Ben Reppenhagen left Saint Thomas Academy just days after graduation and headed for Texas Christian University to join the football team as a preferred walk-on. In normal times, the acclimation to college life, athletics, and being on your own is a tall order; add in a worldwide pandemic and it complicates everything.
Reppenhagen has thoroughly enjoyed playing football for TCU and last week saw his first game-day action on the road versus Kansas State. As a freshman walk-on, getting minutes is rare and Reppenhagen was thrilled for the opportunity. He shared, “I didn’t think I would get to play, so when I did – it was crazy. I was really glad that my dad was able to be there to see me play too.” In fact, for this game, only parents were allowed in the stands. He said, “Honestly, it reminded me of my high school games because there were only parents in the stands. It definitely feels different to play a college game in front of limited crowds.”
COVID protocols are different from state to state and school to school. TCU home games allow for 20 percent of capacity. Reppenhagen said even with fans, you can still hear the opposing team’s coaches yelling from the sidelines.
College football during COVID has changed as well. Masks are required on the sidelines. Players are tested frequently – TCU players are tested Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:30 a.m. The season is week-to-week as you never know how many players will test positive or be out due to quarantine. All players need to be ready to go when their name is called.
The biggest surprise to adjusting to college football for Reppenhagen has been the physical toll on his body. “I knew the workload was going to be tough, but I didn’t factor in how long practices would be, position and team meetings, walk-throughs and then lifting,” he said. It has also been difficult to bond with teammates since no one can hang out and socialize.
Reppenhagen has kept in touch with his Cadet brothers, especially Jackson Smith ’20, who is at Kansas State also playing football. Facetiming family and friends have been key, but Reppenhagen looks forward to coming home to visit soon. The timing depends on if TCU makes a bowl game. It’s week-to-week!