Whether it's played on soggy Fulton elementary school fields scattered with puddles, or in the dry, hot environment of Nevada, Fulton senior Jason Osborn doesn't notice a difference.
"Football is football," Osborn said. "It's basically the same thing. Same strength, same game."
Osborn would know. He was born in Fulton, but moved to a town about 10 minutes outside of Las Vegas when he was 5 years old. It was there, out in the desert conditions, where he learned to play football.
In Nevada, the lanky Osborn played on both sides of the ball. He caught passes as a wide receiver, and swatted them as a cornerback.
Just before the start of last year's football season, Osborn moved back to Fulton and played his first high school snaps for the Steamers as a junior at wide receiver. Like LeBron James, he said his return was like a homecoming of sorts, and was excited to play for his hometown team.
The first thing he noticed was the speed of the players.
"The only thing that's really different about football here and there," Osborn said, "is the guys seem a lot faster out there. It was the same game, but the players were quicker."
Osborn, tall and long, used that speed to lead the Steamers in touchdown receptions with four last season, with a team-high 13 receptions. His 189 yards was second on the run-happy team.
The Steamers had 384 rushing attempts last season against 72 passes. As a receiver, most of the work came in blocking, but Osborn hopes to have a breakout season after working hard in the offseason to have one last go at a potential playoff run.
"I had to really be in the weight room every day, and was at every practice," Osborn said. "I feel like I got stronger and faster, and I feel like I've improved. I feel way more comfortable knowing that I can get in there and make a play."
After not playing defense last season, he will be asked to play cornerback, a position he played lot of in Nevada.
Coach Patrick Lower hopes guys like Osborn will step up this season. After losing basically the entire defense – 10 starters – to graduation, players have been asked to step into expanded roles.
Senior Seth Sanderson, a receiver and safety for the Steamers, will move into a starting role this season on both sides, as well as play a crucial role in kick coverage for special teams.
"I've always been well conditioned, so it shouldn't be a problem," Sanderson said. "I'm playing everything this year, so it's going to be a change, but we have a lot of skill and talent on this team, so it shouldn't be a problem."
Lower hopes to be able to rely on guys like Sanderson and Osborn to be able to play a lot of minutes, and that is why conditioning has been an important focus during the preseason practices.
On Thursday, Lower divided the team into five groups, each led by a different coach. Tackling drills, catching drills, fumble recovery drills, linework, and conditioning were all done at a blistering pace, with no walking allowed.
"We need to make sure our guys are in shape," Lower said. "These guys want to make the playoffs, and I think that would be a huge step for this team, especially as young as we are."
Did you know?
At 292, Fulton has the lowest enrollment of any school in the Three Rivers North. The Steamers haven't been to the playoffs since 2007.