ASU Kick-Off Luncheon Report

If anyone needed any more validation to the level of excitement of ASU fans, then they got it at the first annual kick-off luncheon sponsored by the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and the ASU Alumni association. The atmosphere of the 500+ fans in attendance was electric, and if that enthusiasm can be transformed into Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday night, the deafening crowd noise levels will create a much needed home-field advantage this season.

After short speeches by the chair of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce and the main sponsor of the event, America West Airlines, emcee and voice of the Sun Devils Tim Healy introduced coach Koetter, his staff, and the four team captains. The first ASU speaker was Athletic Director Gene Smith, who talked about the important role the community and the team captains played in the transition into the coach Koetter reign. He also mentioned the great partnership between the athletic department and the alumni association, in creating events such as this.

The first team captain to come up and speak was senior center Scott Peters, who was "excited and very honored" to be named captain by his teammates. He spoke of the great summer workout led by coach Kenn which made the team "much faster and stronger than before." He also praised the coaches who did a great job installing the offense, and "now it's time for us to execute." Peters also mentioned the noticeable development of Jeff Krohn from last year, and he believes the signal caller is: "more comfortable with the offense and a strong leader on the team." The second team captain to speak was safety Al Williams, who was "surprised" to be anointed team captain being he's a junior. Williams' bruising tackles earned him the nickname "HMO", a moniker he doesn't like: "I'm not trying to put anyone in the Hospital, I just want to kill their will to play (smile)." When asked by Healy what the perfect hit is, he replied: "I don't think about it. I just go with my instinct and hit." He loves the new scheme that allows him to fly around all over and make big plays. In the 4-2-5 scheme he says: "The quarterback never knows where he's gonna get hit from." It's worth noting that the safety is a student of martial arts and Zen philosophy, which he applies it on the field.

Next team captain to speak was senior safety Willie Daniel, who is not emotional about his last year wearing the maroon and gold, but rather: "Excited and anxious to get the season started. I can't believe how fast the four years went by. I wish I had redshirted." It was suggested that Daniel, who has been known to lay punishing hits himself, be nicknamed PPO. Daniel kind of agreed with it since he sat at the Tempe St. Luke's hospital table. Speaking of medical issues, he jokingly said that he "never played hurt before. If you want to play Football, you have to be mentally tough. No one cares if you're tired or injured." He talked about the great trust on the field he has with fellow safety Williams, and gave kudos to the third safety, Riccardo Stewart who is "tough and feisty."

When it came to the order of the team captain speakers, the best was definitely saved for last. Senior linebacker Eric Fields brought the house down with his outgoing humorous personality. The linebacker talked at length of the importance of special teams, and noted that he plays on four of its units. He said that special teams coach Tom Osbourne was by far "The biggest character on the team. He (Osbourne) will come up to you after a game the day before and only talk about special teams. He'll just talk about punts and kick-offs. He'll remember blocked punts from the 1st quarter of a game played in 1986." The senior equated to the pre-season magazines to supermarket tabloids. "Nobody says they read them, but they do. We were never given a fair chance in those magazines. Now we just have to answer them on the field." For an encore he said that he wanted to take over Tim Healy's play-by-play job, after this year. On a serious note, he said that he might want to be a coach if he doesn't play professionally.

Last to speak was head Coach Dirk Koetter who was a man of few words today. He jokingly said: "Seeing all these fans here, I'm now officially nervous for the game. I'm sick of not playing a meaningful game. We need to see what we have to work on. San Diego State will be much improved, because they have ironed out their mistakes from last week." The coach was proud of his four team captains and said: "we normally hear about all the negative student athletes, but these players with high character should be recognized. Most of the players on the team are of this character." Speaking of praising players he was happy that "Jeff Krohn finally switched from number 22 to 5. It's about time he wore a quarterback number." Just like Peters, Koetter commended the work strength coach Joe Kenn did in the off-season. Koetter said that when he was the offensive coordinator at Oregon "the only team we feared was ASU. We knew we would get our nose bloody against them. We need to bring that back." In closing he said, that the team will play an attacking style, and win on special teams: "We may make mistakes, but I know we'll at least make them at full speed."

The stage is set for the debut of the Sun Devils in the 2001 season. Players and coaches will spend the next 24 hours or so with last minute preparations and final touches to the game plan, while the overly anxious fans, will continue to bite their nails off and count the seconds down to kick-off. No one doubts that the energy tomorrow night at Sun Devils stadium will be enough to solve the power crisis in California. The question that looms large is: will that energy translate into the convincing ASU victory most are expecting? At about 10:30 PM on Saturday, that question and many others should be answered...

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