QUINCY -- Jack Cornell appreciates and understands the history of the Quincy Notre Dame football program as well as anyone.
He became part of the story as a player and now gets the chance to write his own chapter as a coach.
Yet, Cornell wouldn't have such an opportunity if not for those who helped foster the growth of the game from the youth level moving forward. So as his first official practice as QND's head coach came to an end Monday evening, he gathered his team in the southwest corner of Advance Physical Therapy Field and summoned the two youth teams practicing on the adjacent grass field.
Cornell wanted to honor one of the proponents of youth football who recently passed away. So every player in the program, from the seniors down to the grade school students -- was given a sticker with the initials "RH" to place on the back of their helmets.
Ron Hinkamper, who helped build the YMCA tackle football league along with his brother, Ray, and was a longtime QND supporter, passed away in July.
Had he been there watching Cornell's first practice -- Hinkamper watched many practices over the years -- it would have been a safe bet the old coach would have walked away impressed.
The brisk tempo and spirited effort displayed by a relatively small group showcased Cornell's plan. There will be no wasted moments.
"We want to have every minute budgeted and accounted for," said Cornell, who was hired in March to replace Bill Connell, who resigned in February after 26 years at the helm. "If we have a 12-play script and we get done with those 12 plays before the time runs out, we're done. We move on to the next thing. That's kind of how I see it.
"We don't need to waste time sitting and talking. We're going to do plenty of that when we meet in the morning and sit in the classroom and slow things down."
The Raiders figured out the pace they must practice at relatively quickly.
"You have to get in there and you have to work if you want to succeed and do well," junior lineman Bo Paxton said. "Coach won't waste any time. If there is any second of time that can be used, he'll use it."
That was the case throughout the summer.
"We told them we were going to work hard," Cornell said. "They know how we practice going back to the summer camps and workouts, but these practices are longer than those. It wore on our guys with the heat and the amount of reps they were getting, but I have to commend their effort."
When all was said and done, Cornell had reason to be optimistic even with a varsity roster of just 37 players.
"We've done a great job all summer of establishing our priorities and establishing our rhythm," Cornell said. "It wasn't just another day, but it was very much in line with what we want to do."
There were no first-day jitters or butterflies. The reality he was in charge hit home during the summer. Monday's a-ha moment was realizing the first game at Lexington, Mo., is less than three weeks away.
"Certainly, today had more of a sense of urgency about it," Cornell said. "It's not summer ball anymore. It's for real."
That's what made the ice baths at the end of practice so satisfying.
"The first day is a bit tough getting back into the swing of things," Paxton said. "You can prepare all summer, but under (Coach Cornell), you have to be ready to work."
Cornell is confident he has a group of players who won't back down from that challenge.
"Our guys buy into the mindset them can overcome anything if they work hard," Cornell said.
That makes the bearded coach smile.
"It's fun. It's fun everyday," Cornell said. "Like I said, today was a different sense of urgency. It's a sense of urgency I've been waiting for, chomping at the bit for because it's football season now."