Success is not always measured in wins and losses, though the Texas Wesleyan University Rams hope to have more of the former and less of the latter in their 2018 season.
But the 2017 season, despite a 1-10 record, was considered a success nonetheless by most. The Rams’ return to college football after a 76-year hiatus found a warm welcome.
“It was a great learning experience and I feel that we will have a much better idea of what we need to do to be successful,” head coach Joe Prud’homme said.
Prud’homme was recruited to be the Rams head coach after he won seven state championships at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, which plays in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.
Prud’homme knew a big challenge was in front of him, but he took the job eager to bring glory to the reborn program. The Rams played their home games this year in historic Farrington Field, the same stadium in which they played decades ago when their final home game was a 39-0 homecoming win over Trinity.
At the home opener, members of the Texas Wesleyan Choir sang the national anthem before kickoff. At halftime, Fort Worth Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray issued a proclamation, and former students from as long ago as the 1940s, such as Curtis Blair (1947) and Elaine Doyle (1945) – who was also celebrating her 92nd birthday – were recognized. Jerry Gilbreath, a 1992 graduate, won the inaugural halftime football toss contest.
More than 4,500 people turned out for the historic occasion. And though the Rams lost, 29-13, to Millsaps College from Jackson, Mississippi, Prud’homme called it one of two highlights of the season. The other was a 21-14 loss to Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. The Rams led that game 7-6 late in the third quarter.
The lone victory was a forfeit by Wayland Baptist of Plainview, which used an ineligible player in a 54-24 win at Farrington Field.
Also during the season, junior cornerback Parrish Dixon-Smith was named the Central States Football League Defensive Player of the Week. He had two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, against Wayland Baptist on Oct. 28.
Three members of the Rams received All-CSFL honors.
Junior running back Jermarcus Jones was named to the second team. He rushed for 713 yards to lead the team (second in the conference), including back-to-back 100-yard performances against Lyon and Wayland Baptist. He also became the first Ram to rush for a touchdown and catch a touchdown in the same game.
Freshmen Matthew Shelby and Byron Tate were honorable mentions. Shelby, a defensive lineman, posted 49 tackles, including 13 for a loss. Tate, a defensive end, had 18 tackles, 6.5 for a loss, and three sacks.
In addition, freshman defensive end Dylan Briscoe and junior offensive lineman Andreu Kirby were named to the CSFL Champions of Character Team. This consists of players who exemplify the five core values of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which are integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership.
Several Rams also earned academic all-conference honors, which include having a 3.0 grade point average and completing at least 12 hours of coursework at their current position. They are Briscoe, freshman quarterback Justin Arth, freshman linebacker Tristen Blake, freshman offensive lineman Brandon Brown, sophomore quarterback Kane Hardin, sophomore linebacker Jamus Hernandez, sophomore quarterback Trey Jackson, freshman linebacker Geary Jones, freshman safety Demarcus Nixon, freshman quarterback Colby Reed, junior quarterback Erik Richards, sophomore safety Marcus Smith, junior linebacker Vincent Stephenson, sophomore fullback James Yarborough, and sophomore linebacker Jamarkus Wilson.
Prud’homme said the Rams reached several goals this season.
“We built a good foundation and were competitive in most of our games,” he said. “The attendance and excitement surrounding the program was outstanding and surpassed my expectations.”
As for 2018, he said, “We have to build around our core group through recruiting and get our guys stronger. We need to have a faster offense and be more physical overall. We want take a big step in the conference and be a factor.”
Prud’homme said the atmosphere among the fans was “outstanding” and “the campus atmosphere has been great.”
“I really appreciate everybody that had a hand in making the first season special,” he said. “Hang in there with us, we have plans to make this program great and are taking those steps to do so.”