With the Mercer University Bears first football game of the season Thursday, it got us thinking about the school's growth over the last few years.

With college back up and running this semester, it is full of freshmen who say it was love at first sight with Mercer University.

"I came to visit the campus, and after that, I was decided I didn't want to go anywhere else,” says student Ronald Alvarez from Columbia.

Freshman Kallysta Jones says other people are even impressed by her admission to Mercer University.

"My parents would say, 'Oh, yeah, my daughter got accepted to Mercer University,' and other people would say, 'Oh, yeah, that's a great thing. That's a great university,'” says Jones.

According to Mercer, this is the largest freshman class they have ever had at about 900 students, but they have been seeing growth in freshman admissions since 2013 after the return of their football program.

"In the past 5, we've increased about 38% in our incoming freshman class and we will continue to see that we're not only attracting a larger group, but we're also staying rooted in the core values of a small intimate environment and a very relationship driven education,” says the Director of Undergraduate Admissions Kelly Holloway.

Though football can be persuading many students, we talked to said it was not their main reason for choosing Mercer but instead the school morale.

"Just walking around campus and hearing people talking about the first football game. It's just a part of college life, going to college football games. It contributes to the school spirit more and it's just something that contributes to the school spirit all together,” says freshman Genesis Cooper.

For the freshman classes' first Mercer Bears football game, they say it is the camaraderie that will make it that much more exciting.

"When it comes to college and football, it's not just about the sports, you know, it's a community thing. It's awesome Macon has a consistent thing that brings the community together that brings together not just students but parents and Macon residents,” explains Jones.

Mercer Admissions says although this year's freshman class is the largest they cannot tell if the rise in attendance will continue. However, they are excited to have what they call one of the most qualified freshman classes to date.