Christian Zylstra-Sports Editor
More than 82,000 people attended Ohio State University’s annual spring football game last Saturday.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosted 78,000-plus Husker fans in Memorial Stadium Lincoln on April 15.
Clemson University welcomed 60,000-plus fans into Memorial Stadium on April 8.
Why would so many people show up for what essentially amounts to a glorified scrimmage and carnival?
Because spring games matter.
They aren’t glamorous or necessarily enticing, but college football spring games mean more than you know.
From a football standpoint, spring games give newcomers and early enrollees a chance to experience football at the collegiate level. Whether NAIA or FBS, the difference in speed and skill between high school football and college football is monumental.
Spring games also give previous backups a chance to prove themselves and earn their way into discussions about more playing time or even a starting spot. It’s typically the second-stringers or borderline starters that bring the greatest intensity to a spring game.
Participating in spring practices and a spring game gives coaches the chance to see players in new roles. Dordt football is no stranger to these position changes and has seen a handful of players from last year already change roles this spring – and thrive.
But spring football’s meaning and worth boils down to far more than the game played out on the field. There are reasons why thousands of college football fans and university supporters pack stadiums on Saturday afternoons in April.
Spring football games give colleges and universities a chance to give back…
To the fans. College football fans are as loyal as they come. Spring football games give fans the chance to interact with their favorite programs, meet their favorite players, participate in their favorite football festivities and competitions and wet their palette for the fall season ahead.
To the families. Nebraska welcomed home Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Hawke on Saturday after 10-plus months of service in Afghanistan. His wife and children conducted the honorary coin toss before the spring game, where they were unknowingly reunited with SSG Hawke, who disguised himself as a Nebraska football player.
To the hurting. Ohio State ran the final play of its 2017 spring game for one of its honorary captains: Jacob Jarvis, a 17-year old boy with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Jarvis took the hand-off and rode through the middle of the field for a touchdown, sealing Scarlet’s 44-31 victory over Gray.
What takes place on the field might not be the most enticing to the average college football fan, but that doesn’t mean spring football games lack worth or purpose.
Sometimes they feature moments that mean more than anything that happens during the fall.