TYLER -- In past years, John Tyler's first practices of the season were held in the evening. Third-year coach Ricklan Holmes decided to change things up this year.

Well over 100 football players reported to practice at 5 a.m. Monday as the Lions began what they hope will be a long and rewarding season.

While many schools choose to work out in the morning at this time of the year because of the extreme heat in the late afternoon and early evening, Holmes' decision to have his players out early had nothing to do with weather conditions.

"It's easy to come in, in the heat of the day because it's later in the day and everybody's up," Holmes said. "But who's going to wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning to start practice at 5 o'clock in the morning? Real football players will do that, guys that really want to win, guys that really want to make sure they're ready to do that. It's mental more than anything else."

Holmes made it clear after last season's first-round playoff loss to Mansfield Legacy, he wanted football players moving forward. He added leadership to his wish list over the offseason as well.

"Like I tell a lot of people, going into that first-round game (last year) and losing the way we did and knowing that we should've won and understanding why we lost -- because we didn't have any senior leadership," he said. "That put a lot of pressure on these (incoming) seniors like (quarterback Geovari McCollister) and (receiver Rodney Bendy), (cornerback Isaac Warren) and (running back Jeremy Wilson). It put a lot pressure on those guys to make sure that their senior season doesn't end like that."

Holmes said this year's incoming seniors have met the challenge of becoming leaders.

"It's very important because they've been in the program for three years now," he said. "They've been through the fire and they understand what it takes to win football games, and they understand what it takes to get prepared to win football games. And that's why the summer was so important because we had such a strong offseason and spring; you just couldn't waste it by taking off time."

Overall, Holmes appeared pleased with the first day of practice.

"A lot of numbers, a lot of kids -- all of the guys we know we're going to need on Friday were here," he said. "They came in, in better shape than I thought they were, mainly because they were here this summer. They put in the work this summer and they understood that we couldn't have any time off. Between 7-on-7 and summer conditioning, we had to get it done."

Warren, one of John Tyler's senior leaders, was less impressed by the team's Day 1 showing.

"The first day didn't go so well, but we're gonna pick it up because we want a state championship this year," the star defensive back said. "It's real nice to be back on the field. I've been working, everybody on the team's been working."

Warren had a busy offseason, between showcasing his skills and various camps and combines to performing well during John Tyler's run to the state 7-on-7 tournament last month in College Station.

All of it paid off with Warren (6-1, 189) finally receiving his first Division I FBS offer on July 28 when Purdue extended an invitation his way. Warren committed to the Boilermakers one day later.

"It was a big relief," said Warren, who still could field multiple FBS offers before National Signing Day in February. "My mom and dad were very proud of me and my grandma, she was crying because I'm going to Purdue and she isn't going to be able to see me that much. They have a top-ranked business program, and that's what I want to major in."

John Tyler scrimmages at Mount Pleasant on Aug. 22 before opening the season at home Aug 29 against Plano.

John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes addresses his team following Monday morning's practice. (ETSN.fm)