It's been a long time coming for Mike Schmidt.
After being hired as head coach of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse football team in February, Schmidt said the time leading up to Sunday's first day of practice felt like two days at times, and two years at others.
"We've been waiting a long time," he said with a smile.
There was a mix of emotions as 146 players and a handful of new coaches opened camp at Roger Harring Stadium. The roster will be cut down to 105 before the season-opener on September 3 at Luther College.
"I get one more shot to play the game that I love with a bunch of people that I love," senior center Ellis Johnson said. "It feels fantastic, there's no other way to describe it. It's fun."
"Everyone here's excited, just ready to turn it back around and get this program back to where it used to be," said senior wide receiver Sam Zwieg.
UW-L returns 19 starters and 47 letter winners this season, including all five starters from the offensive line. Five All-WIAC honorees are back, including junior defensive back Ryan Weber and junior linebacker Noah Risch.
Four assistant coaches are new to the staff in 2016. Jake Landry will serve as offensive coordinator, while former Holmen High School football coach Steve King and Bob Lichty will serve as defensive assistants. Dylan Ramsey will serve as a defensive intern.