DOVER — Nothing had changed — not outwardly anyway.
From inside Wesley College’s football locker room came the sound of players laughing and the clang of lockers being slammed shut.
The players still wandered out to the field in twos and threes, their cleats clacking on the short stretch of asphalt.
And one of the Wolverine quarterbacks was still the first one out on the turf, waiting for someone to snap him the ball.
There was no sign on Tuesday that this group had just found out it has no football future together any more beyond this spring.
On Monday, the players were told that Wesley is shutting down its athletic programs at the end of the school year. The Wolverines had already been preparing for a short spring football season after having their fall slate canceled by the pandemic.
Coach Chip Knapp left it up to the players whether they wanted to keep practicing or not. He’d know by the turnout on Tuesday how many wanted to keep going.
By the looks of it, just about everybody on the team was there.
“I wouldn’t expect less from these guys,” said offensive lineman Brandon Bradford, a St. Georges High grad. “These guys are all here for a reason — they love to play football. We’re just going to make the best out of the situation we’ve got.”
“Everybody’s definitely here to finish what we started — and what Coach (Mike) Drass started,” said receiver Mike Credle, a Glasgow High grad. “We’re all here because we love the game of football. Whatever chances we get, we’ll definitely do whatever it takes.”
Monday’s news didn’t come as a complete surprise to Wesley’s players. They knew the program’s future was up in the air after the summer announcement that Wesley was becoming part of Delaware State.
Still, that didn’t make it any harder to hear.
“It’s like you kind of hear about it but it’s never for sure,” said Credle. “But then, when it’s for sure, it’s like, OK, what are the steps to moving forward?
“Right now, we have these spring games in front of us. That’s the main focus right now. ... just coming together as a team and working hard.”
“It was a lot to take in all at once,” said Bradford. “It was kind of a slap in the face. I wasn’t excepting it. I really didn’t want it to happen. It was always in the back of my mind.
“It is what it is. It’s out of our power. There’s nothing we can do.”
The harsh reality for all Wesley’s coaches is now they have to help tear down the programs they helped build up. They will do what they can to help their players find new schools to finish their careers.
Knapp has been a Wesley football coach for over three decades. He said he heard from coaches at other schools after the news started circulating on Monday.
“I’ve been inundated with college coaches asking do we have any players,” said Knapp.
“We use the word ‘transformational’ — taking our guys from where they are when they show up to where they want to be,” he said. “And we’re going to stick to that. We’re going to be here as long as we can to help them continue their journey, wherever that is.
“We can be a great resource for these guys and help them on their next step. That’s our plan.”
As Bradford pointed out, playing some games this spring will give guys a chance to put together some more film to show recruiters.
Credle and Bradford still have two seasons of eligibility remaining. They know they want to keep playing somewhere.
“I’ve been in contact with a couple of them (schools),” said Bradford. “I’m going to get on the field no matter how.”
On Tuesday afternoon, though, the two players still considered themselves to be Wesley football players. That’s why they were there on Drass Field.
“There’s nothing like it,” Bradford said about being together as a team. “I knew every single guy out here was going to show up today. I had no doubt of that.”
“We’re all brothers, we’re all here for each other,” said Credle. “We have one common goal, and that’s to win these games and finish off strong.
“Right now, for me, I’m a Wesley football player,” he said. “We have spring games to win. I’m all in, right here, right now.”