Leaders Teach Youth on the Football Field By: Andy Lewis The Truman State football team, containing a solid group of leaders, including 12 senior starters, and young talent, a freshman quarterback and two other underclassmen starters, relied on senior leadership. To begin the season, 12 of the Bulldogs's tarting 17 players were seniors. However, this team was comprised of 97 members, so there was a definite influence of youth. Therefore, Coach Ware depended on the leadership of his seniors to impact his team 'I believe in senior leadership,' stated Coach Ware.
'I have to rely on it. It is needed both on and off the field in order to improve the football team.' These seniors had experienced both the trials and victories of previous football seasons. Therefore, Coach Ware, along with the rest of his staff and team relied on these players to step up and take the leadership positions. His seniors proved their leadership both on and off the field through their words, efforts, and examples. One of the most vital mentoring tasks for the season may have been the sophomore quarterback, Eric Howe. Howe only started one game during the 1998 season; so, beginning the 1999 season, he was fairly inexperienced as a starter on the college level.
Even though he was inexperienced, Coach Ware was pleased with the improvements Howe had made. 'He had to learn a new offense, and the offense takes a while to learn,' admitted Coach Ware. 'Early in the season he struggled some with the offense, but I could see his potential as a quarterback.' Another factor that faced the Truman State football team was their tough non-conference schedule. Coach Ware believes in playing solid competition outside the conference in order to improve his football team. So, Truman headed to Illinois to play Illinois State. Illinois State (ISU) is a Division I-AA school and was ranked among the top three in the nation in football.
The task of playing ISU was a tough one, but it hopefully made the Bulldogs stronger for their conference season. Truman's conference schedule was tough also. The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) was arguably the best Division II conference in the nation at the beginning of the season. During 1998 Northwest Missouri State, also from the MIAA, won the national title. There was much parody in conference play, though. Every team was competitive on each Saturday.
Veteran leadership mixed with youth was the theme of the 1999 football season for the Bulldogs. It was expected to be an interesting season and, hopefully, productive.