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Monday, September 29, 2008

Your Questions...ANSWERED

So I posted that I would answer your questions regarding UConn Football. I said I would answer the Top 10 questions. I have been humbled. I only got about 16 emails. (Again, thanks Mom for the last 5.) Anyway, I have copied and pasted from the emails, and I'll give it my best shot.

1.Your dad wants some more love. Straight from the Judge's mouth: "It would be nice, however if you gave a few kudos to your dad, who selflessly drove you to all those 5:00 a.m. hockey practices. Even your coaches mentioned that it improved your speed and footwork." So how about it, can you give the old man some props and plug his website?

Dear Dad,
Stop being selfish. Yes you made me, clothed me and fed me (no small task) for 18 years. Yes you've made it to every home game and all but one away game since my freshman year (even when I wasn't playing). Yes you have loved me unconditionally and been my greatest role model ( AND Burt Reynolds). But who the heck do you think you are? Don't think I've forgotten about that time you "lost" my paintball gun in the move. Or when you yelled at me for pushing my sister(s) down the stairs (they deserved it). For this reason I simply cannot support your candidacy for Supreme Court Judge. Even though you have been in the legal profession for over 30 years and you are the only candidate rated Highly Qualified by the Monroe Country Bar Association. I simply will not compromise my journalistic integrity, nor violate the trust of my followers by putting shameless plugs on this blog. Also, if you are going to post on fan sites, a more discrete handle other than "HuskyDad65" might be in order.

2. I'm curious about the relative babe-magnetism of different positions on the team. Everybody assumes that QBs get all the chicks- but is that really true? How do different positions compare? Linemen vs. skill positions vs. kickers vs. special teams etc...

Well, that's a great question. And I think I have a good answer. Sure, our QBs clean up, with their sharp jaws and chiseled abs. But I'd think you'd be surprised to find that most linemen have very attractive girlfriends, if they have girlfriends at all. I know that I am a personal testament to the rule of over-achieving-fat-white-guys. Seriously, my girlfriend is way out of my league. (See below)

But I think linemen do well because, like many-a-fat chick, we may never have been the best looking or most athletic guys, so by the rules of Bar-Darwinism we were forced to develop a personality, lest we rely solely on our marginal good looks, and thus starve in this proverbial survival of the fittest. They say that if you can make a girl laugh you make her do anything. Even date a fatty. Also, being taller or bigger than our teammate counterparts gives us an automatic conversation starter. Hang around with Dan Ryan for a while and just count how many random "beautiful babies" come up to him (after a few wobbly-pops) and regale him with estimates of his height. Seriously, Mike Hicks, Alex Lamagdalaine, Steve Brouse all have hot girlfriends. Cody Brown is currently dating a girl that is a better athlete than him, and beautiful none the less. Same to Julius Williams and Brandon Dillon. I'd like to make this comparison if I could (and I can). Sure a Porsche is fast and fun to drive (read DBs, WRs, LBs, RBs) but a truck is reliable and will get you through all seasons (DTs, DEs, OL). Good question. Next, please.

3.The women's basketball team attends most home football games. Which other UCONN teams' games do you and other football players attend?
I blame Title IX, but by-golly if there were a Division I badminton team on campus, I'd be their number one fan. (Insert immature shuttle-cock joke here...heheh..shuttle cock). Seriously though, we go the the women's and men's basketball games, as well as women's lacrosse and soccer. They are nasty. (In a good way.)

4. This Question Comes from our friends at Burnt Orange Nation My name is Peter Bean and I run Burnt Orange Nation, a blog dedicated to Texas Longhorns sports. I also go to law school with your very awesome sister at Notre Dame Law School. The question I'd love to hear your thoughts on is: Do you think college athletes in revenue-producing sports should be paid?

