Several ECI products suitable for cardinals
MUNCIE, Ind. – Growing up, Kaleb Slaven remembers driving on McGalliard Road and seeing Scheumann Stadium through the window of his father’s car.
Her father would ask her, “How would you feel about playing there?”
For slave, who grew up in Muncie and went to Delta High School, there were times when playing Ball State seemed overkill. As a child, Slaven thought playing for the Cardinals was “the bigger deal” and a dream that only became possible after attending camps, lifting and focusing on football in high school.
Now Slaven, who was redshirted in his first year, begins his sixth season playing for Ball condition, where he started 29 games on left tackle since 2017.
It’s a different experience for local guys like Slaven to play for a show that they’ve grown up watching all their lives.
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Ask another offensive lineman Anthony todd, who attended Yorktown High School before coming to Ball State in 2016. Todd had a growing friend whose grandfather was a Ball State booster. Todd was therefore able to watch every home game from a private box at the Scheumann Stadium. Now he has better eyesight.
“I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Todd said. “It was my dream to play college football and play for my hometown school made it better. Then to be lucky enough to have an extra year, I mean, that’s the biggest feeling. There is nothing I would rather do than be playing football. “
Slaven and Todd are among the many products from east-central Indiana that will fit the Cardinals this fall. There is also a graduate from Shenandoah Cody Rudy, who continued as a linebacker before moving on to offense where he started all eight games as a fullback / tight end hybrid last season.
There are also Delta graduates Brady hunt, Yorktown graduate Austin Hill and graduates Muncie Central Cam Gillentine and Trenton Hatfield, the latter is a transfer graduate from the state of Illinois, who has yet to define his roles on the team.
It’s fun growing up in a city where you also play Division I college football. On the pitch, there’s a period of adjustment, trying to adjust to the speed of college play starting in high school. But, outside of the field, there is nothing new in the landscape. Whether it’s going out to eat out or going to the store, there’s hardly a point where Rudy, Slaven, or Todd have said they don’t meet people they know.
“Being local is different because you can go to Walmart and see 10, 20 people that you might know and they all support Ball State more than they probably would before I was even here because that gives them a reason to support, ”Slaven said. “They love to follow Facebook and they love to ask me how things are going and everyone is super excited. I’m coming back, I mean, all the guys in my class coming back are bringing some excitement to town. So, it definitely has its advantages. “
Much has changed in the Ball State football program since Rudy, Slaven and Todd joined in 2016. Todd attributes this to Head Coach Mike Neu, entering his sixth year at the helm of the Cardinals, for reversing what Todd called a “broken program” when he first joined a Mid-American Conference championship-winning team that has saw the majority of his starters from last season come back to enjoy an extra year of eligibility.
On the outside, however, fans don’t get the chance to see what’s going on every day in practice. Their only chance to see the squad is to watch them on match days, show their support on social media, or catch up with one of the local players in the store.
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Over the past five years, much like BSU’s field results, these face-to-face conversations with people in the community have changed.
“At the start of my career here when we weren’t winning a lot of games I would see someone and they would just ask me how it was and it was really general,” said Rudy, who has family at Muncie. “We had a very successful year last year which got more people watching and following us and so those conversations turned into real deep conversations where they actually remember seeing the plays. and seeing what you were doing. It’s really cool. It’s nice to know that you have family and friends in the area watching you play.
Last year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, there were a limited number of guests from Middletown, Muncie, Yorktown or elsewhere in east-central Indiana who got to see the Cardinals play.
This year, players, especially the locals, are delighted to welcome fans to the stands starting September 2, when BSU hosts Western Illinois to open the 2021 campaign.
There is one problem Todd can foresee with the return of fans, however.
“The only difficulty, really, is trying to get enough tickets to get people to come to the game,” Todd said. “It makes it difficult because all of my friends and family and everyone want to come out and support me.”
But it’s a problem Todd is happy to endure. He knows the expectations of the community match that of the team trying to repeat last season’s success. Conversations players had in town changed from “How are you feeling?” In 2017 at “Are you going to get there?” In 2021, according to Todd.
Whether Ball State is capable of “Run. It. Back.” in 2021 is yet to be seen. But when the doors open at Scheumann Stadium, there are sure to be plenty of familiar faces watching the Cardinals.
“We are excited,” Rudy said. “I mean, last year was last year, it was awesome and since the end we have looked to get back to work and get this 2021 season knowing that hopefully we can bring the family , parents and folks to come and watch us play rather than stay at home We are all delighted to have people here on campus and to have people in the stands to watch our games and hopefully the, have another happy new year. “