Football is back at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth with the Rams holding their first spring scrimmage at Farrington Field on Saturday. pmoseley@star-telegram.com
Football is back at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth with the Rams holding their first spring scrimmage at Farrington Field on Saturday. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Football

Texas Wesleyan spring game marks football’s official return for fans, alums

Special to the Star-Telegram

April 22, 2017 6:57 PM

If seeing is one’s standard for believing, Saturday went a long way for Texas Wesleyan’s nascent football program.

The school’s Blue-Gold spring football game at Fort Worth’s Farrington Field, site of the university’s last home game in 1941, marked the official return of the state’s favorite sports pastime to the venerable campus on Rosedale Street for the first time in 76 years.

A crowd estimated at 2,500 turned out to watch what ultimately was a dress rehearsal and debut of the cheer and dance squads, the band, a public address announcer who has already mastered the delivery of defensive end Ucheoma Oparaochaekue’s name, and Wilamae, the student mascot.

And, of course, the main attraction, the football team, which includes, we found out, “The Russian Missile.”

Gleb Beliaev brought his football dreams to the land of opportunity from northwest Russia, that part of the federation bounded by Finland, the Arctic, the Volga River and the Ural Mountains.

In Russia, there are good people, but we don’t smile everywhere, every time. In America, everyone is smiling.

Wesleyan receiver Gleb Beliaev, dubbed the “Russian Missile,” who caught the first touchdown pass in the Rams’ spring scrimmage

That he hauled in the Gold’s first TD pass, from freshman Jake Kemp of Decatur, in the offense’s 14-0 victory, wasn’t much of a surprise to him. That he has a new nickname appeared to take him aback.

“Russian missile? Well, I am from Russia,” he said as he looked upon his inquisitor curiously.

Beliaev arrived in the states all alone. He came with no family, just himself, knowing very little — more closer to nothing at all — of English.

In eight months, he has learned to communicate and learn of the dreams and disappointments of America.

“The first two months it was difficult to understand American culture, and it was too hot,” he said. “People in America, they are polite. In Russia, there are good people, but we don’t smile everywhere, every time.

“In America, everyone is smiling.”

And Beliaev is learning Wesleyan’s system.

“I love Gleb. He’s a great kid with a great personality,” coach Joe Prud’homme said. “He’s done what he can to be here. There’s a big learning curve, but he catches the ball, runs good routes, and he ‘wants to.’ He wants to here real bad, and that’s a big part of it.”

In Russia, there are good people, but we don’t smile everywhere, every time. In America, everyone is smiling.

Wesleyan receiver Gleb Beliaev, dubbed the “Russian Missile,” who caught the first touchdown pass in the Rams’ spring scrimmage

Kind of like Texas Wesleyan and football. The university leadership wanted to have it real bad.

So far, the move is paying off.

Enrollment is up and there is a new spirit among the collegians and alumni, particularly during this weekend’s alumni reunion.

“It’s amazing,” said Glen Tuggle, president of the alumni association. “The excitement from Day One has really revitalized the campus and built that college atmosphere that everyone wants. It’s already done that.

“And it has enthused the alumni unbelievably. This has been our best reunion ever, and I think it’s because of football.”

Prud’homme gave a preliminary grade of “sloppy” to his team’s performance. The execution on offense was iffy, but that’s to be expected, he said, for the first time out. The defense was better than the offense, he said.

The last time Wesleyan held a spring practice in 1941, 30 turned out for workouts. Ninety were on hand this spring.

In 1941 a newspaper headline said of coach Gus Miller that spring, “Gus needs linemen.”

90 Players at the Wesleyan spring scrimmage. The last time Wesleyan held a spring practice, in 1941, 30 turned out for workouts.

And so does Joe Prud’homme on the offensive line, but he thinks they’re coming.

“We have a lot of good ones coming, and we’re excited about,” Prud’homme said. “All in all, it was good to get them out.”

The next time Wesleyan plays at Farrington, it will be the real thing, the home opener on Sept. 9 against Millsaps.

By then everyone will be more fluent, the players in their roles, and Gleb Beliaev with English. He’ll know when an opponent is trash-talking. He’ll probably even be able to reply in pointed American slang.

He might even embrace his new nickname.

As for the Texas Wesleyan, he already loves the place, no doubt ready at a moment’s notice to bellow “Hail to thee, dear Texas Wesleyan, from the heart I give my praise.”

Texas Wesleyan commercial touts new football program

The Rams are promoting their football team in the commercial, which will air during the Cowboys game on Dec. 26 and during the College Football Playoff. (Texas Wesleyan)

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