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Playing with the big boys
Eagles meet fans, kids on day of fun
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Jacob Todd, five, scowls as he gets into a three-point stance under the guidance of Georgia Southern football players T.J. Watkins, right, and Jerry Barker during Meet the Eagles Day at Paulson Stadium Saturday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

GSU Fan Day

Eagles make new friends and fans at Paulson Stadium for Meet the Eagles Day.

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    With just under three weeks to go until the season opener against West Georgia on Sept. 8, the Georgia Southern Eagles took some time to introduce themselves to Statesboro Saturday at Paulson Stadium for the annual Meet the Eagles Day.
    First-year coach Chris Hatcher made a new addition to the festivities with the Little Eagle camp, where kids came out bright and early to receive a little coaching from the team.
    Players ran drills, worked on passing and catching, and taught some fundamentals to about 160 local children from 9:30 a.m until around 11, Saturday on the grass at Paulson.
    “It was a little different from last year,” said multi-position standout Jayson Foster. “We came out this year and had the morning camp, which is a little bit cooler than going out at 12 o’clock.
    “Kids were out there, making great catches out there, diving catches. It was a lot of fun.”
    Foster worked on some football fundamentals with the kids; passing, catching and running routes — but that wasn’t all.
    “We were working on end zone dances there for a second.”
    The camp was another new addition Hatcher brought with him from Valdosta State, where he tried out the idea a year ago.
    “We started it in Valdosta last year and had a great turnout,” said Hatcher. “It was a good way for our players and the community to interact with one another, so we decided to do that when we got here as well.”
    According to Hatcher, the day was a success all around.
    “I think we had a good crowd,” Hatcher said. “I don’t have anything to compare it too, because this is my first time I’ve ever done it at Georgia Southern, but everybody seemed to be very positive, which is big to our success at bringing this program back to where it once was.
    “Hopefully next year it will be larger — you always want more people to show up, because that means you have more opportunities to get to know people and invite them to the ballgames.”
    After the camp, the team moved into the Bishop Field House where players and coaches spent about two hours signing autographs and introducing themselves to a large crowd that lined up out the door and wrapped around the building.
    “I love things like this,” said defensive lineman Larry Beard after he finished up with the last of his autographs. “It lets you know what people in the community think about the football program here. By the looks of it, they really, really enjoy our program.”
    Quarterback Travis Clark couldn’t agree more.
    “It really shocked us,” he said. “A lot of people came out today. You’ve got all the boosters and all those people. A lot of people traveled a long way to come see us.
    “It’s always fun to see them kids with a smile on their face. It’s good to come out here and mess around with them and play around. That’s the whole point of football — to have fun.”
    Even the players got their families involved in the day’s festivities. Sharon Lewis-Durham, mother of offensive lineman Thomas Lewis, brought some youngsters out to enjoy the day. The grinning children — son Devin Durham and grandson Cameron Griffin — left with posters full of autographs.
    “We had a ball. It’s just wonderful,” said Lewis-Durham. “This is our second year, we’re all excited, we’re hyped up and ready to go!”

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.