Adam Trautman remembers his first practice with the Dayton Flyers football team. He was still throwing passes back then. He did that for about a week and a half before switching from quarterback to tight end.
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“That’s all I really remember,” Trautman said Wednesday. “Putting a green jersey on, not a white one.”
The position switch was a good move for Trautman, who redshirted that first season but has caught 108 passes for 1,379 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in the last three seasons. He made the Pioneer Football League second team in 2018 and was named to the preseason first team this season. He also earned two preseason All-American honors entering his final season with the Flyers.
“It’s definitely a feel-good accomplishment,” Trautman said, “but those things don’t really matter much to me because who knows what could happen this year. It’s the same for every other kid. The main focus right now is definitely the PFL championship. That’s our big goal.”
Trautman is a big reason the Flyers were picked to finish second in the conference this season behind San Diego, the three-time defending champions, after finishing seventh in 2017 and tying for fourth last season. Dayton received two of the 10 first-place votes. Drake was picked third.
Dayton last won the Pioneer Football League championship in 2015 when it shared the title with San Diego. It has not won the title outright since 2010 when it finished 8-0.
The group that starts practice Friday afternoon at Welcome Stadium returns 13 starters — seven on offense and six on defense — from a team that finished 6-5 and 5-3 in the PFL. The Flyers want to get back to the top of the league.
“We have high standards here at the University of Dayton football program,” said Dayton’s Rick Chamberlin, who enters his 13th season as head coach and 45th season in the program as a player, assistant or head coach. “We’ve had them for a long period of time. The last couple of years it’s been those close games, whereas in the past we’ve pulled out a victory and in the last couple of years we haven’t. So we’ve got to be able to play complete games and make the plays we need to come out with those wins in close games.”
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Dayton has lost six games by six points or fewer in the last two seasons. The return of quarterback Jack Cook gives the Flyers confidence they can reverse that trend. He started the last 10 games last season as a freshman after senior Alex Jeske suffered a season-ending injury and threw 20 touchdown passes with only two interceptions.
“We’re a very experienced group,” Trautman said. “We have arguably the best quarterback spearheading our offense. We’re definitely excited about that. We know we can do some damage this year. He can be a lot better. He knows that as well. He started off kind of slow, getting his feet wet, but he’s ready to go. I know he’s been working his tail off all offseason, especially this summer throwing to guys. He’s got all the physical traits that you need in our offense for what we want our quarterback to do, but mentally that’s where he’s progressed immensely.”
Dayton opens the season with two road games: Sept. 7 at Indiana State, which ranks 16th in the STATS FCS preseason poll, and Sept. 14 at Robert Morris. It plays its home opener Sept. 21 against Duquesne.
“I think we’ve just got to be focused,” said senior Andrew Lutgens, who plays the hybrid defensive back/linebacker position known as the Flyer in Dayton’s defense. “We’re playing two tough teams on the road. It’s always tough going on the road, but we’ve got to have the mindset that it’s a business trip.”
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