Orange Bowl diary: Part 3

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 3 of his story.

January 1st, 2005

Practice – Our offense on service team still does not look as sharp as we could be. I still don't doubt that we are going to win, but I am a little uneasy with the way we're playing.

However, the return of LenDale lessens my concerns. He looks like he's going to be ready to go.

With LenDale White and Manuel Wright back in the lineup, I am excited for the game.

There is still a little bit of rain, but the sun comes out later during practice. During the "team" section of practice, Coach Carroll hands me his rain jacket and tells me that he basically doesn't need it anymore. Not only that, but his zipper is stuck. Unable to undo the zipper, and not knowing what else to do with it at the moment, I simply put the jacket on myself and continue spotting the ball for "team." It's a little weird to be wearing a jacket when the zipper is on your lower back…not to mention when it isn't yours, but belongs to the best head coach in the college game.

5 PM – Back at the hotel, we watch the Rose Bowl at the unusually timed snack break. Odd how today's snack was at 5, but yet there will still be the regularly scheduled one (which is later in the evening).

At snack, we receive an Orange Bowl watch and money clip. Pretty cool…

Later during the Rose Bowl – Man, Texas is a one-man team. Absolutely ridiculous. Watch everyone peg them a Top 10 team next year just because of Vince Young. HA! Good luck replacing Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson…

Sometime late in the 2nd quarter of the Fiesta Bowl – Man, Pittsburgh doesn't belong here. Utah might, but we'll never know if they truly did since they're not even playing a real team. Did that guy really just have that sure touchdown bomb dink off his face mask? And he's their best receiver? WOW.

I decide that I can't even take a 14-0 Utah lead and go down to the pool. We go for a short time in the spa and see that the Tings, Alex Gomez, and Ryan Powdrell are already enjoying themselves. We hang out for a bit and then decide to go swimming.

My being an idiot and misinterpreting the metric system of measurement, I dive into the pool, not noticing that 1.2 meters is NOT 12 feet.

DOINK!

My chin bottoms out and I quickly pull back, trying not to break my neck or crush my face. I surface and check my chin for bleeding. Nothing so far. Good. I hope nobody else saw…

We continue swimming and I walk back up into my room. As I walk in, my roommate asks…

"What the hell happened to your chin?"

Awww…crap. I look in the mirror and realize I skinned my chin pretty badly. Like as if I dived on a basketball court for a loose ball and caught my chin the entire way. It's even slightly bleeding.

I go down and see the trainers and ask for this product called New Skin, which heals up cuts and the sorts almost immediately. They claim that I won't need it, and that it would hurt like hell.

I return to my room absolutely dejected. We've got media day tomorrow and will have to take pictures. Not like I will be featured in any, but I don't really want to have a huge band-aid showing on the bottom of my chin either.

January 2nd, 2005

6:30 AM – We wake up to get over to Pro Player Stadium to get the locker room ready for the media day. We have to set up the locker room, assign players to the lockers, and lay out signs and jerseys for the players in their lockers.

Man…it's REALLY early…

About 9 AM – We take pictures and wait for the players to finish with the media. Pretty boring really…

About 11 AM – We leave Pro Player and return to the hotel. Upon returning, I take a nap.

4:15 PM – I wake up just in time to go downstairs and get "lunch," which is about to be served at 4:30 PM.

5:30 PM – We leave for Nova practice facility.

8:00 PM – The team arrives at Nova. Notice a pattern here?

8:30 PM – Practice starts. This practice alleviates all concerns that I had for the bowl game. This, practice, in my opinion, was our best showing all week. We have a night practice in order to get used to playing under the lights.

It goes well. I spot the ball for virtually the entire practice, and since there isn't much of a script for me to go off of, I have to sort of guess where Coach Carroll wants me to place the ball. After a couple of short beratings, I get the hang of it and figure out how he wants it done. Working under Coach Carroll, I know he'll always make it clear to me what is going on.

We go through a lot of situational stuff, especially working in what we call the "fringe" area and the red zone. The fringe area is that area where you're not quite at the red zone yet, but you're a little too close to really want to punt the ball. I'd say it's around the 30-40 yard line on the side of the field where you're about to score. We're doing a good job on both sides of the ball, doing what we want and getting things accomplished.

We run our fair share of special teams stuff in between the offense and defense oriented periods. Normally, we have a strict script that says where the ball should be placed for certain plays. Today, we're going through more of a live scrimmage type placement, and as a result I'm running all over the place, trying to get to the spot before the players do. The 2-minute drill in particular gets pretty hectic and can be one of the best workouts you ever get. I can see how sometimes referees can get out of breath!

