LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - They don't have the big booster programs of Jefferson County's elite football programs and a few years ago a well attended game might be 40 people in the stands.
In the last three seasons, the Academy@Shawnee was 4-23, but thanks to new leadership changes by the school's Athletic Director, the kids are now pumped to play football and encouraged that the wins will come.
As Shawnee takes on Eminence in the team's second game this season, there's a noticeably different light coming from within the Golden Eagles.
You could see it at practice on Wednesday, the hottest day of the year, about 40 players hit the field. At Shawnee, that's a big deal.
In years past, when players were told to run laps, some just ran off the field and quit. The school was lucky to have 25 kids on the team. Now, players aren't just showing up, they're happy to be there.
"The guys just get excited," said new head football coach Jason Wyatt, "It could be 20 up/downs or sprints or whatever, but they're eager to do it."
The players say Wyatt is their motivation. "Kids don't have a lot of role models in places, like they call our neighborhood, the West End," said Ohio transfer Devante Urbina.
Urbina said Shawnee was a shock to his system. "The first day of school I came here and I said, who plays football, who's going to play football?" the Senior said, "and you know a lot of kids were like no, I'm not playing for these guys."
Coach Wyatt, a former University of Louisville football player decided he wanted to change the culture at Shawnee on the field and off with this message: "Go to college," Wyatt tells his players, "If you're not going to go to college, get a trade, get into the military or do something."
Urbina said of Wyatt's motto, "Since I got here, he said stay in those books, stay in those books," he smiled, "I passed my last semester with straight A's."
While assistant coaches provide the drill sergeant discipline, Wyatt is a gentle giant---perfect for young men who may have a lot going on at home.
"He's dynamic," said Athletic Director Dwight Bransford, "And he is that strength that kids need, but also, he's a very calming presence in a way."
Would be players who wanted nothing to do with the team, suddenly did. Urbina said, "Kids finally started coming out, (saying about us) hey, they're going to do something this year," he said, "The coaching staff really changed it and.they made it like a whole new school."
The work ethic is contagious. In the first game, Senior linebacker Gerald White had 17 tackles. How did he do it? "Just my hard work," White replied, "And we had a scouting report and I learned it and learned the team and got down to business."
Just in case the players need an extra boost? All they have to do is look down and "Team Wyatt" provides it. The coach's 4-year-old twins, Jaylon and Jaxson, and 7-year-old daughter Jordyn are vocal mascots and comic relief.
"She wanted to tackle one of them (players) when they were doing sprints," the coach said of his daughter.
Football at the Academy@Shawnee. Family, team, pride. "We're not just boys any more," Urbina said, "We're coming out to play like men and we're coming out for the game."
The Golden Eagles won big in their second game of the season beating Eminence High 50-6.