"Not Afraid" blares out of the speakers.

The gray clouds are closing in - as is the cold.  November cold.  November gray.

The temperature is in the 40's - but it feels colder.

At one time, coaches were in t-shirts and shorts as they ran practice.  On this final full practice on Wednesday, a few days before their Fall Finale scrimmage on Saturday afternoon, sweats are the order of the day.

The nearby trees are leafless.  It's not quite 5 in the afternoon, but darkness is fast closing in.  Guys blow into their hands to keep them warm.

There's no sun to bathe in.  Even if it were out, the sun would now be setting below the treeline.  Lights start popping on in overlooking windows.

And still, the team works. 

Not afraid.

Friday is a different story.  The sun is out.  The players have shed the pads.  Saturday will be the final practice of the fall - so Friday's practice is lighter and shorter.

Practice starts with a conditioning competition. Relay teams of players run through cones, cut back, sprint, weave and shuffle.  Working.  And competing.

The sun starts setting - and in November - once it starts going down, it doesn't take long.   It's now 4:40 in the afternoon and already the sun has fallen behind the trees, and the field is dark with shadows.  Cool has set back in.

After the races, the team breaks back into its position groups and goes through familiar drills one last time.

On one end of the field, the offense runs its plays against invisible defenders.

At the other end, defensive backs cover routes while the line applies token pressure to a stand-in quarterback.

Music still blares.  An odd combination of rap and country mixed together. 

The bullhorn sounds.  Period 8.

And even though there are no pads - and even though a player occasionally moves to the music - and even though hitting has been given the day off - the coaches still shout encouragement - demanding effort.

"If you don't go to the end, you don't want it."

So they go to the end.

They want it.

Saturday is the final practice.  At 1 p.m.  Full sun.  Scrimmage activities.  Saturday is the culmination of a busy fall.  A fall full of reps, bullhorns and coaches barking.  A fall full of wanting it.

Those barking voices, these guys may hear in their sleep.  And maybe that's the way the coaches want it.

The message has been clear and consistent from day one. 

You will work.

To the end.


NOTE: The Charlotte 49ers will host a Fall Football Finale, Nov. 17 as the 49ers football team conducts the final practice of its first fall workout season.

Practice, with scrimmage activities, is slated to begin at 1:00 p.m. inside the Charlotte 49ers Football Stadium and is open to the public. Parking will open at 11:00 a.m. and will be available in Lot 23, which is the elliptical lot around the stadium, Campus Research Institute (CRI) lots 2 and 3 and the CRI deck. All lots are easily accessible from the Hwy. 29 entrance to campus. Curbside parking and parking on grass is prohibited. Gates 1, 2 and 3 of the stadium will open at 12 noon.

Limited concessions will be available inside the stadium. Concession carts will be operating on a cash only basis. Admission is free.