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Three times a week, all 53 players on the Alvernia University football team walk out onto the field for practice.

Four times a week, they hit the weight room to get bigger, faster and stronger.

And twice a week, they have study hall, to make sure their grades are solid and they remain eligible.

Then, come Saturday, when most every other college football team around the country plays its weekly game, the players at Alvernia get together and watch football, rather than play it.

"On Saturdays, I hang out with my teammates and watch football and build a bond with them," Central York grad and Alvernia freshman Jordan Bowie said.

Alvernia is in its first year as an NCAA Division III football program, but won't begin playing games until next season. Instead, mixed into its practice schedule are four intrasquad scrimmages that the team will compete in on Saturdays through the end of November.

This first year is all about going through the daily grind of being a college football player, without the games on weekends to serve as a test for what you practiced during the week.

Ralph Clark was named the program's inaugural head coach back in January and began his recruiting process around campus, gauging any interest of students already at the school who played high school football. Then, he stepped outside the walls of Alvernia and began recruiting like any other college coach.

Among one of his signings in his first recruiting class was Bowie, a lock-down cornerback for the Panthers in high school who earned the nickname "Bowie Island."

Bowie committed to the program in February after fielding several offers from schools of similar size to Alvernia that also presented him with the chance to play in games this fall. Bowie, however, went with Alvernia, simply because of the bond he created with Clark through his recruiting process.

"During the recruiting process, coach Clark was the only coach who called and texted me every day to see how I was doing, how life was going and how my day at school was," Bowie said. "We talked about our visions and goals and talked about football and we had the same mindset, and that's to be great."

Now, Bowie is part of the foundation of a program trying to become something.

There is no roster listed on the Alvernia team website, but, according to Bowie, the team is largely inexperienced, mostly made up of newly recruited freshmen and some sophomores who transferred in with previous high school and college football experience.

When Alvernia does begin playing meaningful games against other schools, it'll do so in the Middle Atlantic Conference, facing schools such as Lycoming, Lebanon Valley, Albright, Delaware Valley, Kings and others. The MAC is the conference in which all other Alvernia programs compete.

Not playing in games right away isn't exactly the dream most college athletes choose, but it's the one Bowie chose for himself.

"The college football experience has been great so far," Bowie said. "I've learned a lot from coach (Dennis) Iezzi (defensive backs coach) and becoming a 100 percent better player every single day. It's just a blessing to be playing football at the next level and to represent York County."

In 11 months time, Bowie and the rest of his Alvernia teammates will take the field for the first game in program history. 

At the moment, the opponent is unknown and a schedule won't be released until sometime in the spring or summer of 2018.

But, every on-field practice, weight-lifting session and intrasquad scrimmage from now until then is leading up to that point.

"It's going to be like Christmas on that day," Bowie said. "That first game is all I keep thinking about, and having visions and dreaming about getting interceptions and making plays."

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com

 

 

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