NORTH ADAMS -- St. Joseph senior Nate Stump wears a purple St. Joseph wristband at practice to show that he is still a Crusader at heart, even though his football jersey says Drury.
Stump, along with five other former Crusaders, joined the Blue Devils as members of the St. Joe-Drury football co-op this season.
The mix of Drury and St. Joe players brings the number of players on the team to 31. Without the St. Joe players, Drury would have a fairly thin roster. Without the Drury football program, the St. Joe players might not have seen a football field at all.
The fact the St. Joe students are willing to travel from Pittsfield to North Adams to practice is appreciated by the Drury staff and players.
"We were a little concerned at first about the kids from St. Joe not feeling comfortable," Drury coach Bill Bryce said. "But it seems like from day one, they've hit it off and things have gone well."
The acclimation process started in May, when the Drury captains traveled to Pittsfield to meet with their future teammates. Drury senior running back Kirby Bryce said he was familiar with some of his future teammates after playing against them in football, basketball and baseball, but he did not know what to expect when they finally became teammates. He said he quickly hit it off with Stump and the rest of St. Joe players, and now he considers the team one big family.
"Everybody is really welcoming, especially to us coming up from Pittsfield," Stump said.
Kirby Bryce added that the integration of his teammates is going better than even he expected. He credited the offseason practices for really jump-starting the team bonding process.
"Everything just blended together," he said. "There wasn't anybody who tried to separate [from the team], we all became friends because we realized that we're all going to be playing football together."
Fellow team captain Nate Van Steemburg added that, at the end of the day, it's about winning.
Van Steemburg and the Drury linemen return to provide the Blue Devils with some beef up front. Where the former St. Joe players will make an impact is at the skill positions.
"We have the ability to interchange kids in the backfield, at wide receiver and we have options at quarterback," Bill Bryce said. "Right now we're rotating through everything to see where they all fit in best. That's something that we generally haven't had since I've been here coaching, the ability to give someone a blow. To take them out and not really lose anything."
Stump is expected to see time at quarterback. Marquise Hamilton should see time at running back along with Bryce. Former Crusader running back Brendan Faas spent time working with the wide receivers and defensive backs at practice on Thursday as well.
Spirits were high at practice, but ultimately Bill Bryce said he won't be able to truly gauge his team's progress until its scrimmage against Mount Greylock next Saturday. After that, the team will prepare for Greenfield, its Week 1 foe.
"The goal they have is to go out and win every week, so they're working hard to prepare and get themselves ready for Greenfield," he said.
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
or (413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @THEAkeemGlaspie.