Among the University of Cincinnati's signing class for 2012 are eight who played prep football in the area.
From Colerain, there's defensive backs Dylan Coombs (son of Kerry) and Andre Jones; defensive back Zach Edwards and running back E.J. Junior come from Middletown; offensive lineman Ryan Leahy is from La Salle; offensive lineman Caleb Stacey from Oak Hills; offensive lineman Kyle Williamson from Madeira; and defensive back Drake Bruns is from Highlands in Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
Here's coach Butch Jones' thoughts on the locals on signing day.
For one season, in 1994, I worked with Greg Cook on the Bearcat football radio broadcasts along with Paul Keels.
It was my first of 14 seasons doing a job I grew to cherish and it was Greg Cook's last.
Short-lived. Highs and lows.
Just like the late quarterback's life. The legendary No. 12 sadly left us on Jan. 26 at age 65.
To say I remember Greg Cook's entire career would be a lie because I was only eight-years-old when he was named American Football League rookie of the year for the Bengals in 1969. I do remember the Bengals beating the two best AFL teams that year, the Chiefs with Len Dawson and the Raiders with Daryle Lamonica (coached by John Madden--yeah, the video game guy).
Cook's college career at UC is folklore to a lot of us, but his records at the time were incredible. He threw for 3,272 yards and 25 touchdowns in 1968, including 35-56 for 554 against Ohio University. Those numbers weren't approached until Gino Guidugli and Ben Mauk hit the scene with spread offenses.
Greg Cook was the prototype quarterback before the term was even used. He stood 6-5 and weighed at least 220, had huge hands and could fling a football a country mile. NFL Hall of Famer Paul Brown chose him first in the 1969 draft.
Unfortunately, a shoulder injury in his first year cost him his career. He finished the year but was never the same after leading the Bengals to a 3-0 mark with the win over the Chiefs (who would go onto win the Super Bowl).
With today's technology, Cook would've been back better than ever. In 1969, "sports medicine" was an icepack.
Because of that, Cook's career ended in the mid-70s after numerous comeback attempts. Because of that, then-Bengals quarterback coach Bill Walsh developed Virgil Carter and then Ken Anderson, who also should be in the Hall of Fame.
The one quote I'll always remember comes from my prior life in radio when I was producing Cris Collinsworth's "Sportstalk" shows. I prided myself in getting good guests and tracking down people. A random call from Chillicothe (Cook's hometown) got me in contact with Greg in the early 90s and I arranged for him to come to the studio to sit-in with Cris.
I also made a call to Bill Walsh, who had left the 49ers after taking two Super Bowls over the team that wouldn't promote him (passed over for "Tiger" Johnson). Walsh was on NBC with Cris at the time and I got him on in the segment before Cook's appearance.
The late Hall of Fame coach said it to me prior to going on-air and said it on-air to Cris: "He would've been the best ever," Walsh said. "Better than Montana, better than Young." (Thanks to www.cincinnati.com)
I've remembered that quote for the last 20 years or so. Joe Montana and Steve Young were MVPs and are Hall of Famers. Ken Anderson should be. Walsh coached them all, yet saved those accolades for a guy that basically had one season in the AFL before the merger of the two leagues.
It's evidence enough for me.
Because of that, and remembering being a kid and seeing "Greg Cook No. 12" everywhere in 1969, I asked Cook to do me a favor at our first game in Bloomington, Indiana against the Hoosiers.
In all of my years doing the games, I lived for being on the field before a game soaking it all in and getting information from coaches and players. I also liked picking up a football and displaying what a woeful passer I was (if you don't know, a college football is bigger than you think).
Despite my mediocrity, I wanted Cook to do one thing.
Throw me a pass.
I wanted to tell my kids I caught a pass from Greg Cook. He did and I did and I treasure that reception to this day.
The rest of the year was filled with stories and laughs and observations that honestly shouldn't be shared in this format. Greg Cook lived a colorful life. At one time, he was Cincinnati's "Joe Namath", both in talent and reputation.
