Old Dominion quarterback Thomas DeMarco is eager for the season to get started.

Called perhaps the best player in the Colonial Athletic Association by his coach, Bobby Wilder, DeMarco wants to show what he can do against top competition.

Old Dominion has won 17 of 22 games since restarting its football program two years ago and this year will play a full league schedule in the highly regarded CAA for the first time.

“You’re always going to get the critics (who say) ‘You might have done well the last two years, but you didn’t play anybody,’” DeMarco said. “Now I get my opportunity to show. I’m excited because I’ve waited my entire life for this.”

Wilder feels like he has, too.

A quarterback at the University of Maine in his playing days and then an assistant for 17 years with the Black Bears, Wilder was hired by Old Dominion in February 2007, 18 months before the first game.

He said perhaps the most significant game in the two seasons was a loss — 21-17 at home against CAA power William & Mary last year before a sellout crowd at the Monarchs’ field.

“That was the game that had been circled on the schedule since we knew we were playing them, in terms of where are we,” Wilder said. “We were in our 14th game of existence and they’ve been playing for 120 years.

“That game in so many ways, it showed me as the head coach that we’re on the right path, we’re recruiting the right players, we’re doing the right things.”

Old Dominion faces a schedule that finishes with a gauntlet of Villanova, James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary.

Villanova, JMU and Richmond all have won the national championship within the past six seasons, and William & Mary played in the national semifinals last year.

Defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron, a transfer from Hofstra, which disbanded its football program, said the culture of winning the Monarchs have forged in two seasons will help as they face this season.

“Honestly, I like the fact that a lot of these guys are somewhat ignorant to the fact of what we’re going into,” Cameron said, “because you have that confidence, like ‘I can beat anybody,’ and you need some of that feeling on your team.”

It starts with DeMarco, who at 5-foot-9 has always felt he had something to prove.

“I fully expect he’ll be one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best quarterback, in the league,” Wilder said.