FORT DRUM — Sean Hickey and Prince-Tyson Gulley have been through the Syracuse University football team’s Fort Drum training camp twice before.
But this year’s camp, the third annual installment, has a different feel for the pair of fifth-year seniors.
Both Hickey and Gulley are viewing the Orange’s unique camp on post as an opportunity to assert their leadership for an Orange team that wants to improve on a 7-6 season that ended with a victory in the Texas Bowl.
“We got high expectations and I feel I need to step up and be a leader,” said Gulley, expected to be the team’s top running back after serving as the complement to Jerome Smith for the past two seasons.
“This is the perfect time to do it with the change of environment and getting out here and doing these different things, and learning some leadership skills from the army,” he added.
Leadership was the major emphasis for the team Wednesday. The SU players spent the morning going through the Leaders Reaction Course with soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division.
“Two years ago I was focusing just on my game and trying to get myself better because it was my first year starting,” said Hickey, the starting left tackle and the only Orange player on the preseason All-Atlantic Coast Conference Team.
“This year, I’m the fifth-year guy and the main guy in that O-line room, so I’m trying to lead them as best I can,” he added.
Gulley said heading into this year’s Fort Drum camp, he was looking forward most to seeing the younger players experience it for the first time.
“We’ve been here so we really know what to expect,” Gulley said. “It’s good to see the young guys getting this experience, too, and it’s always just a good time here.”
The camp schedule has moved along much more smoothly than in past years, according to Hickey.
He said the biggest improvement is that players are now running from one destination to the next while on post, which has allowed the players more down time between activities.
Hickey said during the first year in 2012, the players had “practically no rest time.”
“It was the first year so you’re working out a lot of the kinks and figuring out the logistics of the camp,” Hickey said. “The logistics are a lot better now, we’re not walking everywhere. We’re getting places quicker and getting our work done quicker than we were two years ago. Last year and this year have been a much better experience.”
For Gulley, the biggest improvement from past years is the dining menu. He said the team has eaten Chinese food, ribs, and fresh green vegetables.
“I love the food that we’re eating, they’re feeding us real good this year. … It was just soul food, all of it was good,” Gulley said.
The annual camp will continue today with the players putting on a kids clinic for military families. The kids clinic will be followed by a team scrimmage. Both of those events were first implemented last year.
The Orange will depart Friday morning after a paint-ball war that is intended to test the leadership and communication skills learned by the players throughout the week.
Gulley said he believes he’s the only person on the team that isn’t excited about that activity.
“I don’t like playing paint ball because it hurts, it really does,” Gulley said. “The first time I got shot with a paint ball (two years ago), I got shot right in the buttocks and it didn’t feel great. … The other guys love it, they all love paintball. I think I’m the only one that doesn’t look forward to it.”