It’s a fitting phrase for a program which, for the past few seasons, has had talent but finished just outside the FCIAC’s top tier of teams.
As the Bears get set to enter the next era of Norwalk football under new head coach Pat Miller, those giants have had to wait just a bit longer to awaken.
With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down school until at least May 20 and possibly until the fall, teams have had to adjust during a spring season in which they’d typically be getting ready for the next campaign.
For Miller, who is still in the process of getting to know his new team, it’s made the process unique, to put it mildly.
“There’s no book on how to deal with this,” said Miller, the offensive coordinator for Sheehan’s state championship team last fall. “We’re all just trying to figure it out and it’s a level playing field because every team is in the same boat with it.”
That doesn’t mean the Bears haven’t had time to get to know each other. Just like school classes have moved online, they’ve taken to their computers and tablets to communicate.
So they’ve been together — just not physically.
“We’ve been having a standing Zoom appointment every Thursday at 7 o’clock,” Miller said. “One of our receivers, Austin Hall, came up with the idea and asked if we could just get on and talk. We’re not talking X’s and O’s or playbook and things like that. We’re still in the get-to-know-you phase. We’re just sitting, relaxing, shooting the breeze and getting to know each other.”
In some ways, the players may have become even closer and their coach has gotten to know them better.
With no on-field plays or drills to deal with, the personalities shine through, friendships grow, and the team’s bond becomes stronger.
The coach, for one, has enjoyed what he’s seen.
“They’ve been really fun,” Miller said of the players. “I look forward to getting on all week, just to see those guys and see them interact. A lot of times, I’m just sitting back and listening to them crack jokes on each other and all that. I’m just trying to be around them when we can’t be around each other.”
Miller was named the Bears’ head coach in January, after he helped create a prolific offense while at Sheehan, his alma mater. His time with the Titans culminated with a 64-33 victory over Bloomfield in the Class S championship last fall.
Norwalk has several players who should fit right in Miller’s offensive wheelhouse, including running back Cam Edwards, the team’s leading rusher, and receivers Hall, Lomorris House and AJ Robinson, who combined for 70 catches, 1,200 yards and 12 receiving TDs last fall.
“We’ve got a ton of really good playmakers all over the field, which is exciting for me, being an offensive guy,” Miller said. “I really can’t wait to get out there with those kids, interact with them, and see what they can do. It’ll be exciting to see what these kids’ strengths really are, and you don’t get to see that until you get to practice.”
With social distancing continuing a bit longer, the Bears will keep meeting online, staying in touch, and bonding as teammates.
In the end, the unique experience could create even more team unity.
“With a generation that’s been so criticized for being on their phones all the time and not being social, it’s amazing to me to see how much they actually crave being social and that interaction,” Miller said. “They can’t wait to be back together again. We’ll see how close this has pulled us together when we get back, but you can see that happening.
“As of right now, spirits are good.”