Orange Bowl diary: Part 2

Tony King is a former head manager for the USC football team and he kept a diary of the recent Orange Bowl trip to descibe the experiences of what he saw on the Trojans road to the national championship. Click below to read part 2 of his story.

December 29th, 2004

7:57 AM – I wake up from my slumber. Ugh. I'm going to need more sleep than this…

8:12 AM – We have breakfast, which is amazing. There is a huge fruit and bread platter at the beginning of the line, with strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, honey dew, various muffins and croissants. Then there's the typical scrambled eggs, hash browns (which were amazing!), sausage, bacon, and French toast to cap it all of at the end. There is also a toast/bagel table on one side and an omelet station on the other. There is also staff on hand for constant coffee servings, along with a section for milk, cereal, orange juice, and other juices.

Simply put, it's an awesome breakfast setting. And it's all free…

8:48 AM – All the managers leave the hotel and head for the Nova facility to set up the locker room and field.

About 11:30 AM – We are entirely finished with our set up. The player buses are just about getting to the facility, though we've been done with the locker room setup for awhile now. We had to unload all of the players bags, hang up their pins (the players maintain their clothing by putting them on laundry pins that have their numbers on them), lay out their jerseys, take out their shoes, hang up their helmets and pads, put away their bags, and unload all the necessary equipment from our own trunks.

Shortly after the buses arrive, Tino Dominguez comes out and tells us the way we set the field up is entirely wrong. We rearrange it the way the coaches want it in no time. We attempt to make it as close to our home practice facility as much as possible, though it is difficult.

For example, we usually have at least four, what we call "donkey dicks," for the defensive line drills. Unfortunately, we have three of two different kinds of "donkeys" (for the purposes of this article, we'll call them "donkey's" instead of…), which makes it difficult to complete our set of four.

Another problem we have is the fact that the agile bags they supplied us with are much taller and wider than the ones we're used to at home. I privately predict that at least five players on offense (since offense and defense do their agile drills separately, and I'm consistently on the offensive side of the ball) are going to trip during the drills.

Finally, perhaps the most annoying problem we have is that the two fields are separated by a long fence that has a tiny, doorway opening that will only allow one person to pass through at a time. It was really annoying for a variety of reasons, as one can imagine, not to mention the communication problems we had throughout the week. Well, it just meant a lot more running for most of us!

12-1:30 PM – Unfortunately, my prediction falls way short. Only one player trips over the bags, though I will not reveal his name here.

The team is only in helmets today, much like a typical Monday during game week practice. Unlike those Mondays, we're having a regularly scheduled practice, which means we're going through special teams drills, 9 on 7 run drill, and 7 on 7 pass drills, in addition to our typical individual, service, and team sections of practice.

It is very windy today, and it definitely affected our passing game. I worry that the game will be this windy; I certainly hope not. It is also slightly drizzling, so we have to keep the balls dry and consistently have towels by our side to hide the footballs from the rain.

LenDale White doesn't practice today, and Desmond Reed takes a lot of reps along with Reggie Bush. I hope LenDale can get better and come back to play, but I really like what Desmond can bring to the game. I just wish we could play all of these guys at the same time.

2 PM – Everyone is done showering and changing, and all the players, managers, and trainers board the buses to go to the scheduled Orange Bowl Beach Party.

There must be twenty jet skis out there on the beach, waiting to be driven around on the oceanfront. Unfortunately, the water is too choppy (like I said earlier, it's very windy today!), and dozens of players who got out there early to ride the waves just sit on them, hopefully waiting that maybe the water will get better.

Back on the land, there is a barbecue with ribs, chicken, etc. for all of us. A pool table, 3 poker tables, and a volleyball court on the beach provide us with entertainment, along with a DJ blaring music in the background. Everyone gets an Orange Bowl Frisbee and deck of cards.

4:25 PM – We leave the beach party and head for our hotel.

About 5 PM – We arrive at our hotel and I head straight up to my room and for the bathtub. I take a bubble bath while reading a book and watch the Houston Bowl between Colorado and UTEP. An hour later, I take a nap.

11 PM – I wake up from my nap. What the? Man, was I tired…

December 30th, 2004

7:50 AM – I wake up and cannot see the sun at all. The sky is sullenly gray, and rain is coming down nonstop. Looks like we'll have a fun practice today…

8:35 AM – We leave, as usual, before anybody else to get to Nova. We have to set up everyday at this time.

About 11:30 AM – Again, the team arrives about this time. The rain is still coming down hard and trust me, when you're not playing (but working!) in it…it sucks.

