Though he has yet to suit up for a Ball State football game, since he's a freshman who could be redshirted, Wes Obermeier knows the big-time collegiate atmosphere.
He was among 77,622 fans in Notre Dame Stadium a Saturday ago when when Ball State teammates came within 24-16 of the nation's then No. 8-ranked team that was fresh from victory over Michigan.
"Growing up in Indiana and having followed the state's football teams all my life, it was really awesome to be in the stands at Notre Dame," said the 19-year-old Obermeier, Daily Clarion 2017-18 Gibson County Male Athlete of the Year as an all-state tight end and receiver last football season and then a 1,000-points-plus career basketball scorer at Gibson Southern.
"Our athletic department provided a bus for our players who weren't on the travel team. We were maybe four rows from the top of the south bleachers, right there with a bunch of Ball State fans. We were looking right at Touchdown Jesus, which is at the stadium's north end. That was something."
Ball State's Cardinals, 42-6 victors over visiting Central Connecticut State in their August 30 season opener, stayed in contention all 60 minutes at Notre Dame. Morgan Hagee's third field goal, a 49-yarder, closed the scoring with a couple minutes left. "We had two time-outs left, but we couldn't keep Notre Dame from getting a first down. So they ran out the clock," said Obermeier, who wasn't surprised that his team gave itself a chance to upset the traditional powerhouse.
"Our guys believe in themselves," said the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder, who plays tight end on the Ball State scout team that emulates the upcoming opponent in practice.
"You can't worry about the other team's reputation. You must play your game. Last year's Ball State team had several injuries. This year we're in good shape, our guys are so close and we believe we can beat anybody. Our goal is winning a MAC (Mid-American Conference) championship."
"Indiana University's team is fast and physical (and unbeaten in two games). But if we do what we can do and play like we did at Notre Dame, we'll definitely come out with a win in Bloomington."
Obermeier and former Gibson Southern teammate and running back Dylan Stefanich, also a Ball State freshman student, plan to ride together to Bloomington for Saturday's 11 a.m. CDT game. "Dylan's dormitory is about a five-minute walk from my dormitory, and we have dinner together once a week," said Obermeier, who again will bond with family. Dad John Obermeier, now in his 14th year as Haubstadt Community School principal after seven years as Gibson Southern football coach; mom Misty and sister Kennedy plan to attend.
"They came to our Central Connecticut State game," son and brother said. "After watching the first half from behind our team bench, I sat with them in the stands the second half."
"Kennedy (now a Gibson Southern senior who frequently sings the National Anthem at sports events) has been accepted at Ball State and recently made a campus visit."
College football is more time-consuming than the high school brand. "No time off," said Wes Obermeier, a telecommunications major.
"I'm up at 6 a.m., eat breakfast, and by 7 a.m. I'm in the weight room to lift and work out for an hour. We practice at 8:45 a.m., whereas in high school everything is in the afternoon. Practice goes until about 11 a.m. Then I eat lunch and head to class;. Most days my first class starts at 1 p.m., but occasionally I have a noon class. Today I have a 6 o'clock class."
"After that you study. We football players must be in the team study hall at least eight hours a week."
Though he has yet to play for Ball State, Obermeier has learned that "the college game is very fast. There are no slow guys on the field, and everyone is very athletic. You see that in running pass routes."
"And strong, too. In high school you might get away with bad technique. Not here. If your technique isn't exactly right when you're making a block, you'll get knocked five yards backward and on your butt."
Since the scout team runs plays run by the upcoming opponent, Obermeier has already learned that college offenses are more complex. "Nick Hart (Gibson Southern coach) has a great offense, but the college game is completely different."
"I'm fortunate to have a quarterback for a roommate -- John Paddock from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. "It helps that we both were here in early-summer for workouts and started learning then. John is proactive about learning. Anytime I have a question, he helps me."
Obermeier and Stefanich keep tabs on Gibson Southern football. "We're able to get broadcasts of most games, and the other night we got to watch the Henderson County game because it was a TV Game of the Week. We knew last year, when we won 28-20 at Henderson County, that they're a very athletic team. They're very athletic again as they showed in beating our guys (23-0). But our guys will bounce back."
Not until late-season will Obermeier know if he'll be redshirted, which would extend his eligibility into the 2022 season. In contrast to the recent past, when appearance in one game, if only for one play, took away the redshirt possibility, this is the first season for the new rule. You can appear in four games, still be redshirted and maintain four more years of eligibility.
"I'm okay with whatever our coaches want to do," said Obermeier.