First off, stop hitting on my sister (kidding...but seriously, stop). I may be inciting a little bit of controversy here. But the answer is yes, I do think college athletes should be paid. Let me riddle off some un-researched statistics for you. We get a free education (if we are on scholarship), which is valued at around $125,000 (for 5 years). Universities makes millions of dollars in ticket revenues, merchandising, television appearances (gotta love Wednesday night ESPN). Not to mention priceless exposure for our respective schools through bowl games and national rankings. You can order players' jerseys online or buy them in the book store. But because there is no name on the back, players aren't being exploited? At UConn, our game jerseys don't have our names on the back, so I'd say that's pretty authentic. But there is some myth in college football that the NCAA and purist fan would like to hold on to: that college athletics (save the Olympics) is the last true form of amateurism. That's an unfair and simply untrue label. The NCAA only wants us to be amateurs when it suits them, just as they only want us to be "Student-Athletes" when it benefits them. What part about being a "student" means missing all your classes on a Tuesday, missing all your classes on a Wednesday, returning at 4am on Thursday, and then being expected to make all of that day's classes--all for the sake of a random Wednesday night game? So what do I suggest? Hold money for players from whom the University profits off their likeness (jersey sales) until after they graduate. And give players a stipend that allows them to live a normal college life outside of football. Holding a job and playing Division I is simply not an option. But some of my teammates can't afford to go out on the weekends or order food on a Saturday night. I don't wanna paint a picture of the "unfortunate athletes" because we do get a lot of benefits (free gear, best food, chartered planes...oh, education), but I believe that it is the right thing to do.

5. bracket vs. bowl game

Dear Sir, next time word this as an actual question. This is blogging, not Vietnam, there are rules. What I think you are trying to ask is, which system would I prefer? I prefer bowl games, it rewards teams for their hard work and is good exposure for recruiting and the University. But I do think there should be a 6-team playoff to determine the National Champion.

6."Dear Rob, I noticed while reading the recaps from various games this weekend, including the overall 'Game Day Fina,', that when a team like Oklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame, etc. makes a goal line stand or picks off a pass, that it's regarded as a stingy or aggressive defense. However, if the Huskies do the same, it was a "bad throw" by the opposing QB, or a missed assignment by the offensive line. What are your thoughts on this?"

Great question. GREAT QUESTION. UConn Football does not care what others think of UConn Football. UConn Football will keep doing UConn Football until due credit is received. Even then UConn Football is not satisfied. UConn Football does not sleep, UConn Football waits until next Saturday, when UConn football can again prove the haters wrong. Only UConn Football knows how important and talented UConn Football is. Only those inside UConn Football Know how hard UConn Football works. Only UConn Football's opinions matter to UConn Football. (I am Jack's Smirking revenge)

7. Are You Single?
Please see "over-achieving-white guy" above for further assistance. (Yes, my girlfriend emailed me this question.)

8. I was wondering who in the locker room is the enforcer vs. who is the prankster. Also does anyone on campus recognize you and ask for your autograph?

Hmmm... Cody Brown and Lindsey Witten are definitely clowns. Ellis Gaulden is a dancing fool. Anthony Sherman is definitely the enforcer type (think Pesci from Casino) I have been asked for my autograph, but never by anyone beyond the age acceptable to order a happy meal.

9. What would you do for a Klondike bar?

I can tell you what I wouldn't do. Nothing, I love those delicious treats.

10. I've always wanted to know if Head
Coach Randy Edsall has his own private barber shop inside the Burton
complex. His hair is always looking in tip top shape while on the
sidelines. I assume he is getting a haircut at least once a week. With
all the preparation he does for every opponent, how does he find the
time to keep himself so well groomed?

Actually, Coach Edsall's hair is so scared of getting a 6am punishment run that it cuts itself.

Talk to you later. Hope you enjoyed Ts from a FWG.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Q & A

Someone suggested that I do a Q & A.

Seeing as how tomorrow (Monday) is my day off...

Please send your questions to

I'll answer the top 10.

Anything that pertains to football, college football, the University of Connecticut.
As a side note, the Buffalo Bills are 4-0. All is right with the universe.

Get busy askin'!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

There Will Come a Time...

In 2006, after playing our last game of the season at Papa John's Stadium (getting absolutely annihilated by the, then very talented, Louisville Cardinals), I stood in a locker room full of teary-eyed seniors, angry and disappointed coaches, and a group of underclassmen who knew the future was ours. There were a lot of emotions and words shared that day, but there was one thing that for as long as I'll live I will never forget. Coach Edsall got up in front of us, after a dismal and frustrating season (4-8) and said, "There will come a time when UConn Football comes to Louisville and wins this game, on the road. We are going to start winning Big East Championships."
I am the first to admit that at the time, I felt a little awkward hearing this. We had managed only four wins that year and here was our fearless leader telling us we were going to win a Big East title. We were going to beat Top 25 caliber teams on the road.

He. Was. Right.