Like Joe, Greg had his awkward moments and I know he was dealt a bad hand in life (or a bad shoulder). He had the gift of gab and looks and charm, but what made him stand out, also would harm him.
In my opinion, Greg was the typical talented athlete who rarely heard the word, "no" and wasn't good at knowing "when to say when". I "cast no stone" on him, because like many my age, I've done my share of growing up also. I'm just reporting what I knew and what I saw out of respect.
On the air, he could be brilliant or he could go off on a tangent. He was artsy and intelligent and honestly a lot different than many athletes. He painted, he cooked, he actually brought us a homemade cheesecake the night we had him on the show.
In a way, he was an athletic eccentric. On the road, he was fun. I honestly thought he was going to talk a waitress in Madison, Wisconsin once to come to Cincinnati--the next day! (He had even ordered an extra potato pancake from her to sweeten the pot.)
Another game was at East Carolina and the UC charter plane left from a different spot at Greater Cincinnati airport than normal. As we sat on the runway, pre-cellphone days, nobody knew where Greg was (which really wasn't unusual).
Finally, then-AD Gerald O'Dell gave the nod and the pilot took off for Greenville, North Carolina. The next day it was an early afternoon kick-off, so we were at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium early as the pulled pork pregame scent was floating through the air and East Carolina's seemingly eight-hour pregame show was blaring across the stadium.
No one had yet heard from Greg Cook and the plan was to have a former assistant coach who was in administration at the time, Bruce Ivory, do color with Paul Keels with me on the sideline. As we toted our gear to the highest point of the stadium, the visitor's radio booth, Keels and I looked to midfield.
There he was crossing the 50.
Numerous hours and several coffees later, Greg Cook had driven through the night and found East Carolina. Again, this is pre-GPS or Smartphone. As the story goes, the ex-quarterback was lost a few times but scrambled for positive yardage.
I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he had stopped somewhere for a potato pancake.
At the end of that season, because of a number of reasons, Cook was replaced by Jim Kelly, who had previously done games with Keels. I went on to do 13 more seasons with Jim and he's blessed (and so are you) to have him still onboard for Bearcat games.
Greg Cook, then "morphed" out of sight. We often joked that he just appeared like the guys in the "Star Trek" TV series out of nowhere.
Greg would be "underground" for awhile, then you'd see him at Sunlite Pool smooth-talking the "soccer Moms". Or, he'd resurface at a Bengal function.
Regardless of his situation, he always had a million-dollar smile and a kind word. I can't speak for his behavior beyond what I witnessed. There was part of him that was charismatic, then another part that most of us can't diagnose.
All I know is given today's offenses and medicine, Greg Cook would be enshrined in Canton.
From the moment I first saw him playing summer ball at Woodward High School, I knew he was a gamer.
He had charisma and a shot and wasn't afraid to use either.
Even though he's friends with Lance Stephenson and Lance had crazy skills, I thought UC's team chemistry that summer was better with Sean than with Lance.
At any rate, I'm glad Sean is the one still here.
If you missed the Connecticut game Jan. 18 (and I missed the actual winning shot since I was coaching a basketball team at the time) you missed Kilpatrick taking Huskie fans from ecstasy to agony in a matter of seconds.
Shabazz Napier had just hit a long trey to tie the game at 67. then with 9.5 seconds left, UC inbounded the ball to Sean.
Seven seconds later, "SK" hoisted a three that silenced the crowd and the Bearcats notched the 70-67 win over No. 11 in Storrs, Connecticut.
You can't spell skill without "SK" (nice idea for a column).
I caught up with "Killa" the day after the big shot at Fifth Third Arena:
Before there was "Represent the C", "Catapult", "Cattitude", "The Team Behind The Teams", "U Gotta C It", "Football You Feel", "Next Man In" or any of the umpteen catch-phrases used to promote and attract attention at UC, there was Norm Oxley.
I really don't know Norm's origins with the program, other than his daughter, Cynthia, was once Director of Marketing for Bearcat athletics and was a cheerleader when I was in school.
I met Norm during my tenure covering UC football on radio and through numerous trips to conference tournaments in the Great Midwest and Conference USA basketball days (when conference tournaments were affordable).
