FORT KNOX, Ky. — The 140 members of the 2021-22 University of Louisville Cardinals football team visited Fort Knox June 16 to take on some leadership challenges, tour the Patton Museum and participate in a meet-and-greet with fans.
Team officials had originally planned to visit the installation June 9, but weather hampered their efforts. When they arrived on Wednesday, all the cards fell into place.
“This is something we’ve been talking about doing for a while,” said Cardinals Head Coach Scott Satterfield. “Last year, the pandemic happened so we had to push it back, but this year we were able to get it done. We’ve got a great relationship with the people at Fort Knox, and it’s good for us to be able to come down here and work on leadership and a good team-bonding experience.”
The Cardinals started their visit at the Field Leadership Reaction Course, where they were broken down into 11 teams. Each lane offers a unique set of challenges that requires problem-solving and leadership skills.
At Lane 5, a team of football players learned that a bridge had been destroyed and they had 20 minutes to get all of them and their equipment across the imaginary river by balancing on wooden boards. Their equipment included the boards as well as a barrel and dolly.
After several attempts and with the clock running out, the team came up with a final plan to forge the river. Taking his time, one player decided to hoist the simulated 200-pound barrel on his back and carefully negotiate the boards to the other side rather than roll it along the boards.
With just five minutes remaining, all teammates, equipment, and even the boards managed to safely make it to the other side. Major Gen. John Evans Jr., commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and senior commander of Fort Knox, quietly watched as the team celebrated their success.
“That’s really good: switching things up, changing boards,” said Evans — “very well done.”
The Cardinals coach working with the team, Gunter Brewer, said his team performed well.
“We have a lot of team-building here, and we have a lot of problem-solving,” said Brewer. “Probably the physical part of it is not the issue for these guys; it’s the part of problem-solving and moving through it with trial and error.”
Brewer, who coaches the Cardinals’ wide receivers, said there are parallels between sports and the military that lend themselves to similar lessons.
“They have the same sense of discipline, the same sense of accomplishment and leadership to accomplish the mission and conquer the enemy — a different one every week,” said Brewer. “It’s been a great experience. It’s good to see them do something together with different leaders instead of the coaches doing it.”
After spending the morning at the leadership course, the players traveled to the General George Patton Museum for a new challenge: head-to-head combat against some of the Army’s best. While the bullets may not have been real, the competition to defeat some U.S. Army E-Sports team members certainly was.
Five Cardinals heckled the Army gamers until the Call of Duty simulation began. Within a few short minutes, all five fell to the three gaming experts.
While they took on the gamers, other Cardinals signed autographs in front of the museum. Sharon Pence encouraged her son Trip and his friend to get as many signatures as they could on their footballs, posters, and later, caps.
“They love Louisville football, and they love football,” said Pence. “Because of COVID, Trip missed out on his first season of football, so this will be his first year he gets to. He got to do a summer camp at home, and he’s hooked.”
After several attempts, both boys had just about given up on getting a signature from Cardinals offensive lineman Caleb Chandler – featured on the poster. Chandler suddenly walked up to them, towering over both boys at 6’4”. Pence told Chandler that Trip didn’t like his first name, until Chandler shared with the boy that he had a brother named Trip.
Trip’s face lit up as Chandler knelt down and signed the poster.
After players toured the museum, they gathered in Abrams Auditorium to hear from Evans.
“My cadre had a good time working with you guys and we had some pretty weather today,” said Evans. “I was walking around watching as you were tackling our Field Leadership Reaction Course. You know, it’s important, this relationship we have between the UofL and Fort Knox.”
Evans told the college students that he sees education as an important part of the military life and touted the ROTC program that he leads as commander of Cadet Command. Evans also thanked Satterfield for bringing the team to the post.
Satterfield noted that his players are peers of the ROTC cadets who attend Cadet Summer Training and who test at the leadership reaction course. The battlefield lessons reflect some of the same successes on the football field.
“Obviously we’re playing a sport and they’re training to defend our country, but there are a lot of the same principles that we’re working with,” said Satterfield. “It’s a great correlation, and we’re honored to be able to come over here and do a little bit of training.
“And we’re all doing this training so we can get some wins.”
Editor’s Note: For more photos, go to the official Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortknoxky/albums/72157719420357058.