So before I delve into dissecting the Louisville Game, I'd like everyone to appreciate the foresight and commitment Coach Edsall has shown to this program.

Alright, put your tissues away, and let's get to it.

I went down in the first quarter (to the delight of their offensive line). They were very talented upfront and of course led by NFL prospect and possibly the top lineman in the nation, Eric Wood (#77). Last year, I absolutely held the crap out of him. It's unfair, it's illegal, and it worked. I like to think that I singlehandedly inspired the rule change (this year the refs are determined to crack-down on defensive holding). I told Eric (do you mind if I call you Eric?), I told Eric after the game that I was pissed that I missed my last opportunity to "get after him all year" and he conceded that "man...last year...that sucked" (read that with a slow southern drawl).

I'll also go out on a limb and say that I don't think there has been much drop off from Brian Brohm to Hunter Cantwell. He's a competitor with a lot of poise in the pocket, especially with Julius Williams, Cody Brown, and Lindsey Witten rushing him all night. Although he did look like he had a touch of something that I wouldn't call "normal brain function."

So the game wasn't exactly a shootout, but it wasn't exactly not, either.

Their rushing game was on point, but I'm hesitant to credit their offensive line as much as I am to say that their backfield is extremely talented. I watched the ESPN broadcast on the flight back (God bless you, JetBlue). In case the ESPN Commentators didn't realize (which they didn't), by the second half our defense (specifically, the defensive line), was held together with Scotch Tape and elbow grease. We didn't travel our starting right DT, I went down in the first quarter (did I forget to mention that?), and then our other rotation guy, Kendall Reyes, goes down as well. Instead of noting that the top 10 run defense in the nation just lost its starting three, all we got was: "Wow, Louisville has really opened up their run game in the second half." Yeah, no kidding. Dynamite drop-in there, Monty, I can see that broadcasting school really paid off.

The bottom line is this: just as always, our defense stepped it up when it had to.

Lawrence "'Bama" Wilson takes an INT back 35 yards to the winning TD.
We shut out their offense in the second half.
Jasper "Jazz" Howard + Darius "D-Butt" Butler = Almost not fair.
We won the fourth quarter (something we PRIDE ourselves on).

And how about Downtown Donny Brown? Attention viewers (apparently the 2,000+ of you), get out your Heisman Ballots. 212 net yards, 2 TDs? What more can Brown do for you? (You're welcome, UPS).

Zach Frazer stepped up in a big way. Someone told me he looked "like freakin' Montana out there." Funny you should say that. 'Cause not only are they both from PA, both attended Notre Dame, but Zach broke all of his high school passing/scoring records. In fact, he also broke Dan Marino's and Joe Namath's, too.

We need prayers to go out to Tyler Lorenzen and Steve Brouse. Two seniors, two leaders, two great guys (on AND off the gridiron). Both suffered injuries that may have them fighting to come back before the end of the season.

Also, I need to give a shout out to our crack medical staff: Bob Howard and Brian Gallagher. You see, Brian is like 7 feet tall and lives on a steady diet of government cheese and Diet Dr. Pepper. But, despite his given handicaps, both he and Bob handled the crisis situation that was last night's game with poise and passion. They did their best to get me back on the field, but alas I had a terrible case of vaginitis. See you in the Swim-Ex, boys!

Some of my "other" thoughts from the game:

You get to notice a lot being on the sideline (actually you notice everything when suffering from ADHD).
Louisville has tremendous time-out entertainment. Guys rolling in plastic balls? Free money for picking up backpacks? A mascot bird logo...with teeth! (I wish he had gold frontz.) Tremendous.

Touching on that, there was a lack of "Gold-Frontage" by players and fans alike. (Insert fans'
missing teeth joke here.) I was more than upset.

Papa John, the real Papa John, was recognized at some point during the game for donating more money (and garlic dipping sauce) to the program. Who cares. Accompanying him were his two daughters, and (much to the dismay of my beautiful girlfriend who is probably reading this) they were hot. Really hot. But maybe it was that I'm kinda fat, and I swear they smelled like pizza sauce. Also, I'd like to meet Mrs. Papa John. Seriously, better ingredients better...offspring? (Okay, I'm sorry.)

We have UNC next week...they are no slouches, and very big upfront. More on that later.

Back to rehab.

"who passes out in the garage? really?"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Off to the 'ville

I have literally 10 minutes until I board the buses to go to our plane to depart for Louisville. (Begin to start humming "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" now.)

