Millions of Americans are waiting for temperatures to drop, leaves to change colors, and, most importantly, for an exuberant man to ask if they are ready for some football.
But for hundreds of Turlockers involved with Turlock Youth Football, the time to start thinking about pigskin is now.
Make that number 345, to be exact. It's far more than the 300 or so kids who normally play for TYF.
More than 45 children are playing for each team at each age level, from the seven and eight-year old rookies to the varsity players who can be as old as 14.
There's a waiting list, too, with as many as 20 football hopefuls clamoring for the chance at a spot on the TYF roster in each age group.
Some of the new kids have played before, for other local leagues. Others are trying the sport for the first time.
What's so appealing about football to these hundreds of children?
“It's the intensity of the game,” said Anthony Heinze, a varsity player.
But a chance at football glory is still weeks away. The first scrimmages aren't until Aug. 17; the first games, Aug. 24.
And until then, it's time to practice – five days a week, in the grueling sun.
“We just run them through conditioning and drills to get them ready for the season,” said TYF President Joe Lewis.
Camp week – the first week of TYF practice – started last Monday. Every night, hundreds of players, family members, and siblings packed Turlock High School to get in shape for football season.
“This is usually what I wait for,” said varsity player Dominic Nunes.
Other players, like varsity quarterback Clayton Abrams, already work out every day in preparation for the season. He has his sights set on college ball – hopefully quarterbacking the Florida Gators – even while he's in junior high.
For every player, though, the transformation is undeniable, a “total difference,” Lewis says. The children that walk onto the field the first day barely resemble the players who step on the field come game time.
As the players grow up together, practice, and play in the trenches, a bond like family develops, Lewis said. Countless players just can't leave that family; some of the adults coaching today were children playing their first seasons when Lewis first joined TYF.
And that's what makes TYF special, he says. It's not just about football – it's about becoming a better person.
“You get life experiences here,” Lewis said. “It's great.”