Athletes from all of UCA’s sports teams and fans came together on August 10 to kickoff UCA’s 2021-22 football season at the Conway Regional Health System’s Off the Clock: Purple Passion event.
“We love it when our teams are playing at home with the visitors that come here, and so that’s why we like to do this and introduce the community to all the student athletes,” said Conway Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Brad Lacy
Posters were provided for fans to get autographs from any and all players, and UCA themed stress balls were given out at the entrance. The dance team and cheerleaders brought out their extra UCA temporary tattoos and helped children put them on to get in the spirit.
Head football coach Nathan Brown was also in attendance and interacting with fans.
“If you’re here tonight, I assume you bleed purple. I know I do, and that’s what makes this place so special,” Brown said.
After the allotted time for autographs was over, the children in attendance were encouraged to play games with UCA athletes. Each team had a zone with an activity corresponding to their sport.
“You guys get to know these young men and women. They’re phenomenal, they work hard and they do it all for you,” Brown said.
Brown addressed newer COVID guidelines when talking about the upcoming in-state game against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
“Let’s make sure we continue to do our part with COVID...whether it’s getting the vaccine or staying six feet apart, do your part so we can enjoy football and sports,” Brown said.
The football team plans on blocking off Bruce St. and encouraging fans to come and tailgate before the game.
The university has moved to the ASUN conference, bringing more competition to the athletic teams, something both coaches and players are excited about.
“For this upcoming season, we’re trying to chase the ultimate goal of a national championship. We’re stepping up, and we’ve got to bring it,” said freshman running back Kylin James.
The Purple Passion event was also a way to get the freshmen athletes involved with fans. Freshmen from all teams were included in the autograph signing portion of the event, and the cheer and dance teams had large groups of freshmen interacting with fans.
“We’ve got an amazing group of returners, and we brought in an incredible class as well, so it’s going to be a great season,” said interim head track and field coach Beau Theriot.
UCA’s athletic director Brad Teague ensured fans that the university was just as excited as they are about the upcoming sport seasons.
“We’re so excited about our fall sports. Certainly this fall is going to be tremendous for us,” Teague said.
Lake Liquor of Maumelle presented the event, and several local restaurants catered to athletes and fans as a part of the Sam’s Club Tailgate Wars. The first football game will be held September 4 at Arkansas State University in Jonesborough.