By Deyanira Romo Rossell

With sheer spirit, Cardinal fans are the powerful wind beneath the wings of a fledgling football program at the University of the Incarnate Word. As the Cardinals take on the Midwestern State University Mustangs on a balmy September night, the temperature is high, the humidity is higher, and the spirit at the brand new Benson Stadium is off the charts.

On the field, the UIW football team is executing a year’s work of training and preparation. In the stands, row after row of exuberant UIW students cheers them on. Among them, Jane Clare Vosteen, Cody Hoover and Gina Sotello emerge after an hour and a half of their own game-day preparation. Their spirit shines a little brighter than most fans perching in the Cardinal’s Nest as they glisten in red, white and black body paint. They all display a green neon letter on their abdomen to spell out their spirit. Vosteen, a sophomore, is the “U” of the group, Hoover, a junior, sports an “I” and Sotello, a freshman, is the “W.” They show that teamwork is displayed in the stands as well as on the field.

“I’m a soccer player, and as an athlete at UIW, I want to make sure I support all our athletic programs. I think having a football team has taken the school spirit up a notch,” Vosteen said.

One section below her, UIW alumnus Chuck Richardson ’07 BSN is giving wings to a new generation of Cardinals. His 4- year-old son, Seth, and his 3-year- old daughter, Izzy, demonstrate their school spirit in the most adorable sense. Seth, dressed as a UIW football player, holds his bright red foam finger, and his sister is perfectly peppy with her pom pons, pigtails and pint-size UIW cheerleader outfit.

UIW’s No. 56 has his own cheerleader in the stands this night. Rose Cruz cheers for her son Jerry Sealey, linebacker and defensive end, decked with beads, a handy noise- making football and a cardinal sticker on her face.

“My son has been playing football since he was 7 years old. He’s my pride and joy. People around here know I am the loudest and the proudest,” Cruz screamed between bursts of cheering. Colt Miles also is a voice to be heard in the stands. His brother Chad is No. 90 on the team. Miles’ pride is painted on his face and in his hair, which is sprayed in bright red.

While keeping one eye on the gridiron, Miles explains, “I can’t play, so I pour my heart into being the best fan in the crowd.” Throughout the stands, the rule for Cardinal fans is wear your pride on your sleeve, or paint it on your face, your stomach or your hair. A history-making fanaticism is soaring in the Nest.