As players embark the practice field at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, there are a few visible differences in the appearances of the uniforms that are easily explainable. Players in white tops are on offense while the defense goes with green.
But the question fans keep asking is why are players wearing different helmets?
While some Herd players have a green stripe down the center of their helmet, others have red. But what does the difference really mean?
“The red-stripe is for the rookies,” Herd linebacker D.J. Hunter said. “They (rookies) have to earn their stripe off the helmet.”
But getting the stripe off is not as simple as it may seem. There is a system in place that each player must go through for consideration of having the stripe removed.
“Every player must be nominated by their leader of their position,” center Chris Jasperse said. “Coach Holliday will call the player up in front of the team and show some highlights. Then it’s up to the team to vote yeah or nay.”
While the process sounds easy enough, both Hunter and Jasperse—who play on the opposite side of the ball from one another—agreed that it takes something special to get the other team to vote yes.
“Guys get neighed all the time,” chuckled Jasperse. “Receivers get neighed by the defense or vice versa all the time unless it’s something really good. It’s fun to watch and be a part of.”
“It brings the guys together,” Hunter added.
While the highlight real is one way to be nominated for the removal of the stripe, performance on the field is not the only way to have your stripe removed.
“Your performance on and off the field can decide when your stripe comes off,” Herd receiver Davonte Allen said.
Maybe that is why the first two morning practices—which consisted mostly of rookies and newcomers to the program—contained only three green-stripes each day. Two of those members were senior tight end Eric Frohnapfel and sophomore wide-out Josh Knight.
Frohnapfel had not planned on being a part of the rookies group, but a class conflict on Monday and Wednesday for the student-athlete gave him an opportunity to provide leadership and guidance to the rookies in their first day of camp.
“Our tempo is shocking to these new guys when they first come out here,” said Frohnapfel. “We are going at a fast pace and they have to get lined up quickly. The first day that is hard to do because they are still thinking a lot. Pretty soon they will be able to turn it into action.”
Having a senior around the practice field was a welcomed site to the rookies as it provided a resource to learn from of what is expected by not only the coaches, but also the players.
For Knight, he embraced the opportunity to work with the younger group, allowing him a chance to give back what had been given to him.
“It’s a good opportunity to finally come out and be a leader,” Knight said. “I just try to take from what I learned from guys like Tommy Shuler and Craig Wilkins and try to apply that with the younger guys and emulate what the upperclassmen do.”
Coach Holliday said a leader can emerge from any player on the team.
“It’s great for Josh to come out and do that,” added Holliday. “You know he’s (Knight) a young guy too. We’ve always talked about you don’t have to be a senior to lead. Corey Tindal did it a year ago. It’s part of the culture change of the program and it’s good to see.”
While taking the time to share a laugh about the process players go through to rid the helmet of the stripe, several players recalled the reason their stripe was removed.
“Mine came off the first day of practice with (Rakeem) Cato,” Allen recalled. “We went deep and I caught a touchdown pass. Back then, just about everyday someone got their stripe off.”
Hunter said his stripe came off rather quickly too.
“I was on kickoff and an offensive lineman came at me,” Hunter explained. “I smashed him and put him on his back.”
As week one of practice is nearing an end, full-pad practices begin bringing highlight plays to the limelight. With players getting their first shot at game-speed contact Friday afternoon, nominations should not be too far away.
“I can see some stripes coming off real soon,” Hunter said.
With full contact practice beginning today, I would agree that there will be fewer red-stripes on the turf when week two begins Monday morning.