“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.” – Lou Holtz. These words, from the legendary Notre Dame Head Coach, ring true on the gridiron and in life. As Bobcat Football heads into year two, the young program has learned all too well, how to overcome adversity.
Football made its’ return to St. Thomas University in 2018, when President David A. Armstrong, J.D. announced the addition to the athletics roster in August, with sights to kick-off the program in 2019. From the moment the announcement was made, the clock began ticking. The next task was to hire a head coach to build a staff; William “Bill” Rychel, hired October 2018, started his mission to start a program from scratch to field a team in less than ten months. The inaugural signing class, or “Bobcat1”, featured over 150-players from the tri-county (Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach) area.
The players and coaches managed training camp and focused on the inaugural season kicking off at Monsignor Pace High School against Thomas More University (Ky.) on September 7. 2019. Days leading up to the program/season-opener, Hurricane Dorian struck and ravaged South Florida. There were doubts the season kicked-off as scheduled, but the Miami Gardens community pulled together, and Bobcat Football pulled through and kicked-off, making history.
The program earned the first win against Union College (Ky.) in only the second game, as Robert Armes carried the Bobcats to victory and earned Mid-South Player of the Week honors. St. Thomas continued to set the standard and milestones; as the Bobcats chalked up the first Mid-South Conference win against Warner (11/2) and the first home win in program history against Faulkner (11/16).
The Bobcats ended the first season with a 4-6 record, led by five Mid-South Conference selections, including the Freshman of the Year, John Israel – Cooper. Joining Israel – Cooper on the Mid-South teams, were Jayson Contreras (First-Team), Donnell Bennett III (First-Team), Michael Torrence (First-Team) and Khalil Bryan (Second-Team).
In year two, the adversity continues to mount for the Bobcats and the world, as the global community looks to overcome the pandemic of COVID-19. The pandemic ended the first spring camp for STU Football early but has not stopped the Bobcats from their focus on the 2020 campaign. The players have been creative in their home workouts, committed to their studies via Zoom, among other activities.
St. Thomas Football is scheduled to make its return to the gridiron against Bluefield College (Va.) on September 5, from Monsignor Pace HS. Additionally, the opening game will also be Community & Youth Sports Day.
The Bobcats go on the road in back-to-back weeks, traveling to St. Andrews University (N.C.) and Bethel University (Tenn.) on September 12 and 19, respectively.
STU returns home and welcomes alumni to homecoming, on September 26 against the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.). Mid-South Conference play begins against Keiser University (Fla.), as the Seahawks make their first trip to Miami Gardens on October 3, for First Responders and Military Appreciation Day.
“The Battle of Miami Gardens” hits the gridiron for the first-time in its’ history, as the Bobcats and the Florida Memorial University Lions will face off on October 10.
St. Thomas takes on Webber International University (Fla.) in the Breast Cancer Awareness, “Pink Game” on October 17. The team will conclude their home schedule celebrating their appreciation for the Faculty and Staff of St. Thomas, on October 24 against Warner University (Fla.)
STU travels to Ave Maria, Fla. on Halloween (10/31), taking on the Gyrenes, in the ninth game of the season. The Bobcats conclude the 2020 regular season against Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. on November 7.
The St. Thomas University football program, like the global community, will continue to overcome and adapt to adversity, with the optimism of playing football and returning to normalcy before the Fall.