Initially, he was just an older guy that seemed to be on all the football trips and all the sidelines helping the equipment and training guys. It was later that I picked up on Norm being a loyal contributor to Bearcat athletics. In 1997, he won the inaugural Strubbe Distinguished Service Award among UCATS, the Bearcat booster organization.
Just goes to show you, never assume a guy handing out towels or Gatorades is nobody.
Norm Oxley was definitely somebody. Sadly, after an illness he passed away Jan. 12.
To those that think the Lindner Center has always existed, that Varsity Village has been in place for years, that Marge Schott Stadium has always been spectacular, the Sheakley Athletic Center (Bubble) blows up on its own and that Oscar Robertson had a statue built shortly after graduating, you probably haven't a clue who Norm Oxley is.
That's your loss.
There's an old country song by Barbara Mandrell called, "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool". Not that Norm or I were great old school country fans, but that pretty much sums up Mr. Oxley.
He supported Bearcat athletics when Nippert Stadium had Astro Turf as hard as concrete and was temporarily condemned. When there was no on-campus arena and students had to be bussed to Riverfront Coliseum to watch mediocre basketball, Norm was supporting his cheerleading daughter.
When football games were held at Riverfront Stadium out of necessity, when no league would have UC football and when the Bearcats finally made a bowl game after years of obscurity, Norm was there.
At football games, he would invite me into the locker room at halftime to get warm if we were playing a cold weather game (sideline reporters battle the elements--ask Tommy). He'd offer an extra sandwich or can of pop after the game also (the players are seemingly fed continuously on road trips).
I doubt you'll find a harsh word about Norm Oxley from any football player in recent memory.
He basically was good to everyone he came in contact with. My oldest is now getting a master's in athletic training and worked the Bearcat sidelines for a few seasons. Knowing that most of those kids work harder than anyone can imagine, Norm was always looking out for them in a "grandfatherly" role.
On basketball road trips, Norm was always there with his three daughters and their families and seemed to know where one could gamble no matter the locale. Often times, work would pull me away from fun, so Norm occasionally adopted my wife as his fourth daughter and watched after her as he would is own.
I recall one year, we even shared a ride to Pittsburgh with the Oxleys and Norm made a four-hour ride seem like 15 minutes. Whatever steel or industrial town we passed, Norm had been there. Odds are, he probably was as giving and caring there as he was everywhere else.
He was proud of his family and a proud Bearcat. When I last saw him this fall, he wasn't at his usual place on the sideline. He was hovered in the shade near UC's Nippert locker room. He still had his rings on with pride and was still decked out in red and black, but I could tell he wasn't quite himself.
Still, he smiled and asked about my wife and kids. Some people will do that in passing as a throw-away line, others actually care. Norm was the latter.
He cared and he contributed to a lot of people's lives at UC in a lot of ways. It's tough to measure a man's influence in life, but in my book Norm Oxley was as loyal and dedicated a Bearcat as you'll ever find.
I have no say-so in what transpires at the University, but it's my hope that Norm Oxley is memorialized in some fashion this upcoming football season.
The Liberty Bowl champion UC Bearcats featured many budding stars that came from the area high school ranks.
Butch Jones and staff have continued to recruit the best local talent and many of these young men experienced and participated in UC's Liberty Bowl victory in Memphis Dec. 31.
Since I cover area high schools during the day job, I shot some photos of a few and they are posted here. Sorry for any photographic glitches, I was hired to write and then handed a camera. We learn as we go.
From top to bottom: Cameron Mills (Colerain) and Drew Frey (Clinton-Massie) come off the field after a defensive play; associate head coach/special teams/DBs Kerry Coombs (ex-Colerain head coach) and JK Schaffer (La Salle); Colin Lozier (Colerain) and Maalik Bomar (Winton Woods) in pregame drills; Danny Milligan (St. Xavier) runs routes before the game; long snapper Tom DeTemple (Moeller) surveys the Liberty Bowl field; Austen Bujnoch, No. 76, (Elder) awaits to take the field with teammate Dan Sprague; Tony Miliano (Elder) drills a 44-yard field goal for the Bearcats in the second half; and the final score from Memphis on the Liberty Bowl Stadium scoreboard.
