SU football players learn from soldiers

Coach Shafer instructs team during scrimmage at Fort Drum

Each summer Syracuse football players and coaches look forward to heading north for a week of camp at Fort Drum. For the team itâ??s a nice change of pace from the summer grind, a chance to build stronger team bonds and a unique opportunity to spend some time with Americaâ??s finest.

At Fort Drum the players get a taste of army life. They sleep in barracks, tackle leadership and military drills and eat in dining facilities along side the brave soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Itâ??s an experience that both the team and army personnel look forward to all preseason.

"We have an obligation to stay connected to the community and this is just a really good opportunity for us to do that with Syracuse University,â?? said LTC Brian Beckno. â??To have these kids, who have had little if any experience with the army, to have them come here and share some time with us is really something special."

For head coach Scott Shafer, whoâ??s cousin and uncle gave the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Iraq and Vietnam, respectively, the time spent with these soldiers has special meaning.

"We get so much out of coming here because we're dealing with the best trained military in the world. For our guys to get around those men and women, who are putting it on the line everyday for real, it makes us really appreciate who they are and we try to emulate them to some degree in the small stage of college football."

Itâ??s an eye-opening experience that gives the players new perspectives.

"You learn that no matter what you're going through, it's just football,â?? said defensive tackle Jay Bromley. â??Granted we like to play and we like to think of it as much more, but it's not a life or death situation which a lot of these guys, all these guys, go through every year. So we learn to not take it for granted.â??

"Youâ??ve got kids playing football and youâ??ve got kids ready to go to war at a momentâ??s notice,â?? said Shafer, juxtaposing his players with their army peers. â??Theyâ??re getting ready for a big deployment coming up here so if we can just give them five or ten minutes a day where they can take their minds off it and playing football with their kids, then thatâ??s something weâ??d love to do to try and give back.â??