Coming off a 7-3 season last year, coach Cary Fowler wanted to give his team a renewed boost, as well as new approach, coming into the 2014 season.

The Tarleton Texans went 5-1 in the Lone Star Conference, bringing the team’s conference title count to three. But earning that title didn’t stop Fowler from thinking outside the box.

“I wanted our guys to not only go through the drilling and conditioning of the game, but what happens outside the field,” he said. “Helping out one another in as many of life’s obstacles as possible.”

By collaborating with Fort Hood, the football team began its first week of practices Tuesday at Hood Stadium.

Fowler is among several coaches to bring their players outside college towns, taking “team-bonding” to a new level.

For example, Syracuse University football players and Fort Drum, N.Y., soldiers were learning from each other during their first week of practices last week. The team has been learning from soldiers at Fort Drum for a few years.

Tarleton’s trip to Fort Hood marked the first time a collegiate team practiced at Hood Stadium.

For a group of former local student-athletes, it was a bittersweet homecoming.

Anthony Gonzales and Andre Allen, seniors and defensive ends for the Texans, saw the opportunity as a way to further themselves on and off the playing field.

Gonzales, who recorded 18 tackles last season, saw the trip to Fort Hood as a lesson he can take with him after college.

“I am going to school for kinesiology, so learning the mechanics of sports outside of plays is a welcome lesson,” said the Copperas Cove graduate.

Allen, who completed nine tackles, including four solo as a defensive end, is a graduate of Ellison High School.

“It’s hard to come back for my last hoorah, and not be able to see my family,” he said. “But, I know we are coming back here to start our practice and a new season. To start getting our team in focus. I’ll get to see my family another time.”

The team arrived Monday night from Stephenville and was greeted by five noncommissioned officers, who gave them advice and trained the team on military tactics.

On Tuesday morning, the team kicked off practice.

Freshman Garrett Gaskamp, who played at Hood Stadium many times last year, gave this new “homecoming” a whole new book of lesson plans.

The 2014 Killeen High School grad played quarterback in his last two years of high school but will come off the bench as a defensive back this season.

“From us being housed here on North Fort Hood, which I never got to see before, to learning new plays as a defensive end, it is pretty amazing,” he said. “The transition was tough, but I am up for the challenge.”

Malik Clemons also is no stranger to Hood Stadium. Another freshman who was heavily recruited as an inside linebacker, he is getting used to college life.

“It’s great to see my hometown again, only knowing that every time I will come here, they’ll be always memories,” he said. “But now, as we are all here on the field, we are making new ones.”

The Tarleton Texans play their first game at West Texas A&M at 7 p.m. Sept. 13.

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