Playing and Living with Passion|
June 9, 2012
By: Theo Marshall
CINCINNATI - When I left the Seventh Annual Women's Football Clinic (my first) on June 7, a few words kept ringing in my ear: excitement, family, passion and commitment.
From the moment I stepped onto the fourth floor of the University of Cincinnati's Linder Center, I could feel the buzz in the air and the energy from all of us participants. Entering Linder, I checked in to the desk in front, received a lanyard and a nametag that displayed my name and team name (Go Team Fast and Furious!).
After checking in, I was directed to the sandwiches, salads and desserts provided by Panera Bread Company. Under the idea that I'd be working it off later, I thoroughly enjoyed my chocolate pastry and Pepsi.
Walking around the atrium, I saw a few familiar faces and figured out whether or not we were on the same team. There was a great mix of women at the event. Some wanted to learn more about football and others came to support the Barrett Cancer Research Center.
Marilyn Orr, the mother of a UC sophomore, said, "My good friend came last year and she called me a few weeks ago. She said they're doing it again, and asked me if I wanted to go. I said yes because she had so much fun last year."
The silent auction and raffle stations were situated between Panera and football toss. It took all I had not to bid on some of the donated items like the Bengals baskets and passes to the Cincinnati Zoo. The raffle prizes were just as tempting. They included AutoZone Liberty Bowl gear, University of Cincinnati Bookstore gift certificates and National Football League shirts.
Right outside of Linder was the football toss, where everyone had two opportunities to throw a ball into one of three holes. For each successful throw, sponsor Lebanon Ford donated $10 to Barrett. Knowing that the toss was for charity took the pressure off for most of us and gave me a little taste of what we would be doing on the field later.
Next to the toss were former Bearcats Armon Binns and Lavar Glover, both of whom went onto to play for the Bengals. Knowing that former players are willing to come back to campus for an event like this speaks volumes about the program, Coach Butch Jones and his staff, and the University of Cincinnati. Not too long after my poster was signed by Binns and Glover, we were instructed to enter into the auditorium.
Once everyone was seated, emcee Mo Egger of ESPN 1530 took over. I just have to say he did a great job all night. He was funny, did not say anything that went over my head and - most importantly - I could tell how much he loves the Bearcats.
First, we were introduced to Athletic Director Whit Babcock. He graciously thanked us all for being there, talked about how he and Coach Jones met almost ten years ago and made one quick plug to buy season tickets (but, seriously, you should do it). Babcock then handed the microphone over to Kelly Babcock, his wife.
In what she called her first official Bearcat event, Mrs. Babcock's excitement for the Bearcat Family was palpable. She spoke of living in Missouri for the first five months of her husband's tenure and her friendship with Butch Jones' wife, Barb.
When Barb Jones received the microphone, she asked the coaches' wives to come up and introduce themselves and their husbands. I really enjoyed seeing the spouses and (extremely adorable) children of coaches. This made the Football Family and Bearcat Family seem more real to me.
We were lucky enough to hear from Dr. Mary Mahoney, Director of Breast Imaging at the UC Cancer Center/Barrett Center. She did a great job of explaining where the proceeds of the event were going and the impact they have on breast cancer patients. Honestly, if I took one single thing away from the event, it's that the Barrett Center is working to save lives through advance technology and research.
Before hitting the field with our teams, Coach Jones explained the names and their significance to the program. Team Rep the C means the Cincinnati logo never comes off. He tells his players that even when they are at home they represent Cincinnati, UC and the football program. Team Fist Up is for the team's aggressive style of defense. Whenever the Bearcats force a fourth down, they put their fists in the air. Team Fast and Furious represents the no huddle offense Cincinnati runs. Coach Jones told us that well conditioned athletes beat tired talent. Other team names were: Hold the Rope, C Tough and Blackcats.
Finally, Coach Jones asked us the same question he asks his players before games, "What do you play with?"
With passion in our hearts, we descended the steps into Nippert Stadium. In our teams, we met different coaches and student-athletes to go over the basics and learned a few advance moves. The stations were tackling, kicking, punting, pass rushing, receiving and throwing. I'm not sure if we have any Division I prospects in our group, but Coach Jones said conditioning is important.
In my group was ESPN 1530's Lindsay Patterson who most enjoyed participating in the drills.
"Everyone was a lot of fun when were we out on the field," said Patterson. "The different stations were a good time. All of the coaches and players were really involved. I'm a huge football fan. So I was coming into this thinking, `I'm going to hear things that I've already heard,' but I learned a lot. I expected to go over some 101 things, but the stations were really helpful."
Following our debuts in the Nipp, we were ushered inside for tours of the facilities. Inside the locker room, a coach greeted us and explained the significance of roping off the C Paw and why the names of old players are in each locker. More than one person commented on how good it smelled in there, which for a men's locker room is an honor worth mentioning. Moving out of the locker room, we entered the players' lounge, which housed televisions, computers, video games and steel enforced couches "for the big guys."
On our way to the weight room, we passed the entrance to the Armory Field house, where we could see information about UC's Track and Cross Country greats and school record holders. Around the weight room we saw transformation photos of football players that have slimmed down or bulked up. The difference in all of them is amazing, so meeting the man behind their program was pretty cool.
Director of Football Strength and Conditioning Dave Lawson took the time to explain the importance of his job and how it affects the student-athletes he trains. Lawson went over his favorite moves for the players and the correct stance for injury prevention.
The last event for my group was the Question and Answer session with Coach Jones. Questions ranged from realignment to recruitment to simple expressions of gratitude for his leadership of UC Football. Jones introduced the mothers of offensive lineman Sean Hooey and quarterback Brendon Kay, who both spoke extremely highly of him. The Q&A session was a unique experience. We received truthful and helpful answers from the 2011 BIG EAST Coach of the Year. That is something only one set of fans in the country get to do.
"I knew that it was a hard and tough job, but he put a lot of effort into it," said Patterson following the Q&A. "He's not only a coach during the day, but he's a father figure to a lot of the players. He's a coach 365 days."
At the end of the night, we were treated to a recap video from last season and the Liberty Bowl win. Watching Ralph David Abernathy IV's 90-yard kickoff return on the big screens seemed to bring all of us back to Memphis, Tenn. There was even a recap video from our field activities before raffle and silent auction winners were announced. Director of Player Welfare & Development Antrione Archer and players Brandon Mitchell, Maalik Bomar, and Travis Kelce treated the crowd to a singing completion.
"I came by myself, but it was a lot of fun," said Patterson. "Before [the event] even started, I mentioned to Mo what a great event this is, it's put together so nicely. This is my first one, but I'll definitely come back next year."
To end the festivities, Leslie Wenert, Assistant AD, Promotions and Special Events, thanked member of UC's Athletic Department, Lebanon Ford and other sponsors for all the hard work they put into this great project.
With pride, Wenert announced the clinic raised $12,000 for the Barrett Center.