BearcatInsider himself, Dave Berk, was my host for the day and really showed me a great time. Dave has an outstanding relationship with the UC administration, coaches, and players, and it is clearly evident that he is well-liked and respected by them. I can see that Dave has taken a great deal of time to develop these relationships so that he can provide great insight on the Bearcat football program on the web site.
I'll address each event I attended separately.
What an honor and privilege it was to attend the Captain's Breakfast! I cannot say enough how welcome I was made to feel at this event by current and former players and coaches.
The Captain's Breakfast is exactly what the name implies. Players that have served as Bearcat football captains meet before the Red/Black game to have breakfast together and share memories and stories from previous seasons, and to speak to the seniors about how their experience as a UC football player will prepare them for life. This is an outstanding tradition that started in 1947, and as far as anyone knows, is perhaps the only event of its kind.
These men were not only great football players, but many of them have had great success in business, teaching, and coaching. They share a special bond that those of us who never played the game cannot fully understand. Many of the former captains spoke of being a part of the Bearcat ‘family'. And it is quite evident that this family has been held together through the years by many great coaches that were not only concerned with how well their players performed on the field, but off of it as well. More than one player spoke of coming close to giving up or leaving early in their college career, only to have a coach step in and reassure them they could make it, and get them the help they needed to stay, and eventually excel on the field and earn their degree.
Some of the highlights of the morning are the jokes and stories. "Lefty" Pittman (1945) spoke of his team as being the last to wear leather helmets and wool jerseys. And he evidently enjoyed the 4 to 1 ratio of women to men on campus due to the war. Legendary Bearcat Glenn Sample (1952) is quite a motivational speaker, and his newspaper "trick" is looked forward to at every Captain's Breakfast. Robert Tate (1996) shared how his experience at UC prepared him for his NFL career, and how he was able to make the move from receiver to defensive back successfully, due in part to his UC career. I wish I could share what each speaker had to say, but in order for me to give each justice, this article would become quite lengthy.
Jim Kelly Sr. has hosted this event for many years. He is revered and loved by all of his former players and teammates, and will be handing over his duties to his son, Jim Kelly Jr. starting next season.
And it was an honor to hear Coach Dick MacPherson speak. He was this year's featured speaker. He is a legendary coach, having served as an assistant coach at UC from 1961-1965, head coach at the University of Massachusetts, Syracuse University, and in the NFL with the New England Patriots.
BearcatInsider.com Tailgate Party
Prior to the game, Dave and I made our way over to the Corry parking lot. We met several of the web site posters and had a great lunch. It was nice to put faces to "fake" names, and I had a great time meeting everyone. From what I understand plans are in the works to strengthen this pre-game ritual and help make this a big part of Bearcat football game days.
The Red/Black Classic
If I had only attended the Captain's Breakfast, my day would have been complete. But I also was able to spend the entire game on the field close to the action. It's an old cliché, but these guys really are much bigger once you get next to them!
The weather was spectacular, and led to a bit of a sun burn for me, but it was worth it. There was a small but enthusiastic crowd, and the Bearcat band provided pre-game and halftime entertainment. I have always enjoyed attending games at Nippert Stadium, and it has never looked better.
From my vantage point, the defense and special teams were the stars on this day. The offense struggled some, but had a few plays come together for a big gain and a couple of touchdowns. UC has a nice group of quarterbacks that will be competing for a starting spot this fall. Several of them saw action in the game. The competition should help to motivate each player to perform at their best.
After the game, I met several of the players and coaches and their families and had my picture taken with many of them. It is great to see the support these players receive from their families. I think the coaching staff has done an outstanding job recruiting these players. These are not just great athletes, but great people as well. I wish all Bearcat fans could have the opportunity to spend some time with them and see how nice they are in person and how dedicated they are to UC.
As a UC graduate and Bearcat fan, this day ranks as one of the best in my life. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how a big time college football program operates and how the Bearcat football fraternity is really a big family. I would like to thank all of the players and coaches that made this a great day for me, and in particular Mike Thomas, Coach Dantonio, Jim Kelly Sr., Coach McPherson, and John Widecan. And again a big Thank You to Dave Berk for making this day possible.
Steve Schulte (uccatfan)