NORFOLK, Va. — "I don't think there's ever been a group that's having to go through as much as this group right now."
Justin Fuente has been coaching college football since 2001. Nineteen years later, and none of them compare to 2020. A global pandemic, canceled seasons, rampant racial injustice, the increased exposure with social media: the factors that come with being a student-athlete in 2020 are unique and unprecedented.
"It's like a perfect storm with all of the elements," Fuente said.
While many see the physical outlet that players have lost with canceled seasons, the mental toll may be just as great.
Always a demanding role, in the past student-athletes could always turn to their arena for escape. Most of them have dominated this space since they were young, it is safe and familiar. Quarantine and the need for social distancing intruded even the four lines.
While players wait for their opportunity to compete again, many monitor their mental health like never before, and they have more support than ever before.
"Hopefully this has opened our eyes, as older people, to the things kids are going through," Fuente said.