Sorry, this wasn't posted here earlier, but I just arrived back with my wife and two younger sons on Monday.
We didn't feel like making the long drive on New Year's Day, so we took a detour in Nashville to watch Mick Cronin's men take it to Pitt. Just like the Liberty Bowl, it was delightful.
Anyway, in Memphis, I didn't take all of my work gear, so I was limited to posting on Facebook and Twitter. I did interview Liberty Bowl MVP Isaiah Pead on the field after UC's 31-24 win over Vanderbilt.
If by chance you missed it on either of those outlets, here you go. I also took some pictures of some of the local high school products at the bowl for the Bearcats, so some of those may appear here if I can figure out how to do it.
I'm getting better at technology, but I have multiple gizmos to deal with these days.
As for the recent events, it certainly was one of the better weekends to be a Bearcat that I can recall.
We drove to Memphis Thursday night and listened to a former UC offensive coordinator's team "Tomahawk Chop" a former UC head coach's squad, followed by the UC basketball team's comeback win over Oklahoma courtesy of XM radio in the first half and Dan Hoard in the second.
Friday, we took the kids to Graceland and Rendezvous and saw the parade on Beale Street.
Saturday, your Bearcats played with a quarterback at less than 100 percent and defeated an SEC team in it's home state.
Sunday, UC beats Pitt in its own gym in a game most had written off.
Other than spending two and a half hours trying to get from the 71/75 split in Northern Kentucky to Anderson Township Monday, I'm a happy dude.
Here's No. 23 for you and hopefully I'll have more.
This time of year, we all like lists. As the new year approaches, we list what we're going to do (then generally chuck it come February). Or, we list what we didn't get over the holidays. In difficult situations, we're asked to list what we do on our jobs so that some bean counter without a soul in a distant state can justify our existence. Keeping with the theme, and with UC's date at the Autozone Liberty Bowl with Vanderbilt fast approaching, I've decided to list UC's nine recent bowls (all of the ones I've physically attended/worked). Sure, I've kind of done this before in various forms, but maybe some of you missed it. However, I'm a big proponent of "to understand the future, you should study the past". For those that think the Lindner Center has always been on campus as well as the Sheakley "bubble", here you go (worst to best):
9) 2001 Motor City Bowl--this was UC's second consecutive trip to the Pontiac Silverdome and second consecutive year playing and losing to a team from the MAC (Toledo). The Bearcats also had a halftime lead (13-3) for the second consecutive year followed by a lackluster second half. There's also the somewhat non-publicized fact that a number of assistant coaches walked out of a bowl practice in protest prior to the contest (things we can say now that we knew then--trust me, there's plenty more.) Bearcats lose to the Rockets 23-16.
8) 2000 Motor City Bowl--this predecessor wasn't as bad because it was the first time up. However, after the royal treatment in Boise at the Bearcats "return to bowling", the Silverdome had all the splendor of a Bengals preseason game at old Riverfront Stadium. The staff there barely knew there was a bowl game, the place had no special "feel" to it, and UC lost to Marshall after leading at halftime 14-9. Outside of a visit to the "Moose Preserve" a local hangout that served game meat like buffalo, this game was about as depressing as the Detroit economy. Final: Marshall 25, UC 14.
7) (One more stinker here and the news gets better) 2002 New Orleans Bowl--the upside was this was in New Orleans which has considerably more to do than Troy, Michigan. This was the culmination of a long season as it was the 14th game. The Bearcats had their brawl with the islanders in Hawaii the month before, then beat UAB and made up a game (hurricane postponement) at East Carolina Dec. 6. That gave them a mere 11 days before the early-bird New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 17. The Bearcats led after one quarter, 7-3, but then were flat afterward. Holding back on the passing game 'til it was too late, Gino Guidugli was picked off five times in obvious throwing situations. Oh well, the food was nice and all. North Texas over UC 24-19.
