“If someone would have told me I was going to go to Arizona Christian University, I probably would have laughed at them. I didn’t even know it was a school,” Arizona Christian University team captain and quarterback Gerrit Groenewold confessed while addressing the media at the football team’s inaugural media day.
Oh, how things can change in the course of eight months.
Arizona Christian football has since joined the NAIA, created a ten-game schedule, filled out a roster of 91 players, and will play their first game in the school’s history on August 23rd.
“It’s difficult to take and make something out of nothing, especially something as significant as a college football program. We’re all proud of the effort that’s been undertaken by everyone who’s been involved,” University President Len Munsil said.
ACU has quickly gained traction as an option for players who may want to continue to play football, but cannot cut it at the Division-I level, specifically in Arizona. 71 players come from the Valley.
“My commitment is Arizona football,” Arizona Christian Head Football Coach Donnie Yantis said when addressing the media. “We’re going to win with Arizona kids. I’m very proud to say this is the first and only university in Arizona that is a true Arizona football student-athlete university”.
Yantis and his coaching staff have received a helping hand from Arizona State Head Football Coach Todd Graham and Deputy Head Coach Mike Norvell. They have gone over film with the ACU coaching staff, and Yantis has modeled the offense similarly to the Sun Devils. Yantis said the team has plenty of depth, but their roster, which includes 52 true freshmen, lacks experience.
“We’re going to be young, but I don’t make excuses. We’re gong to compete every single week. We’re going to compete and our goal is to win football games. They hired me to bring in a character-based program into this university and win”.
The Firestorm does have the luxury of playing their first two games at home, located at Shadow Mountain High School. Playing at home early will, according to Yantis, help continue to build momentum for the program.
“(The players) don’t know a lot of people in the university, so getting the student-base there is important. To build that sense of community in our first game, in our first week, is going to be great for our university. Not so much with our team, but with our university,” Yantis said.
The Firestorm open their inaugural season on August 23rd against Evangel University.