Texas football players discuss pandemic life, playing this fall

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Sam Ehlinger said he has high hopes that college football’s return this fall will bring a sense of normalcy to the United States in 2020. However, his presumed final season as Texas’ starting quarterback will perhaps be the strangest one yet.

“We always have our masks on,” Ehlinger said in a Zoom teleconference Tuesday. “There’s never a time, besides when you have your helmet on, when you shouldn’t have your mask on.” 

This fall, the Longhorns are running a tight ship to maintain COVID-19 protocols set by the Big 12 and Texas Athletics. The team understands the impact that someone contracting the virus could have, so masks are always on and players are extra conscious of what they touch, Ehlinger said. Social distancing and sanitized hands have become a part of daily life.

“You can’t take your foot off the gas with the virus,” Ehlinger said.

The discipline the Longhorns show off the field should protect them from the virus and increase their chances of getting through an entire football season, which is a goal shared by the staff and players on the team, head coach Tom Herman said Monday. 

However, dozens of college football players around the country have chosen not to play this fall in the name of staying healthy and focusing on the NFL Draft. While junior offensive lineman Samuel Cosmi shows considerable NFL potential, he said opting out of the season never crossed his mind, mainly because he wants to close out his Texas career with his teammates.

“For me, it’s the guys,” Cosmi said in a Tuesday teleconference. “They mean a lot to me. The guys that came in 2017, not a lot of people gave us a chance. We were looked at as underdogs. There’s a good majority of the guys that come from that class that are playing here today and (are) top guys and top leaders, and those are the guys I want to continue to finish off (with).”

 

Junior safety Caden Sterns said he’s doing what he can to ensure a successful football season because he feels he still has more to prove. Sterns sat out several games last season due to injury, and losing the 3rd and 17 play against LSU last fall is still something he thinks about.

“I never thought about opting out,” Sterns said in Tuesday’s teleconference. “For one, because I have things to prove obviously to myself. And how things were last year, I could’ve been better.”

Sterns said he has goals of winning a Big 12 championship this year, so he’s laser-focused on the season. However, with classes and football resuming amid the pandemic and ongoing racial injustice issues unfolding, Sterns said it’s important for him to get away from it all.

“I like to play Warzone, play some Call of Duty,” Sterns said. “There’s definitely time to get away, and I think that’s very important because this pandemic made people spend a lot of time with themselves that they’re probably not used to and made them deal with some of the things they probably didn’t want to deal with. But doing things that ease your mind definitely helps.”