MACOMB, Ill. - Western Illinois went under the lights on Thursday night (April 12) for the 11th session of spring football practice. The Leathernecks got a two hour workout in at Hanson Field, starting at 7:30 p.m.
With the six home game kickoff times announced, Western is guaranteed at least three games under the lights in 2012, and three more start times yet to be determined. Head coach Mark Hendrickson noted the importance of getting work in at night when possible.
"Anytime you get in the environment you're going to play in, it can pay off down the road. We will do that some in fall camp as well, and of course in game weeks. You like the players to be comfortable with the game time situation and feel at ease with it. Every now and then during the spring and during next fall's camp we will mix in a night practice."
During the night practice, Western ran 35-40 plays with live tackling.
The Leathernecks will take three days off - their longest stretch of spring drills - and finish with a flurry the final week going four times (starting Monday), capped by the annual Bruce Craddock Memorial spring game on Saturday, April 21.
Fans can renew their season ticket orders, or purchase new season tickets at the game.
NFL LOCKER ROOM DISPLAY COMPLETE: The Leatherneck Football program has built a reputation of sending players onto the National Football League. Past players and coaches have accounted for 17 Super Bowl championships, and Western has had a representative on every NFL team but one (Houston Texans).
To showcase the proud NFL tradition, Western created a NFL board now on display in the locker room. Every Leatherneck on record that has appeared on a NFL team is listed under the team logo and the years they played.
In addition to the display next to the strength and conditioning room, notable Leatherneck alumni in the professional football ranks have a giant action picture above the lockers.
Head coach Mark Hendrickson, who has seen several Leathernecks suit up in the NFL during his tenure at Western, described the importance of highlighting the standouts from past years.
"The new NFL display in our locker room is excellent for a number of reasons. One being, there's no question it's a great motivating factor. There are a lot of Leathernecks that have outstanding NFL careers. Every time those players walk into the locker room they see that beautiful display," said Hendrickson. "The tradition, the history of Leatherneck Football is certainly well-known and well-understood by each of our players. But to have a visible reminder... one it's very attractive and more important than that it means a lot to our current players to see that, not to mention this fall when the former players return. They are going to love seeing their name on that board."
SCIFRES RANKED AS ELITE PUNTER: Western Illinois All-American Mike Scifres finished his ninth season with the San Diego Chargers, and the starting punter was highlighted in a recent article by the Bleacher Report.
Scifres, who averaged a personal-best 47.5 yards per punt last season (good for seventh in the NFL), was ranked as the No. 2 overall punter in the NFL by the website. Based on various statistical criteria, Scifres was second among all the 32 starting punters in the league. In 492 career punts, he owns a 44.8 average (38.5 net avg) with 197 landing inside the 20-yard line.
He still holds the Missouri Valley Football Conference record for career punt average at 43.35 yards.
LEATHERNECKS MAKING IMPACT IN ARENA LEAGUE: The Arena Football League is four weeks into the season and three Leathernecks are playing a big role in the Chicago Rush's (Twitter @ArenaRush) league-leading 4-0 record.
Quarterback Russ Michna, two-time Gateway Conference (now Missouri Valley Football Conference) Offensive Player of the Year, has thrown 26 touchdowns to only three interceptions this season. He ranks seventh in the AFL in passing (279.0 ypg) and fifth in efficiency (122.3).
Wide receiver/defensive back Reggie Gray leads the league with 15 touchdown receptions. He ranks eighth averaging 106.2 receiving yards per game. Fullback/linebacker JJ Payne leads the Rush with 48 rushing yards and has three total touchdowns.
The Iowa Barnstormers (@iabarnstormers) own a 2-2 record this season. Marco Thomas ranks second on the team with 28 receptions totaling 334 yards and scored four total touchdowns.
Defensively, Patrick Stoudamire ranks 10th in the AFL with five pass break-ups for the 1-3 Spokane Shock (@TheSpokaneShock). He enters this weekend 14th in the league averaging 6.3 tackles per game.
MOBILE APP AVAILABLE FOR LEATHERNECK ATHLETICS: Western Illinois fans can download the mobile app for Leatherneck Athletics, available for free in the Google Play store for Android phones and iTunes store for iPhones and iPads. A premium app for on-demand video and live audio is also available for download.
TWITTER UPDATES THROUGHOUT PRACTICE: Fans can follow Western Illinois Athletics on Twitter (@WIUAthletics) for updates and notes throughout spring football practice.
Spring Practice Schedule (Days and times subject to change)
#12 Monday, April 16 (Shells), 4:30 p.m.
#13 Wednesday, April 18 (Shells), 4:30 p.m.
#14 Friday, April 20 (Helmets), 4:30 p.m.
#15 Saturday, April 21 - Bruce Craddock Memorial Spring Game, 2 p.m.