Gonzaga students are up early, but don't lack for good cheer

Gonzaga senior Jack McAuliffe claps as the Eagles' student section cheers during Saturday's win over DeMatha.
Gonzaga senior Jack McAuliffe claps as the Eagles' student section cheers during Saturday's win over DeMatha. (Washington Post)
By Toni L. Sandys
Washington Post Staff Photographer
Monday, October 4, 2010; 12:11 AM

Monday through Friday they get up before the crack of dawn. School starts just after 8 a.m., but for the majority of students there's a morning commute to contend with.

Gonzaga senior Jack McAuliffe, 17, lives in McLean and starts his day before 6 a.m. Advanced Placement and honors classes fill a day that officially ends at 2:45. Then there are teachers to meet with, the commute home and hours of homework. Add in a few workouts in the weight room to prepare for rugby season and the weekend would seem to be a welcome relief. For most people it is a chance to sleep in, relax and take it easy for the day.

Saturdays offer the perfect opportunity to be lazy. The week is over and any work due on Monday can wait until Sunday. "On Fridays, it feels good that the weekend is coming," McAuliffe said. "But you have all of the sports over the weekend so there's really no rest."

For diehard Gonzaga students, Saturday can be anything but relaxing. By choice. Saturday is football day for the Eagles. For the players on the team, this is what the team has been building up for all week. The adrenaline is pumping. Even when they are standing still, they are moving. Clapping hands, high-fiving teammates along the sidelines. You can feel the energy as the team anxiously waits to take the field.

Off the field, but less than a first down away from the team, the energy is just as amped. They aren't wearing uniforms, but they've risen early and dressed for the game.

McAuliffe slept in an extra hour, rising at 7:45 a.m., to meet some classmates for breakfast before heading downtown for the game. His purple Gonzaga shirts - more than a dozen - have their own special space in the closet. "I just reached in a grabbed the one on top," McAuliffe said.

It's as much of an adrenaline release for the fans as it is for the players. By the game's end, many of them can't even see the game. The fans standing in front of them are three people deep. "It doesn't really matter if you can see the whole game," McAuliffe said. "All you need is to see five seconds of the touchdown or a great play to get fired up." And fired up they are. "Those are our friends out there on the field giving 100 percent for Gonzaga. If we're not out there giving 100 percent, then we're not doing our part for them as friends."

"You scream and shout and just get as crazy as you can," said McAuliffe. "You just let it all go for the entire game. After the game it was a little hard to talk, but it wasn't the first time." And it won't be the last.

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