12-2 PM – The rain is making life very difficult for all the managers. Don't misunderstand me; the rain does not affect the coaches, and to a lesser extent, the players like it does for us. For us managers, the rain just makes our job more difficult, whether it be spotting the ball, getting equipment from location to location, whatever. Balls get waterlogged, equipment gets wet and heavier to carry, and the mushy ground completely drenches your shoes, socks, and feet.

The rain does somewhat affect the players though. It is hard to hold onto, catch, and throw the football while it is raining. I certainly hope it doesn't rain during the Orange Bowl. It does affect both teams, but in my opinion, games just look sloppy and mishandled when rain is involved.

6:25 PM – We leave about fifteen minutes later than scheduled for Smith & Wollensky's. Two players were late, thus delaying the buses.

Upon arriving at Smith and Wollensky's, the team is quickly seated on the second floor of the restaurant (how many restaurants have two dining floors!) where every table has a huge seafood appetizer platter waiting. There are lobster claws, jumbo shrimp, and pieces of crab all over ice, served with lemon and cocktail sauce. Very good indeed!

The steaks were served with some wonderful side dishes – garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli. The steaks were a little overdone, but who can complain about free food?

Dessert was also amazing, though I didn't have much. The chocolate and cheesecake were particularly good!

From there, the buses dropped the team off on Ocean Drive so that we could sight see South Beach. Amazingly, more than half the players stay on the buses and return to the hotel. The buses would be running back and forth between South Beach and our hotel every hour, but not even half of the players on our team took advantage of this opportunity.

Most of the managers, on the other hand, most certainly did. We walked along the beach, mingled with some USC fans, and even went inside a couple of the bar/restaurants.

Late 4th Quarter of the Holiday Bowl – Oh jeez…Cal is making the Pac-10 look bad. Oh well. Can't really blame them when their top two wide receivers are injured and Aaron Rodgers is overrated. Really, all he did was have the game of his life against us, and everybody thinks this guy is an All-American. 23 straight…big deal…

11:57 PM – Chris Hanaford, a member of our video staff, and I hustle back to the bus meeting point to make it for the midnight return. Other than us, there are only three players taking the last possible bus back. I guess that bodes well for us; not many players are staying out too late. They have to make the 1 AM curfew anyway…

December 31st, 2004

11: 30 AM – Again, we're ready for practice to start. Our "donkey" situation is fixed when Lou Bing, our football equipment supplier at Nova, was able to get us another "donkey" of the adequate size. For those observant readers, that's right, his last name is Bing. He is Darnell Bing's uncle, and that week was the first time the two had ever met one another. Just another example of Tino Dominguez working his magic.

As for the "donkeys," while there weren't any complaints that I knew of yet, I certainly did not want go get one from Coach O!

12-2 PM – Another day, another practice…

Before practice, Coach Chow asks me to run over to the medical tent to make sure LenDale White can make it in time for the offensive prepractice walk-thru. As I trot over, my foot lands right in the middle of a giant mud puddle, covering my usually white shoe in black and brown goop. Dang it…

The field is riddled with these "mudholes." Thanks a lot rain…

During service team, our offensive line seems to be having trouble picking up certain blitzes. This really starts to worry me. I feel as if we're going to have to play very well to beat Oklahoma…

Later that day – The other managers and I just watch the various bowl games that day.

After watching the offensive fireworks in the Liberty Bowl, the Peach Bowl is brutally agonizing to watch. Seriously, with all the skill athletes that Miami and Florida have, how can they struggle so much to score? The defenses of either team cannot be that much better. I mean, Louisville got into a scoring match with Miami, why can't Florida? Truly pathetic…

Arizona State truly pulled one out of their rear. That injury to Andrew Walter late in the year might have been the best thing that could have happened to the Sun Devils as a team for next year. At least they know that quarterback won't be a question mark anymore.

And I don't care what the scouts or anyone else says, I think Louisville quarterback Stefan LeFors can be the next Steve Young.

Sometime in the 2nd half of the Peach Bowl – The majority of the managers head down to check out the New Year's Eve party in the hotel. Compared to two years ago, when it was an open bar for the same party, this one could not compare. Hardly any players were there while maybe half the coaching staff was there. It mostly consisted of parents, the various members of the staff and their children.

From a personally social perspective, the party was disappointing, but from a practical, football point of view, I totally understood. I actually preferred that we did this, and I'm glad that we did. Besides, it will just make the post-game party that much better.

We all got some pictures with several coaches and players and went back up to our room to watch one of the free movies that we got each night.

None of us decide to go out on the town for New Year's Eve. Only a handful of us are 21 in the first place, and those that were did not want to pay the hundreds of dollars to go to a quality party. Getting a good night's sleep that night seemed like a better idea.


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