6) 2007 International Bowl-- The despair of losing Mark Dantonio after a 2006 season that saw UC beat then No. 7 Rutgers at Nippert, turned to joy when Brian Kelly was hired from Central Michigan with the immediate duty of coaching the bowl game. What transpired was gutsy and miraculous, Kelly immediately hired Colerain's Kerry Coombs and then some of his staff coached Central Michigan, and some coached the Bearcats. Jeff Quinn guided CMU to a bowl win as the interim coach and then was in Bearcat garb for this game in Toronto with the rest of the staff. Kelly also took the Dantonio offense and used it with Nick Davila and company in Toronto. The result was an early surge in the game and then an eventual win over Western Michigan 27-24. Heck, if you're going to go north for a bowl, you might as well go over the border.
5) 2010 Sugar Bowl-- New Orleans,here we are again. AGAIN, fun town. Particularly on New Year's Eve when you get to meet friends from Florida that you haven't seen in awhile. Not so fun when their Gators chomp you up like live bait behind the guy that everyone insists is no good (Tim Tebow, 31-35, 482 yards and three TDs). Unfortunate here was the timing of Brian Kelly's departure to Notre Dame, with the team being coached by guys that were also out the door for the most part. An unfocused effort against a very focused Urban Meyer and Tebow was a recipe for disaster. Gators roll 51-24. Gators roll. May we have seen the last of those awful white helmets. 4) 2007 PapaJohns.com Bowl-- This was in Birmingham, which pales in comparison to New Orleans, but has decent areas like Hoover where my youngest kids got to meet Bart Starr at the Hotel Wynfrey. This was the end of the Ben Mauk year and the quarterback overcame season-long pain to play some very exciting football games. Mauk threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns in UC's 31-21 win over Southern Miss. The Bearcats took a respectable 8300-plus people to the game. It was Ben Mauk's last college game and my last game on the radio. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it.
3) 2004 Fort Worth Bowl-- Even though it was in Texas, it was bar none the coldest UC bowl game I've been to. This was also Gino Guidugli's last college game and he went out with a bang throwing two touchdown passes and taking game MVP honors, all just a month after suffering a broken hand. Guidugli played under considerable pain and showed great courage leading his team to the 32-14 win over Marshall. Because of the cold and ice, many UC fans had flights canceled and had to find alternative ways home. My wife and I consider this one of most memorable Christmases as we were in that category until former UC administrator Paul Klaczak arranged for us to have a seat on the team charter. We were picked up that evening by our four sons at UC and made it to the in-laws for Christmas Eve and back to our house for Christmas Day (even though the power was out).
2) 2009 Orange Bowl--Couldn't beat the location for this one. Kids got to go to the beach, players stayed at the famous Fontainebleau, South Beach, etc. However, as per the agreed upon rules, there was a game. Despite a tremendous response from Bearcat fans, UC struck early on a Tony Pike to Mardy Gilyard pass and then struck out. Flat. Virginia Tech had been there and done that and it showed as the Hokies eventually mowed down a UC squad that could've been better prepared in my opinon. 20-7 Hokies win, but Cinderalla crashed the dance finally and made it to a New Year's bowl. (The Fontainebleau where P. Diddy had a New Year's Eve party while the Bearcats were there. Tom Bodette has never stayed in something like this.)
1) (A win in either the Orange or Sugar would've knocked this one off, but it still leads on my list) 1997 Humanitarian Bowl-- OK, it doesn't sound like much. But, when you consider the nearly 50-year bowl drought that predated it and the ingenious maneuvering that then-AD Bob Goin did to get the Bearcats in a bowl, it was special. It was scenic as we first gandered at the blue turf that we've all become familiar with in Boise. And, though many made fun of it not knowing any better, Boise, Idaho is beautiful. With the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background and an American flag unfurled on the field before the game, I witnessed not a dry eye among many of the Bearcats that had played and had never made a bowl game. Some had played in the last UC bowl game (1951) while others toiled in other eras without a conference and without a chance. The game meant something to every UC fan alive at the time and UC didn't disappoint, beating Utah State 35-19. (Me with Darryl Royal (gray t-shirt) behind me, Artrell Hawkins, No. 21, and Jason Fabini next to him. This team had five NFL draft picks: Hawkins, Fabini, Brad Jackson, Darryl Ransom and Rod Monroe.)
