Texas Wesleyan had this one thing on its side when building its football program

Texas Wesleyan coach Joe Prud’homme sold players on the chance to be part of history. The Rams are playing their first football season since 1941.
Texas Wesleyan coach Joe Prud’homme sold players on the chance to be part of history. The Rams are playing their first football season since 1941.

As he looked for players for his new Texas Wesleyan football team, Joe Prud’homme had little to sell.

He knew facilities were next to nonexistent.

Scholarships would have to be spread thin.

And he himself was new to college coaching.

But he had history on his side. He could sell history. Everybody wants to be remembered.

“It’s a very cool feeling to know that 10, 20 years from now, I can bring my kids back to watch a game and say, ‘Hey, I was the first quarterback here, I was the first one to throw a touchdown pass,’ ” sophomore Kane Hardin said during the Rams’ media day on Aug. 16, the day before the first practice. “That’s what he told us: ‘You have a chance to come here and make history.’ ”

The Rams and Prud’homme, a seven-time state championship high school coach at Fort Worth Nolan Catholic, made that history last week. They opened with a 43-14 loss at McPherson College, the first Texas Wesleyan football game since 1941.

Saturday comes more history — the first home football game for Texas Wesleyan in the 76 years since the school disbanded football because so many of its players had enlisted in the armed forces following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Those guys left for World War II,” Hardin said. “It’s a great feeling to honor them. We’re going to out there this season, and we’re going to give it the best we’ve got. We’re going to be the best we can be.”

The Rams are scheduled to host Millsaps out of Jackson, Miss., at 2 p.m. at Farrington Field.

“I look at this as an opportunity to be a part of something great,” linebacker Vincent Stephenson said. “I look forward to setting the standard for those who follow us, so we can set the tone high and start out being a team that not many teams want to play because of how physical we are and how hard we play.”

The Rams may not have had much in facilities, but they did have billboards, and Stephenson said one caught his eye during a visit to Dallas last year.

“It said, ‘Are you ready?’ I looked into the school, and I said this would be great opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself,” he said. “It’s just exciting that everything we’re going to do as a team is going to be a first.”

The same is true for Prud’homme. Since February 2016, when he was hired after a 27-year high school coaching career, everything has been a first for him.

He credits offensive coordinator Calvin Powell, a former Temple assistant who played NAIA football after a career at Duncanville, with helping him navigate his first year.

“There’s a learning curve on everything that I do,” Prud’homme said. “From the scholarship piece to the admissions piece to the follow-up. That part, the college process, has been a challenge. That’s why Calvin has been outstanding as a liaison to admission and financial aid.”

Recruiting was another first-time experience for Prud’homme, who had 16 scholarships to divide among the players. Tuition, fees and room and board are $39,560 a year at Wesleyan.

“I like recruiting. I like people,” Prud’homme said. “Calvin and I have been recruiting together. I asked him, ‘ What did you think?’ He said, ‘Coach, you were fine.’ I said, ‘Any pointers?’ He said, ‘No, not really. As long as you were straight with them and you communicate the message and the vision, that’s what you’ve got to do — they have to have an understanding of what you want to build and, when they’re a part of it, where their piece fits.”

Hardin, the quarterback, and his teammates seem to understand.

“We’re making history here,” he said.

Carlos Mendez: 817-390-7760, @calexmendez

Texas Wesleyan vs. Millsaps

2 p.m. Saturday, Farrington Field

Texas Wesleyan vs. Millsaps

2 p.m. Saturday, Farrington Field

Pregame activities: Begin at noon in the east parking lot featuring music by the Ram Band, performances by the cheerleaders and Gold Line dance team, a food truck and other options, including Chick-fil-A and Nothing Bundt Cakes.

Parking: Lot opens at 10:30 a.m.

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for staff, faculty and children. Police, fire, EMS and other first responders receive free admission as the school recognizes contributions to relief efforts in Houston and other areas.