Tuesday was another day of grueling practice for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders.
Outside the small community, this Division III school normally flies under the radar, but the football players there are now on a much bigger stage.
"You act like you're playing big time ball,” Montana Duncan, Mary Hardin-Baylor’s offensive lineman, said. “It's one of the best stadiums in D3 football."
In September, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor football team played their inaugural game in the new Crusader Stadium. The multi-million dollar venue, which billionaire Drayton McLane Jr. helped fund, has energized the team and their loyal fans.
"The first night was absolutely magical,” Pete Fredenburg, Mary Hardin-Baylor’s head football coach, said. “The whole atmosphere was electric."
The new stadium, located right on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor campus, can hold more than 8,000 fans – a big change from the team’s previous home, the local high school stadium.
"The thing that I've always loved about playing in your own stadium is just having the fans and the students," Fredenburg said. "They've taken such a big interest and a keen interest of not just supporting the team but being a part of it."
The first game on Sept. 21 was a memorable experience for fans, players and coaches. As more than 9,000 people packed the stadium, many said seeing the team play on a bigger stage has changed their view of the Crusaders.
"They look like super stars out there,” Hallie Holden, a University of Mary Hardin-Baylor student, said. “People were on their feet the entire game. I've never seen a D3 football game like that before. It did not feel like a D3 football game. I loved it."
The Crusaders are undefeated so far in the 2013 season. Their next game is against Louisiana College on Oct. 19.