After this weekend, I'll have a 10th bowl game under my belt and perhaps this list changes some, you never know. I've done a lot of games at the Liberty Bowl Stadium and it'll be fun being back.
I'm hoping somewhere Jerry Glanville has left Elvis a ticket and I hope I hear the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. While you're looking that up, enjoy this and best of luck to Coach Jones and the 'Cats
After stopping by UC bowl practice today (Tuesday, Dec. 20) all indications are that Zach Collaros will be good to go in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. (See accompanying video.)
If anything, UC now has three healthy quarterbacks with considerable experience with Collaros and Munchie Legaux sharing the bulk of the reps in practice, along with Jordan Louallen.
Granted, Collaros hasn't gone full game speed yet and has yet to take a hit, but keep in mind he's a fan of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who's as tough as they come. (Sure, it may pain some Bearcat fans that I reference a Miami quarterback, but I witnessed "Big Ben" at field level go 3-0 against UC.)
If given the green light, Collaros clearly is the best passing option, particularly on deep throws.
Plus, he's a competitor.
There's no way Zach Collaros wants to go out with his career ending at the opposing goal line during a loss at a rented pro venue. Sure, he can't play one more at "The Nipp", but when the lights go on at the Liberty Bowl stadium in Memphis, my money says he makes plays.
As mentioned before, UC's had injured quarterbacks make miraculous gameday recoveries before at bowl games (Gino Guidugli-Fort Worth Bowl, Ben Mauk-Papajohns.com Bowl).
Another twist, might be what if the Bearcats played all three?
In UC's first bowl game in 50 years in Boise in 1997, little-used freshman Deontey Kenner made his debut behind center as starter Chad Plummer played some receiver. Seeing as Kenner had only been the holder for the bulk of the year, it was an element of surprise.
Keep in mind, I SAW NONE OF THIS IN PRACTICE, but what if Collaros and Legaux lined up in the same formation? And, what if you threw in the "Bearcat/Wildcat" option of Louallen?
That's multiple things for Vanderbilt to prepare for.
However it plays out, I'm glad Collaros gets one more crack at it. UC is clearly a better team with him and may well have made a BCS bowl without the injury.
I know from speaking with him that Zach's not much of an Elvis fan, but I hope he succeeds and someone gets him an Elvis Memphis Mafia "TCB" symbol with the lightning bolt (Taking Care of Business).
Not often in life are we allowed to rewrite our own endings.
So I checked out UC's initial bowl practice to inquire on the progress of the guy that's helped sell those No. 12 jerseys your young Bearcat fans have been wearing.
Turns out Zach Collaros is moving around pretty good and is preparing to have the pads on early next week.
To take advantage of the numerous Elvis references popular with a bowl game in Memphis, you could call this Zach's "Comeback Special", although young Zach wasn't around in 1968 when Elvis did his.
As you can see from this video, Collaros isn't exactly all "up to speed" on the Elvis trivia, but he is ready hit the town next to the muddy Mississippi, devour a rib or two and possibly deliver a few more entertaining plays for Bearcat fans.
For what it's worth, UC's medical and training staff has nursed quarterbacks back to health with success before in similar situations.
Gino Guidugli was the MVP of the Fort Worth Bowl in 2004 just a month after suffering a broken hand. Three years later, Ben Mauk was the MVP of the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham after battling shoulder injuries that forced him out of games during his one season at UC.
OK, the correct lyric is "touched down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pouring rain", but in the interest of football, I borrowed a bit from Marc Cohn's hit, "Walking in Memphis".
By the way, if you're going to watch UC in the Liberty Bowl against Vanderbilt Dec. 31 (www.catstix.com) you can more than likely catch that song a time or three at Silky O' Sullivan's dueling piano bar on Beale Street.
