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A College Bowl Practice

Bowl Button

This morning, I attended my first-ever college bowl practice, featuring the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on the field turf at Episcopal High in Alexandria. College bowl practices has previously been described to me as similar to those NCAA men's hoops practices before tourney games, which are open to the media and prominently feature impromptu dunk contests and half-court shot fests. Not the picture of white-hot intensity, in other words. This practice did have the timer counting down every practice period, and the team employees video-taping, and the equipment folks scurrying around. Here's what else it had.

The hordes.

* Butkus Award-winning linebacker Aaron Curry sprinting back and forth from field to sideline to practice while also offering advice to some young folks from the Lee-Franconia Football League.

"When people were sleeping, I was out running," Curry said. "Sacrifice things, like the clubs, parties. Sacrifice things like chasing women."

These kids, I should note, were ages 9-13.

"If you want to be successful, you have to sacrifice things," Curry continued. I had to sacrifice fried chicken."

The fried chicken lecture.

("I think we all cringed at that one," said Craig Jeter, who organized the outing for the kids.

"I had to give it up, I felt like the grease was seriously slowing me down," Curry explained later.)

"If you're benching, bench 'till your chest pop," Curry concluded. "The next morning, you want to feel like your body can't move. That's when you know you're successful."

* Safety Chip Vaughn, concluding his final collegiate practice by hopping on the equipment cart and driving it a few yards.

"Actually, I've had my eye on that cart since my freshman year," he said. "I figured I had to hop on it before I left."

* Coach Jim Grobe, gathering his players to describe their upcoming schedule and to offer some advice. "You will not develop any meaningful relationships while you're here," he said slyly, while players broke up laughing. "Just take care of yourself and be good."

The coaches, indeed, were unusually relaxed; "they're not screaming at us, going crazy," Curry noted.

* Several players kneeling on the sidelines and discussing their post-bowl travel plans, and whether or not it's possible to fly non-stop from Pittsburgh to LAX. It is. The players who knew this pointed out that Pittsburgh has both NFL and MLB franchises, and thus counts as a legit city.

* Media hordes. By my count, there were two Washington Post reporters, one Washington Times reporter, one wire-service photographer, one videographer, and one reporter/cameraman from News 14 Carolina. That would be Tim Baier, temporarily constituting the entirety of the Wake Forest media contingent. He actually managed to combine this with a trip to see his brother, who lives in D.C.

* There was also another guy snapping photos on the sideline, but he turned out to be not a media member but Pat Chase, the father of a Wake Forest commit.

"I'm not a very good photographer," he confessed.

* Several kids who play football for Episcopal, watching practice from a brick wall above the field.

"It's awesome, just because it's a Division I football team practicing at your school," said Hunter deButts. They pointed out that reserve cornerback Michael Williams had been dancing throughout most of practice. I asked what they learned from the day.

"We're gonna bring his dance moves to the team next year," deButts said.

* Episcopal head football coach and AD Mark Gowin, watching with his players. The school gets nothing from the field use except a dozen or so game tickets, but he said it was worth it, in several ways.

"This is a no-brainer for us," he said. "It just brings an excitement. I wanted my players to see what a big-time program looks like. They see games, but they don't see practices, everything that goes into it. Any time you have an opportunity to get this type of exposure, it never hurts your program down the road."

You see? The EagleBank Bowl brings exposure. I asked Gowin if he was obligated to root for Wake this weekend.

"Not really," he said. "[The tickets] are from the Bowl, not the team."

* Tomorrow, the Wake marching band will arrive at Episcopal, but the kids are mostly gone, so don't expect the trumpet players from the school's orchestra to be out looking for tips.

* Curry also answered charges of games like this being "meaningless."

"It's a chance to give the nation some excitement, near the holidays, to give them something to do," he said. "It's kind of like the NBA playoffs."

Without the championship part, I pointed out.

* Many Wake players, reflecting on the upcoming end of their careers.

"I try not to think about when's my last day, when's my first day," Curry said. "You get caught up in time. I want to live in the moment."

"Bittersweet," Vaughn said, describing his final practice. "I don't want it to end."

Take that, college bowl cynics.

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 18, 2008; 1:54 PM ET
Categories:  College Football , EagleBank Bowl  
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Next: Phillip Fulmer at the Capitol Building


Dan, you've really brought your best to this bowl.

Posted by: mike8 | December 18, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

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