Written By: Shane Thomas
Despite stifling heat and weather dangers, fans braved the conditions to “Meet the Blazers” on Sunday at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
The VSU Blazers football team, the Red Hots dance team and cheerleading squad conducted clinics and signed autographs for fans.
“Meet the Blazers goes back a long way—way before I got here,” Ric Sisler, VSU director of marketing and promotions, said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase our community affairs and our athletic program.”
David Dean, VSU head football coach, praised fans for enduring the weather and declared the event was fun for all programs involved.
“I was impressed with the number (of people) that showed up,” Dean said. “We had a heat advisory in Valdosta, so I think that scared a lot of people away. We had a lot of kids that were there—both for the cheerleading part and for the football part. We appreciated all of them coming out. Our players had a great time and it was a lot of fun.”
As Dean explained, “Meet the Blazers” gives players the chance to connect with the fans and show their appreciation.
“For us to be successful, we have to have the backing of the community,” Dean said. “Any time we can give back to the community who supports us, we’re going to do that. That’s what that day was all about—being a role model and spending time with folks they would never have an opportunity to spend time with otherwise.”
Sisler admitted that scheduling and extreme temperatures were big hurdles for Sunday’s festivities but was pleased overall.
“For football, we would ordinarily have it the weekend before the season starts,” Sisler said. “We’ve tried to do it on Labor Day weekend and it was not good—people were out of town and it was not well-attended.
“This year was probably the worst [time] due to the extremely high temperatures, which was a potentially dangerous situation and obviously, we had lightning. Nonetheless, we were pleased with the folks that did turn out. While it was not as big as it has been, we look forward to having the next one.”
“Last year, we got off to a really good start and then didn’t finish very good,” Dean said. “Three of our first four games are against defending conference champions—that’s a great way to start because you’re tested right off the bat. We can’t afford a slow start and we’ve got to be able to put everything together in a hurry.”
The Blazers, who finished with a 6-4 record last season, start their season against the Albany State Rams on Sept. 6.