Memphis is a fun town and speaking for most Bearcats of modest income, it was a blessing to be chosen for the Liberty Bowl and not another game that was rumored.
It simple terms, in this economy, bowl games should be within reasonable proximity to fans unless it's a BCS bowl and then it's out of your control.
Rutgers SHOULD have went to the Pinstripe Bowl, it's cheaper for their fans to get there. Likewise, UC and Louisville fans can get to Memphis and Charlotte relatively easy.
As it turns out, air and hotel fare in December is far from cheap and UC going south rather than east is probably worth thousands of fans.
We're stubborn Midwesterners. We'll hop in the Chevy and drive south in a heartbeat, but digging for airfare, contemplating cabfare and paying inflated rates for cramped city hotel rooms really throws us for a loop.
I like New York, but I'll pass on Ryan Seacrest and the feeling of a sardine on Times Square for Beale Street and the "Kings" (Elvis and B.B.) on New Year's Eve.
Memphis brings a lot of fun memories for me from covering football and attending Great Midwest/Conference USA basketball tournaments. The one exception is the infamous Kenyon Martin broken leg game, but we got to hang with Bob Huggins and Charlie Spoonhour that night, so it wasn't all bad.
It's got history (Sun Records, Graceland, Loraine Motel, Stax Records) and ribs (Rendezvous, Corky's, Jim's,etc.).
My first night there years ago we went to a Bulls/Sonics NBA exhibition at the Pyramid and then had dry rub ribs at the Rendezvous where many of the Bulls were. Corie Blount was on the Bulls, Dontonio Wingfield on the Sonics. Phil Jackson was smoking cigars inside the Peabody Hotel (where they march ducks on a daily basis).
Beale Street is essentially a cleaner Bourbon Street. Less smut and dirt and a little more walking room.
Then, there's Graceland. You go the first time for yourself. Every other time is to watch others. I have now been three times and enjoy it's historical and hysterical value. I recommend the Platinum tour and a peanut butter and 'nana sandwich afterward. Word of warning though, don't try on the Elvis sunglasses in the gift shop and take a picture, the cashier gets cranky.
Personally, I'm looking forward to being back in the Liberty Bowl Stadium where I did six games on radio. The Tigers used to keep a live, caged Tiger on the field and entered the field to Elvis' 2001 Space Odyssey theme.
While UC lost four of the six against Memphis there, the last in 2003. the 2001 game stands out as the most memorable (some of you more experienced fans may agree).
Somewhere around the Memphis 30-yard-line, Gino Guidugli stood with an unlikely fourth and 19. I was preparing to conduct one of those not-so-fun losing interviews with Rick Minter going off the field.
Instead, Gino heaved the ball to midfield and receiver Jon Olinger (Jonny O) went up and found it. It's been 10 years, but it seems like Gino went to Olinger about three more times, the last in the endzone in the final seconds. UC pulled out the improbable win, 36-34.
I was told at UC's basketball game at home, the crowd went nuts as many had their radios tuned to the football affair in Memphis.
Hopefully, the Bearcats will have a similar result on Dec. 31. Actually, a little more breathing room would be nice.
A word of caution...don't look at Vanderbilt's record and think the game's in the bag. There's a reason your national championship game features two SEC schools. You have to be honest with yourself and recognize a strong league with strong opponents.
However, UC looked much improved with Munchie Legaux at quarterback in the final two games. Plus, if Zach Collaros can go, that changes strategies and makes everything different.
It's not too far a reach to say that UC would've been in a BCS game had Collaros not been injured against West Virginia.
More than anything, I'm looking forward to a bowl game with all of the focus on preparation and the players. I think the glamor and pizazz of the Orange Bowl left UC shell-shocked. In the Sugar Bowl, UC lost a coach, gained a coach and were coached in the game by a guy leaving for Buffalo.
I think Butch Jones observed those moments and is ready to seize the moment in Memphis. Touchdown in the land of the Delta Blues! TCB! Take care of business on the field and then it's, "Elvis has left the building!"
Thumbs up to sequined white jump suits. Thumbs down to white helmets.