The University of Central Arkansas football team began their first day in pads with an early wakeup call Wednesday.

They hit each other early and mourned late.

Jimmy Shumaker of Texarkana, a member of the Purple Circle booster organization for seven years, died last weekend in a Dallas hosptial. Although he played at the University of Arkansas and was an avid Razorback fan, the UCA Bears were his adopted favorite team. He hardly ever missed a UCA football game, home or away. He and his wife and Dennis Randall and his wife (parents of UCA noseguard T.J. Randall) became close friends and often traveled to games together.

His widow, Melinda, (a UCA graduate) requested that UCA football players serve as pallbearers at Wednesday’s funeral in Texarkana. Melinda teaches at Pleasant Grove High School, the alma mater of UCA wide receiver Damien Watts.

Through his faithfulness and connections, Shumaker developed a strong bond with the UCA football team and the athletic department.

UCA coach Steve Campbell moved Wednesday’s practice to 5:30 a.m. (a quick turnaround from the day before) so some of the players could have lunch with the family and serve as pallbearers.

Players who attended the funeral and served as pallbearers were: Watts, D.J. Appe, Jonathan Woodard, T.J. Randall, C.J. Simon, Alec Willis, Justin Burdette, Dezmin Lewis, Kyle Stouffer and Cole Caruthers.

After the service, the Bears had to make a quick turnaround to football. Their first scrimmage of the preseason is Saturday morning.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)