Written by Andrew Ramadan
Edited by Connor Marshall and Sean McCarthy
A sea of 20,000 purple wearing crazed fans in Bridgeforth Stadium are cheering for you to make the perfect play to win the football game. Everyone sees that perfect play and cheers for it, but most people don’t see what leads up to that. How did that player ready himself to where his skills and actions on the football field become second nature? The talents of JMU football players may seem innate, but actually many of them spend an entire year as a redshirt to be as good as they are.
A redshirt is a college athlete who is not allowed to participate in any games, but still practices with the team and has the same benefits as any other player on the team. In doing so, players retain a year of eligibility. This means that if a freshman redshirts, starting the following season those players are still freshman for football. Coaches often guide players to do this in order to develop their skills further or get stronger. In special occasions, players who get injured also redshirt to deal with their injury for a year. To understand what it means to be redshirt athlete even more watch this video.
One of these current redshirt players is Mitch Kirsch. The path to becoming a redshirt started for Kirsch in high school. As a child, Kirsch was a natural born athlete excelling in basketball, baseball, football, and swimming as well. He originally thought he was going to pursue baseball when he enrolled to St. John’s College High School on a full scholarship for the sport, but instead decided to put all of his focus into football starting his junior.
Kirsch size impacted his decision of the permanent transition to football. He had put on so much muscle that coaches and scouts had begin to take notice of the player.
This commitment to football got colleges to want to take advantage of Kirsch’s amazing talents. University of Virginia was interested in him, but after that fell through he knew JMU was the right choice. In particular, he credits his official visit to JMU in July and the personality of offensive line Chris Malone as reasons for his commitment to JMU.
As a member of the team, one difficulty that Kirsch goes through is that students often have misconceptions about the college experience for football players. One misconception that comes up often about these football players is that their school experience is perceived as very easy. Redshirt football players are exposed to brutal early morning workouts that test them through lifting and cardio exercises. Kirsch considers this to be the most overlooked part about being on the team
Kirsch appreciates those aspects of being a redshirt, but when it comes down to it, he came here for football. He has the desire to be out on the field as much as anybody else.
Overall Kirsch knows that this experience is one that is one to remember, redshirt or not. He trusts his teammates and enjoys football.
Down the line, the success this team could have has no limits with how the team is preparing through redshirts and with the kind of companionship that can be found between the players.