Anyway, in case I haven't touched on it, I hope everyone who can make the trip down does. Papa John's stadium is a difficult place to play, and it would be great to have some UConn fan support down there (I'm lookin at YOU, Dale).

Two things before I sign off on you.
1) Apparently it's easier for me to get into the actual Daily Campus than it is to be quoted in the Instant Daily.
2) Hopefully my next post will be reminding you of how dominant UConn football is, at 5-0 (1-0), with a top 25 ranking, and of course include some berating of ESPN.

Stay Tuned,
Off to the land of Fried Chicken.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Another 5 Years

This post was something I wrote during this year's training camp. Take it for what it's worth. But yes, I am currently waxing sentimental. Enjoy.

Another 5 years.

If someone asked me today, if I could do 5 years of this, I’d say no with resounding confidence and assurance. But back in 2004, that simply wasn’t the case. I couldn’t imagine myself not being a college football player. But here I am on the brink of my last season, and that reality is staring me boldly in the face. It has caused me to reflect on the past four seasons, and I'd like to share with you the highlights from these reflections.

As a freshman, my concern wasn’t playing time, or even whether I’d redshirt or not. My stomach was in knots about being on time to meetings and whether or not I’d get lost on this big campus. I remember my number one concern was figuring out how to attach my socks to my "laundry loop." Every insecurity I had, as a football player and as a man, was magnified. Nowhere to hide. Of course, my first year playing we made a bowl game, which was an incredible experience to say the least, but I remember being in the locker room hearing 4th-year players talking about how they weren’t going to come back, even though they still had eligibility remaining. I remember one of our captains, a senior linemen, saying that his shoulders, and back, and his love of the game were all shot. Again, at the time, I remember thinking that this was sacrilegious.

I also remember declaring (with a profound ignorance and certainty that only an 18-year-old can possess) that I’d never get tired of the game and that I couldn’t believe that all “this” could ever get old. Looking back on that, I can only apologize to everyone who had to hear that and I am embarrassed at what the seniors must have thought.

Grant Preston, who was one of a select few who returned in 2005 for his final year of eligibility was the first person I saw after returning from winter break. I asked him if he had gotten a jump on the off-season training program, and he told me he “hadn’t done a freakin' thing” when he was home. He may as well have told me he knew where Bin Laden was but wasn’t going to let anyone in on the secret. I was totally shocked. I had just made my Dad pay someone to condition me and lift me one-on-one so that I could be in peak physical form.

“You don’t understand,” he said, “when you get to be my age [23] and you’ve played for this long, your body can't handle it, especially at our position.”

I look back on that and I wanna tell Grant that he couldn’t have been more right. The injury potential in football (immediate and long term) is like the giant elephant in the room. Nate Jackson, a former Denver Bronco, once said, “What we’re doing is an unnatural thing for the human body. Completely unnatural. The things we’re asking our bodies to do, God didn’t make us to do these things.”

We never talk about the possibility of getting hurt; of all the glory being taken away. But there is a reason we wear braces and helmets and shoulder pads and mouth guards. Because the truth is, we are all inches away from experiencing firsthand our very mortality. The trade-off is that on Saturday afternoons, you get to feel immortal, or at least convince yourself that you are. The "Game" tests you. It stresses your body, your mind, and your relationships, and it has the ability to transform and transcend negatively and positively. It offers enlightenment and endangerment. But I never had to consider this dichotomy until the years in my career began to accumulate.

There were times where I was (literally) moments away from transferring. Where I was stuck in such a deep and depressive psychosis not understanding why I didn’t play more (read: sophomore and junior year). I have felt the lowest of lows (botched long snaps against Rutgers and Pittsburgh…most people don’t have their greatest mistakes broadcast nationally) and the highest of highs: 7 tackles, 4TFLs, and a sack against Rutgers. Beating South Florida and watching thousands of fans pour onto our field.

My first season as a starter (a mild miracle) taught me a lot about the real game, played in the trenches. While the game has turned fancy and stylish and even faster (see Terrell Owens) the battle between offensive and defensive linemen really hasn’t evolved much at all comparatively, or at all, since, say, the middle ages. (See Braveheart for further explanation.)

