Players, coaches ready to return to field while mourning fallen Spire

Spring football has taken a turn for the University of Saint Mary Spires.

Following the shocking death of new recruit Christian Yanos (see related story on A1) who collapsed during a non-contact drill March 1 and shortly passed, the team has taken a different tenor as it prepares for the 2018 season.

“We want to enjoy each other and enjoy each other’s company,” USM head coach Jay Osborne said. “Time is not supposed to be that short. He was 21 years old and just getting his life started. I am trying to impress upon the team that we get back to enjoying time with each other and we had already established that the first 13-14 days we were together. It’s just getting the guys together and enjoying each other’s time even more.”

Spring break at the university is currently wrapping up.

“We will resume next week and go back to practicing,” Osborne said. “If we miss a couple of practices, it’s no big deal. I haven’t had time to talk to the team so we will see where they want to take it.”

Nine official practice dates are left of the allotted 15, including the spring football game April 7 at 6 p.m., but how they get there is anyone’s guess.

“I don’t know, we will show up and start with that,” Osborne said. “It’s not going away. You live with it. We got to do this. We will be practicing Monday morning. That’s the piece of the program that is important where they come back from spring break and start that morning because we have classes at 8 a.m. and we don’t want guys falling behind in class.”

The focus of the team has shifted from being football-centric to being more about moving forward and building team chemistry.

A lot of that was already happening – in part to Yanos’ influence – before his passing.

“It was very different already,” Osborne said.

“I am ready to get back on the field and start back up and I know a lot of other guys are too,” senior to be Trey Perkins said. “After everything that happened, you are not going to forget about it, but Christian wouldn’t want us to stop, he’d want us to keep going. We can keep honoring him.”

The reality is that the team will enter Charles J. Berkel Memorial Stadium for the first time since watching their teammate’s fall and eventual passing.

“I would hope (they are prepared to return). I walked that field, I played with my son on it. I did some things, but it’s not going away,” Osborne said. “We know what happened on that field and that will live with us forever. It doesn’t stop though. We have to get back out there.

“Going out there, putting football pads on, it could help. It’s about showing these young men what the next stage of life looks like. We work with great young men and Christian was one of our best, no doubt. We need to continue. I am glad to hear that they are ready to go back out there.”

The fear is returning to the field and looking at it as a haunted house that encases a specter of a bad memory.

But Perkins believes the stadium will be a place to celebrate life.

“It’s the other guys I am worried about because some of them haven’t been on the field since it happened,” Perkins said. “The way that my dad put it was, ‘God only picks the flowers when they’re ready.’ We pray it won’t happen again, but it won’t be too much trouble for me. I will be thinking about it, but it’s what drives me. We got to keep the positive vibes going. Everyone is looking out for everybody. I’m ready to get out there, run around and have fun.”