Fifth-year seniors Matt Johnson and Jamal Covington are trying to avoid thinking too far ahead about their final season on the Charlotte 49ers’ football team.
But even events like Saturday’s photo shoot and media day at Richardson Stadium make them realize this is their final year wearing that uniform.
“At the beginning of the year, we were thinking: ‘This is the first of the last,’ ” said Johnson, a running back who played quarterback his first three seasons. “But I really felt it when we finished our last team competition from summer workouts.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m never going to do that again.’ It is bittersweet, but there’s so much left to do that I’m just working it day by day.”
Johnson and Covington, an offensive lineman, are among 19 fifth-year seniors who have been with Charlotte’s football program since its inception in 2012, when they were redshirted as incoming freshmen.
They’ve been there for every practice during that non-playing 2012 season, and through the 49ers’ rise from Football Championship Subdivision independent to their second year as a Football Bowl Subdivision program and Conference USA member.
“Just being a part of this program, being a part of that first class, has been a tremendous opportunity,” Covington said.
“We’re the guys who laid the foundation. We’re looking to leave a legacy that’s going to last for the rest of this program’s history. … It’s about to be over soon, though.”
Even Charlotte coach Brad Lambert realizes what this season means, sitting for a photo with the 19 players after the team photo was made.
“Yeah, that’s a pretty cool picture,” Lambert said. “Those guys have experienced so many firsts in their careers … and now they’re getting to experience all of their ‘lasts.’
“It’s a bittersweet moment. You finally got here with them, and it’s going to be sad to see them walk out the door at the end of the year.”
▪ After four practice sessions the previous two days wearing light gear, the 49ers will begin full-contact drills with Monday’s practice.
▪ Charlotte will practice Monday through Friday, with a scrimmage in Richardson Stadium on Saturday. The weekday practices will begin at 6 p.m., and are open to the public. Saturday’s scrimmage will be a closed session.