FLORENCE, Ala. -- Although Wednesday morning marked the 21st time that Chris Willis was part of an opening day pre-season football practice at the University of North Alabama, it had a different feel for the veteran Lion coach.
With a renovated locker room unveiled to the players the day before, a complete coaching staff in place, and with a four-year transition to Division I and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) status behind them, the Lions showed an opening day enthusiasm unlike anything Willis had seen before.
"I thought the energy level today was the highest that I have ever seen in a day one practice," said Willis, who is in his 21st season on the Lion staff and sixth as head coach. "You could feel a different excitement and it was really a player-drive practice. They were all competing and talking. I don't know if it's the new locker room, the fact that we have more coaches and staff than we have had before, or that we will finally be playing for something again, but I love what's going on."
UNA spent two hours on the practice field on Wednesday morning and will return to the field at the Bill Jones Athletic Complex at 10:00 a.m. Thursday. After two days in helmets, the Lions can add shoulder pads for the next three practices, starting on Friday.
North Alabama opens its 2022 season in Terre Haute, Ind., on Thursday, September 1 against Indiana State University.