwhelming that his nerves got the better of him in the first set of drills.

“To see that be built and all made for us it’s like a kid opening a Christmas present,” Tayetto said. “It’s like the coolest thing ever. It’s great to see. It came out great. I’m just ready to play on it.”

As far as the stadium and football facilities have come, they still aren’t quite finished, and work continued on numerous projects simultaneously — erecting the humongous video replay board, laying the foundation for the bleachers, washing the track and even repaving the parking lot — as the Bruins practiced in the afternoon sun.Photo Credit: GARY ALLEN - The quarterback corps drills on hand-offs Thursday on the new turf field at Stoffer Family Stadium.

There was a sense of harmony as the school worked to finish the facilities while the team strived to improve on the field, both operating under the same deadline.

“You don’t get a chance to start something like this, from the bottom up, like ever,” senior transfer Ian Becker said. “It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

In addition to feeling that Casey has created a family atmosphere on the team, the players and coaches can’t help but feel supported by the school itself.

“I think it shows how much everyone likes football in order to build that stadium for a small college, especially our facilities,” sophomore lineman Robby Mitchell said. “I’ve seen the San Diego Chargers’ facilities and I would say ours is probably nicer than theirs other than having a bunch of ellipticals. I could see them getting big time players, really selling the school with this stuff.”

The program is eager to return the favor, to become a rallying point for the university, to bring a brand of excitement that has been missing from campus for nearly half a century.

“No fall sport kicks off the year like football does,” Becker said. “There’s just a different feeling to it. Everyone goes to the first game and that’s when you know you’re back to school.”

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