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The Occasions Lady and the First Lady (of Red Wolves Football)
Mar 16, 2012

As the ASU football team began its first spring camp under new head coach Gus Malzahn this week, I had the privilege of watching the highly-anticipated first practice with two of the coach’s biggest supporters – his wife, Kristi, and youngest daughter, Kenzie.

I joined Kristi on the balcony overlooking the football field just outside Malzahn’s office early Wednesday morning. She and the coach had taken in a Memphis Grizzlies game the night before, putting them back in Jonesboro a little late for such an early morning – one that she said began at 4:30 for her husband.

I asked if the intensity level at the Malzahn home had increased as the first day of spring practice approached.

“It’s been a little more intense for probably the past week,” said Kristi. “But intense for him is that he gets more quiet and starts getting more detailed about everything.”

She shared an example from earlier in the week when Malzahn prepared his staff for the first practice by having all the coaches participate in a “walk-through” with him so everything would go smoothly. The following day, she said, he had the coaches do their own “walk-through” on the field with the players so they would also know what to expect before they arrived.

“Gus is very detailed,” said Kristi, a wife of 24 years who has witnessed her husband’s distinct and meticulous approach to coaching football season after season.

It’s a trait that I expect the coaching staff and players picked up on before the first cleat ever bent a single blade of synthetic grass.

The couple’s 19-year-old daughter Kenzie, a freshman at ASU this semester, joined us on the balcony to catch a glimpse of the first practice before heading to class.

“I love it,” said Kenzie of the opportunity to watch the first practice. “My sister and I are really involved because we really wouldn’t get to see him much if we weren’t.”

The couple’s oldest daughter, Kylie, is a senior at Auburn.

“They definitely take an interest in it,” said Kristi. “I think that’s why it’s so hard for Kylie not to be here right now. I’ve always encouraged them to be involved because I thought if they felt like they were a part of it, they wouldn’t be bitter about the time that he has to be gone.”

Although much of the coaching staff and a few of the players are familiar, both Kristi and Kenzie were a little frustrated about not yet knowing each player – something they say will change as they get to see more practices and share “family dinners” with the staff and team.

Kristi, Kylie and Kenzie were all able to take part in the recruiting process. This spring, Kristi and Kenzie will enjoy the opportunity to watch the team’s progress as the foundation is built on the field at ASU Stadium.

“This is the first time we are getting to see our boys practice,” said Kristi. “This is what they thrive on. This is the building season. This is the time you get out there and start planting and tilling up the ground. Fall is when you get to see the fruit of your labor.”

No one could have asked for a more perfect day for the start of the Red Wolves’ first spring camp under Coach Malzahn. The opportunity to meet Malzahn and watch the first practice session with his family has me even more excited about the upcoming season.

Although spring camp practice sessions are closed to the public, Red Wolves fans will want to mark their calendar for April 14, when the spring game kicks off at ASU Stadium at 1 p.m. In addition to the on-field action, the ASUband will be in attendance to help provide game-day atmosphere.

Spring arrives next week; spring camp is in session; and the spring game is less than a month away. Hallelujah! Let the howling begin!

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