There is a countdown clock on the East Tennessee State University football web site.
It ticks down to the 2015 opening kickoff for the school’s revamped football program. After nearly 12 years without a football program, the Bucs only have 219 more days until they play Maryville College on Sept. 10.
If Northwestern senior Chris Bouyer has his own countdown clock, it has a much shorter span of time remaining, about 10 days. Feb. 4 is when the Shrine Bowl defensive end plans to sign a full football scholarship with the Bucs, joining their restarted program in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
Bouyer committed during an official visit to the Johnson City, Tenn.-based school last weekend. He said he loved everything about the situation, but “especially the coaches. They wanted the best for me, the best for my mom and wanted the best for my sister and I just really appreciated that.” Bouyer and his mother, Gwen Crouch, got an eyeful of the city as they descended out of the Cherokee National Forest in the final stretch of the drive from Rock Hill.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I was looking at all the mountains and stuff and then we rolled into a huge city and I just fell in love with it,” he recalled. “I even experienced some snow.”
Bouyer’s commitment follows a solid senior season. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder started for the South Carolina Shrine Bowl squad in the annual all-star game against North Carolina back in December, and was also an All-Area selection. He recorded 6.5 sacks and 66 tackles this season for the Trojans from his defensive end position, though he said that East Tennessee State coaches were interested in him playing in the middle of the defensive line at tackle.
East Tennessee State’s program was disbanded in 2003 for financial reasons after 90-plus seasons, but the school resurrected the program in 2013. Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer has helped rebuild Bucs football as a consultant, while former North Carolina coach Carl Torbush is leading the reborn program as its head coach. Torbush was also the head coach at Louisiana Tech and has been the defensive coordinator at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kansas, Texas A&M and Alabama. At UNC he ushered a slew of defensive linemen into the NFL ranks, a number he added to at every coaching stop.
“First of all he’s a good man,” said Bouyer, “and he really emphasized about men. And he believes that this program, going through the struggle of coming back and opening the eyes of many people, that we’re just going to be an excellent team and that this program will build men and good character.”
The Bucs won’t play a full Southern Conference schedule for a few years but will face Charleston Southern, Mercer and Gardner-Webb in their first full season back this fall, along with a number of schools from Division II and lower. An on-campus stadium is in the works so the Bucs will play this fall at Science Hill High School, the alma mater of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.
Bouyer also considered Campbell, which he visited two weeks ago, and Elon. His 4.5 grade point average was one of the highest on the Northwestern team this season and he’s leaning toward majoring in construction engineering. He spoke with professors in his prospective major on Saturday during a tour of the school that only confirmed his initial positive impression of the whole place.
“Even my mom loved it,” said Bouyer.
That might have been an understatement.
“She really loved it,” Bouyer clarified, adding that she was checking out an ornate local hotel built in the 1890s for longer stays in the future. “She loved the fact it was only three hours away and actually she was talking to me on the way back from East Tennessee State ‘oh maybe I’m gonna have to stay in the Carnegie Hotel to see my baby play football.’”
Go ahead and book that room Ms. Crouch; The clock is ticking.