GFU football recruits lured by coaches that care, a family atmosphere, new facilities and opportunity

Building a football program from scratch takes a lot of effort and over the past two years, George Fox has thrown its weight behind the effort, building new facilities, purchasing new equipment, designing a unique helmet and uniform and even advertising on billboards across the state.Photo Credit: GARY ALLEN - Preparation - George Fox players continue practicing this week in anticipation of the program's first game of the season against Arizona Christian Sept. 6 at Stoffer Family Stadium.

But more than anything, a football team needs players.

That has been the challenge for head coach Chris Casey and his staff, but in sweeping the Northwest for talent, they’ve found that as a new program, George Fox has something that other programs can’t offer.

“Starting something like this, I think it takes a certain type of person to do it, to have the courage to do it,” sophomore Ian Becker said. “We all realize that from each other, so we all know the type of people we are and we’re alike in that way.”

Starting from scratch does offer a lot of perks, like all the new equipment and facilities, but there are some stark challenges.

For instance, having just two recruiting classes, the Bruins will be at a major competitive disadvantage against established programs.

Not only will George Fox be vastly less experienced that most of its opponents, but other programs have also had the luxury of developing their players physically over time. So when the Bruins line up against teams like Linfield and Willamette, Casey’s freshmen and sophomores will be going up against juniors and seniors who’ve had years to bulk up while in college strength and conditioning programs.

“Everyone knew that coming here, too, which is kind of cool,” sophomore guard Robby Mitchell said. “It’s people who are up to the challenge.”

Drawing players with similar character and attitudes has also expedited the bonding process for the team, especially for those who chose to come to Fox last year knowing they wouldn’t play for a full year.

“The first group that came in last year, there was kind of an instant bond,” Becker said. “Even the coaches said they’ve never seen a group of guys come together and have just the type of connection we had with each other. It feels like the new guys are just coming right in and it’s the same thing happening again.”

That cohesion has also benefited from the family atmosphere that Casey has tried to establish as the foundation of the program, which was also a major reason some recruits chose George Fox. That was a big reason freshman running back Gio Tayetto joined up.

“The people were nice,” Tayetto said. “The helmets were nice. It was a great recruiting trip. I got along with all the players. It’s George Fox, how can you not like it?”

Even former players from the last era of GFU football, like the Bruin Football Club, have been impressed by what Casey has put together so quickly. Many were on hand for the team dinner with parents on the first day when players reported to campus.

“We’ve had events those guys have come to and they’ve actually been crying,” Casey said. “One of them was crying the other night at dinner. He just couldn’t believe all the players and parents and just what he said we created with the family atmosphere.”

Recruits have also been drawn to Casey himself, attracted to a personality that is both powerful and authoritative, yet honest and genuinely warm-hearted.

“Coach Casey is a very powerful speaker,” sophomore nose tackle Justin Kruse said. “Yet he’s not really one to yell. That works for some people and for others it doesn’t. It really works for him. He treats you as an equal rather than `I’m the head coach and you’re the player.’”

Considering all the unknowns that come with a new program, having a head coach and a staff that recruits believe cares for them and has their best interests at heart is almost essential.

With the program coming together with every passing day, Becker described the process as “one big trust fall.”

“It’s like walking in the dark, getting led by a blind hand,” Kruse added. “You don’t know what’s going to be there, but you can create your own path, make what it’s going to be.”

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