At the end of practice, just like the team has done for many of the practices this week, they did something that has been relatively new. While huddled together as a team, they would chant the lyrics to "Fire Water Burn" by Bloodhound Gang. For you old timers out there that don't know the lyrics, they are rather…controversial.

The roof…the roof…the roof is on fire!
We don't need no water
Let the _______ burn!
Burn _______ burn!

Then, center Ryan Kalil led the team in something I'd never seen before:

Ryan: Are ya'll ready?
Team: Hell Yeah!
Ryan: Are ya'll ready?
Team: Hell Yeah!
Ryan: Ya'll ain't ready!
Team: Shit…

They did this three times, each time getting louder until the last time was loud as can be. They ended practice on that note, and I hadn't seen the team more upbeat that entire week than at that moment.

After practice, we cleaned everything out of Nova University. This was our last practice here and we're getting all our stuff on the truck and out of here! Good Bye Nova!

11:40 PM – We get back to the hotel and go up to eat "snack." We are starving! Especially me. After all the running I did that evening, I was ready for some good food. At "snack," there is pasta, pizza, burritos, and a layout for cheeseburgers and fixings. We also get unlimited amounts of chocolate milk, white milk and water. After filling up, we head up to our rooms to shower and go out.

January 3rd, 2005

About 1 AM – A former manager happened to rent a car while we were in Miami, and he took us out on the town. We check out South Beach again, but it being Sunday night, it wasn't as cool as it was Thursday night.

About 4 AM – We drop off everybody else back at the hotel while the driver and I decide to hit up another locale.

About 7 AM – I return to the hotel exhausted. I'm glad that we don't get bed checked, though it's rather irresponsible of me to be coming back this late. I just hope I can get some sleep…

8:25 AM – Wake up sleepy head…

8:45 AM – We leave the hotel for Pro Player Stadium. I'm surprisingly much more awake than I thought I would be. I'm going to see how long this lasts…

Upon arriving, we unload our trucks and take out all the necessary game day equipment. We unload the players' bags (yuck) and set up their lockers. We do the same thing here that we did just days ago at Nova: hanging up their pin, helmet, pads, laying out their shoes, etc. Pretty monotonous work, but our group of managers being close friends as we are, it's not too bad. We always manage to make our work entertaining. That, or we gripe at each other since we've been with one another for nearly a week straight now.

1 PM – I manage to sneak in an hour nap on one of the trainer tables in the locker room. Amazing how much a folded up towel can simulate a pillow…

2:30 PM – One of the head equipment managers comes back with lunch from KFC. We dig in and try to finish before the team gets here.

About 3:30 PM – We have our typical walk-thru at the stadium that we do before every game that we have. We go through every situation on special teams and then some plays on both offense and defense before we finish it up with a two-minute drill and a "last two" drill where we try to simulate what would happen if we only had two plays left in the game.

Since I'm still running around spotting the ball, I'm kicking myself for eating so much KFC…

We end the walk-thru like a typical home walk-thru, but I'm a little worried about a "Friday" ritual that we've had ever since I've been here. For every away game, on the Friday walk-thru before the game, the offense and defensive lines have a walking-only game against one another. They did not have one today. This causes great concern in me and the more superstitious managers…

But then again, we're the home team, so maybe that's why we didn't do it…

A stickler for detail, our practice doesn't end just yet. Coach Carroll makes a point to address the importance of the National Anthem to our team, which normally would be in the locker room while the National Anthem is sung. He wanted to make sure our team looked sharp and respectful for the National Anthem, and he had our team line up on the sideline, shoulder to shoulder with their teammates and toes precisely behind the white sideline.

Absolutely amazing how Coach Carroll could be totally involved in the game planning for Oklahoma and still remember the classy little things like this that will make our team look good for the game.

About 6:30 PM – The team is long gone, but us managers are just leaving the stadium. We had to do some last minute things after the team left, and we wanted to make sure we had as little to do on the day of the game as possible.

When I got back to the hotel, I could not even stay awake for the Sugar Bowl after I showered. I fell asleep and only woke up when Virginia Tech scored that touchdown bomb with 2 minutes left to go in the game. Too bad they didn't have any more timeouts in the game; otherwise, they would have had a shot to tie it up.

I can't believe Auburn is claiming themselves national champions. Dude, you guys just beat that team by three. Not exactly convincing…

I simply ignore the lobbying Tuberville and fall back asleep.


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