WATERVILLE — There’s always excitement surrounding the first practice of the season, no matter the sport. When the Colby College football team took the field Monday morning for its first practice of the season, that excitement was amplified by the man running the show.

Jack Cosgrove, who was head coach of the University of Maine football team for more than 20 years before retiring following the 2015 season, enters his first season as coach of the Mules.

“We’re flying around the field this year. There’s definitely high energy. It’s a change of pace with Coach Cos coming in. Everyone’s really pumped up for this year,” senior running back Jake Schwern said after Monday’s practice. “I think he can teach us a lot. It’s definitely a new way of doing things around here. We’ve D. one-ified our schedule a little bit.”

Cosgrove chuckled when told Schwern’s comment.

Colby linebacker Sebastien Philemon (45) tries to break up a pass intended for running back Chris George during practice Monday in Waterville. Staff photo by Travis Lazarczyk

“I can say this: I can remember hearing a couple times on my interview this is a Division III program and we’d like to give them a Division I experience. It’s the only way I know how to do things,” Cosgrove said. “I’ve spent so much time up north (in Orono), 29 years on the football field, this is how I am. If that’s how he felt about it, all right. Let’s go. Let’s keep it up.”

Colby opens the season September 15 at home against defending New England Small College Athletic Conference champion Trinity. The Mules went 1-8 last season, and haven’t had a winning season since 2005. Senior linebacker Sebastien Phileom said Monday’s opening practice was meant to set the tone for the rebuild.

“There was so much buzz around this practice. I mean, Coach Cosgrove said it day one, we’re not going to have a better practice than today. Everyone’s excited. Everyone’s fresh. No one could wait for the season to start, so it’s really good to be back,” Philemon said.

“Practice one, if you could bottle that, the energy and the enthusiasm, the excitement is at its max. Guys have trained all summer to come out here and see how productive they can be. It was really good to see that. We expected it,” Cosgrove said. “There were a lot of good things that happened, and a lot of mistakes. That’s what coaching is, it’s correcting things we’ve got to get better at.”

The excitement on the practice field has been felt throughout the program since Cosgrove was hired right after Christmas, Schwern said.

“The energy is the biggest thing. Lifts, meetings, everything is high energy, and that’s great to see,” Schwern said.

Philemon said the mindset of the Mules remains the same, even as everything around it has changed. A new team, a new head coach, even a new Mule logo on the helmet rather than the traditional “C” Colby worn for years. Some changes are subtle, and those help foster the mindset to be positive and make and impact, Philemon said.

“You’re seeing a lot more younger guys tuned in than before. The older guys are all on the same page. There’s no divide on our team, athletically (or) culturally. Everyone’s on the same page, and that’s definitely something we’ve lacked before, and we’re just happy to have it now,” Philemon said.

Colby football coach Jack Cosgrove, left, looks on as Moises Celaya (12) punts during practice Monday in Waterville. Staff photo by Travis Lazarczyk

Coming off 12 consecutive seasons in which the high was three seasons of .500 football, the Mules know they have to change. Cosgrove is eager to guide that progress.

“This is a group of young men, they want to change results of the past. We keep saying we’ve just got to change our ways. We have to go about things differently. I think we’re on the road to doing that,” Cosgrove said. “You want the guys to know there’s never going to be a dull moment in this game. There’s always going to be a challenge. There’s going to be a time, perhaps, you’re defeated in an individual rep and you’ve got to bounce back. Those are the kind of things you want to see, a guy get back up on his feet.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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