By Mary Kate Lau, Digital Communications Intern
It was 104 degrees in Tempe at noon on Tuesday and the football team had just finished a long, grueling practice. But instead of immediately hitting the showers, they formed a long line across Rural Road to meet up with the band and the spirit squad in the arboretum for some watermelon slices, popsicles and camaraderie.
Alto saxophone player Jacquelyn Xinous and clarinet player Alyssa Napuri were making their rounds talking with friends when they saw defensive tackle Will Sutton and told him they wanted to teach him their “bro handshake”
“Well we are bros,” Xinous said of the handshake between the two girls, “We do it when we see each other before every football game, it’s a sign of respect and we wanted Will Sutton to be a part of our bro group.”
Sutton laughed and even did the handshake twice as onlookers from all three teams smiled and recorded the moment on their phones.
“There’s this stereotype of jocks verses band nerds,” Xinous said. “But really we’re like a family. We’re all out here every summer together working hard and we love to see them succeed.”
This event, dubbed the “watermelon and popsicle social” came from a nostalgic coach Todd Graham, who said he remembers doing things like this while coaching football at Allen High School in Texas which has one of the largest bands in the country.
Graham wants to make sure the Band and Spirit squad know how much they mean to his football team.
“They’re like the twelfth man,” he said. “They control the atmosphere at the game. They are critical to home field advantage. Every game we win, I usually give them a game ball, so I told them I’m going to give them 13 game balls this year.”
Running back Marcus Washington echoes his coach’s sentiment.
“There are times when some fans leave games early, so having the support from the band; they’re out there just like us, the spirit squad is there, staying the whole time, and we’re all just trying to be the best and having them there for us, it just means a whole lot,” Washington said.
“This is what collegiate athletics is all about, this interaction,” Graham said.
Including the spirit squad there are over 400 members in the band with around 160 of them being in their first year with the program.
They will be welcomed into a group of three teams who blend together to become one on game day.
“It’s a culture. ASU is our culture,” Xinous said. “How many gold shirts do I own? Like forty or something. It’s part of our culture that because of these guys, we get a place to be ourselves and be a part of that.
“Todd Graham’s appreciation for us is something that very few athletic programs have, and that’s just so special.”