In South Florida and Palm Beach County, football reigns supreme. From epic Muck Bowl games on the western fringes of the county to the hotbed of highly recruited talent taking their talents to colleges and universities around the country, football is the sport of Palm Beach County. According to MaxPreps.com, a subsidiary of CBS Sports covering high school sports, 22 current NFL players hail from Palm Beach County – when zoomed-out, incorporating a stretch from Vero Beach to Miami, that number jumps to 89. In the center of it all sits Palm Beach County’s only FBS school, Florida Atlantic University.
Relatively new to the high-pressure world of college football, with the team’s first game happening in 2001 under the tutelage of Howard Schnellenberger, FAU made the leap to the NCAA’s FBS in 2005, and moved into its very own on-campus, 29,419-seat stadium in 2011. With so many firsts in the 21st century, one more won’t hurt.
Following the tumultuous tenure of Carl Pelini, who resigned in October 2013 amid a scandal including illegal drug use, FAU hired Charlie Partridge (right) to helm the Owls football team. Just the fourth person to hold the position, Partridge coaching career spans nearly two decades, with his most notable stops in Wisconsin from 2008-2012 as associate head coach and defensive line coach under Brett Bielema (now, head coach at Arkansas). While there, the Badgers went to three consecutive Rose Bowls (2010-2012), and boasted one of the most dominant defensive lines in the Big Ten Conference.
|Senior Wide Receiver William Dukes - FAU Owls|
As FAU’s head coach, Partridge hopes to bring that same hard-nosed, pound the rock/stop the run mentality to the Owls. Hopes are high for this FAU team that started off slow in 2013, but turned it up after the dismissal of Pelini, winning the last four games of the season and finishing with a 6-6 record. Another new patch for the FAU football tapestry will be the Boca Raton Bowl, hosted by the FAU Stadium and the newly-named Howard Schnellenberger Field. The pre-Christmas bowl game will host teams from the Mid-American Conference, Conference USA and American Athletic Conference over the next six years. As a member of Conference USA, FAU has the rare and unique opportunity to host a bowl game in its own stadium this December.
To get an idea of what’s to come this season, starting with heavyweights, the Nebraska Cornhuskers on August 30 and the Alabama Crimson Tide on September 6, we caught up with Coach Partridge for a rapid-fire Q&A below:
How are things looking so far with the team headed into season?
“I’m happy with the daily improvement of the entire team. But, I’m especially excited about the entire senior class.”
Who has surprised you the most this off-season?
“The offensive line has made some significant strides.”
Tell me about your coaching philosophy. What are some of the corner stones that define your system of play?
“We focus on daily improvement and the system of play is determined by the personnel.”
How has the development of your system progressed from December to today?
“We have a lot more calls and adjustments compared to the spring.”
What’s your greatest strength going into the season?
“Experience at quarterback [redshirt junior Jaquez Johnson].”
Aside from winning football games, what do you see the biggest job/goal of a football coach when it comes to student athlete development?
“Teaching the players the value of time management and good decisions.”
What has been one of the bigger surprises since stepping onto campus in Boca Raton?
“The incredible growth of FAU’s campus over the last decade.”
Biggest takeaway so far?
“We have a team with explosive talent that is learning the details of the game.”
Photography by Ralph Notaro