SALADO — Brent Graham has had a lot of sleepless nights waiting for this day to come.
But when the first-year Salado head football coach finally walks out onto the school’s practice field at 7 this morning, he’ll do so with a renewed vigor and excitement he’s hoping will permeate through each and every player and coach out there with him.
“It’s hard to sleep at night with this opportunity comes up, this is our first go at it, it’s our first organized practice and we’re all in it together,” said the 35-year-old Graham. “So it’s something that I’ve been losing sleep over just waiting for this time of year.”
Salado is one of four area programs, along with fellow 2A Florence and 3A Gatesville and Lampasas, that will start preseason practices today, the first day of non-contact conditioning for all 3A, 2A and 1A football programs around the state. The first day of contact, when players will be allowed to wear pads, is Friday. All 4A and 5A programs that went through spring practices will start conditioning next Monday.
“A lot of people are anxious — our kids, our coaches — everybody’s been itching for this opportunity to get out and really showcase what we’re all about in 2013, man,” Graham said. “It’s been positive, things are upbeat around here, and we’re looking forward to a great challenge ahead of us.”
With his whistle at the ready, Graham will command his first practice as a head coach since 2006, when spent a season as the athletic director at Tom Bean. For the past four years, Graham has been the defensive coordinator at 4A Sherman.
“It’s a time that’s very near and dear to my heart, walking out there on that practice field to embark on a new season,” Graham said. “It’s something, for these seniors, that will be special for them. It’s the beginning of a new era, but at the same time, this is their last shot of it. So we’re going to do everything we can to put together something great for our seniors.”
Also beginning anew will be Lampasas, which kicks off the Brian Emerson era today after he was hired in March following the abrupt resignation of former coach Jimmy Randolph, who stepped away less than a year after being promoted to replace Joey McQueen following the 2011 season.
Gatesville is starting over in a sense as well as the defending District 8-3A champion Hornets seek to replace nearly 30 seniors — including Baylor-bound quarterback Cole Edmiston — after going 13-1 last season.
Florence will also be seeking to find its next quarterback after former signal caller Kaleb Hardy graduated and will start his college career at Incarnate Word this fall.