As the summer wears down and the sounds of early-morning school bells haunt the dreams of school children across the tri-state, a family trip to Paramount Kings Island is just the remedy to some of these late-season woes. For the University of Cincinnati football program, their trip to the Island this past Sunday was there attempt to let go of the summertime months and kick off the onset of their upcoming football season with a little bonding time - for the team and the fans!
Even Kickers Got Into the Action
"It's a chance for us to get out and mingle with the fans and let them know whom we are and what we are about," said freshman linebacker Donnell Mackenzie, who could be seen along with his teammates handing out season ticket brochures and having the fans sign his shirt.
Two Big Offensive Linemen Signing Posters For Fans
"It just shows the fans that we are out here for them and that maybe they will look into following us during the season."
Expected starting quarterback Dustin Grutza spoke highly of the symbolic nature of having the fans leave their John Hancock on the players t-shirts. "The kids seem to really like leaving their signature on us, it sort of makes them feel important - and they are! I mean, we are looking to add new faces to the stands with every game and to build life-long Bearcat football fans. By coming out here and signing a few autographs and handing out a few posters we can really make an impact on the way the community looks about our team."
This Is Why They Play Football
The intermingling between player, coach and fans continued throughout the day, but was capped off by a rousing performance by the UC pep teams. The Bearcat band, dance team, cheerleaders and mascot put on a performance for the thousands in attendance.
With cheerleaders smiling and waving at young fans to watching a 6-foot tall Bearcat dance and carouse with possible future UC students and their parents, the University of Cincinnati left it's mark on the crowd during the approximately thirty minute performance. Those who were surprised by seeing the Bearcats walked away entertained and excited about the upcoming football season.
Doing the Bearcat Dance
While the players were not directly involved in the performance, you could see numerous UC football players enjoying the celebration and interacting with fans and one another.
"It is just a fun time out here," said freshman offensive lineman Jeffery Linenback. Hanging with the guys and just having an overall good time at the park, it's just a fun environment to be around right now. With the season approaching, working hard at camp every day, it is just good to get away from football a bit and have some fun."
The Fans Today Were The Players Who Got Autographs
After their half-hour autograph sessions were over (each position signed autographs together), the team was allowed to cut loose and experience all of what Kings Island had to offer. Riding rides, playing games, and even scarfing down the occasional fried piece of amusement park goodness, the Bearcats were able to relinquish some of the pressures found in summer camp and pickup a few much needed bonded moments with their teammates in a non-football setting.
Enjoying The Ride
"We probably could have used camp today. However, allowing the guys to get out here and bond a little bit, get to know the guys that have been lining up next to them for one to two practices a day, gives them a chance to bond as more of a family," said Bearcat defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who was seen watching some of his players ride Viking's Cove with his young son at his side. "It is really good for all of us as a program. Events like this, where everyone in the program gets together, just furthers help drive home the point that this is more than a college football team. We are trying to make this group into a family."
Coach Narduzzi Looking On
While the dreams of a familiar setting for the football team are already well on their way to becoming a reality, the coaching staff tried to speed-up the process by "forcing" each position to ride at least one ride together with their position coach.
It is really good for us as a team. We are competing with these guys for playing time every practice, so it's good to come out here and bond as friends and teammates," said Grutza. "This has been a really good situation for the quarterbacks especially. There has been a lot talk about the quarterback battle, and everyone has been doing whatever they can to earn the starting spot, but we need to be teammates at the same time. We can learn a lot from each other and can really help one another to get better on the field, so becoming close as people can really help us on the field."
Grutza and Carey Looking To Win Some Big Prizes
While it may have been masqueraded as a grandiose excuse to have a little fun in the sun at the amusement park, Sunday's football program function could go a long way in building a stronger program in terms of in the stands and in the locker room. If their demeanor at Kings Island was any indication of what to expect for the 2005 season, we can expect to see a lot of Bearcats having a ton of fun all season long - and so should the fans.