What we do in games would have you arrested in 49 of the 50 states (here’s looking at you, Mississippi). But what we put our bodies through is unnatural and, again, sometimes unsafe. And yet, most of us wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Stefan Fatsis wrote about his experiences trying to make it as a kicker with the Denver Broncos, saying, “The absolute freedom of running around on grass and dirt and throwing, catching, kicking…I have never felt more alive than when the memories of them surface, or even better, when they are conjured by something real." To me, the injuries (and there have been a few) are met head on, in direct conflict with the beauty of soupy fall afternoons, brotherhood, and love of athletic toil.

So I guess it comes down to compromise. Still in training camp now, with bad hips and a bad back. Pain in my knees, burning in my legs, and swelling in my hands, and without the love of a good woman, there still isn’t anything in the world I’d trade it for. Even for another 5 years.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who is the Fat White Guy?

I mean, here you are reading this blog, thinking you know about me--but the stats and the media guide only can do so much justice.

Someone said that the picture at the top of this page doesn't look like a fat white guy (information relayed by the Judge). Well, let me say this, in college there are basically two types of linemen: the "Eats" and the "Eat-Nots." I have been fortunate (and unfortunate) enough to call myself an "Eat." I literally tear through every piece of food in sight, sucking the calories right out of it, usually in vain. Our team nutritionist has me trying to eat close to 8,000 calories a day. Try doing that while trying to cut out refined sugars and trans fats. My metabolism is so high that I can't put on weight. I peak at about 285. Although I will admit, and my license picture will show, that after going 4-8 it is possible to swell to 300. But I simply couldn't move, and the ability to put that weight on comes only from having Indiana be a marquee victory. Anyway, the truth is, I may not be "fat" by college football standards, or even the current standards of the American public (thanks Morgan Spurlock).

But, there are several reasons why I consider myself fat and white.

  1. I'm white
  2. I'm fat
  3. Okay maybe fat isn't the word...but analyze the picture below (from my senior year of high school). The changes are shocking, and may cause blindness, stomach ulcers, night sweats, and compulsive eating: Photobucket
  4. I have "Fat Kid Tendencies." What are these, you ask? Well, I see "all you can eat" as a challenge. I wonder why Joe Chestnut and Kobyashi puke. I love hot dogs! (Kidding, they are disgusting.) I measure my hunger and subsequent effort from couch to TV as a "Risk-Reward" analysis. Risk: Our fridge might just be stocked full of condiments and string cheese, and I'd have to exert effort, and thus calories to look. Reward: Maybe my girlfriend, or roommate's girlfriend, left something edible in there. Maybe I didn't actually eat that entire package of Oreos last night (I did). When you start seeing your movements as calories in/calories out, something is a little off in your head. (I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY, TONI LITTLE!) It really is the nexus of the universe, and what makes America great, when you have a house, and food, and hunger but you are just too lazy to actually eat.
  5. I reported to my freshman training camp at 237. I am holding around 285 now. FIFTY POUNDS. To do that in 5 years, in a healthy way, maintaining speed and strength (but not my hair...damn it) requires a serious shift in thinking and your general outlook. Which is why I never did, but now do consider myself a Fat White Guy.

And those were my thoughts.
Fade to black.

...aaaaand we're back.

I need to touch on something else quickly. Desmond Conner (from the Hartford Courant) and I did a phone interview a few days ago regarding a shirt I was wearing that had an anti-racism theme, and said "Jena 6." I'll let his article quote me on my thoughts on that situation, and why I was wearing the shirt, and even my thoughts on race in general (he was pretty thorough).
But he asked me an interesting and poignant question, "Why is it that young men in your position, who have access to the media and credibility don't speak on issues such as race or social injustice more often?"

I answered him point blank by saying that people come to interview us most often on sports, not on our political or social opinions. I told him that a lot of the time there is a feeling of "don't bite the hand that feeds you." But there is something that I didn't say to him, that after some thought, I think, better answers that question.

When we are interviewed during game week, to talk about anything other than our teammates, or opponent, or our athletic mentality would be a distraction and a disruption to the incredible amount of focus it takes to win games at the Division I level. I think that there is a time and a place for that sort of thing. But I would never make my social or political views known or an issue at the expense of my teammates.

That being said, I am more than happy to share my "story" (which I think Dez grasped), with the sincere hope that it can enlighten or inspire others.

At this point, you're probably wondering when I'll talk about my and others' pregame rituals. Soon, I promise.

Sox beat the Blue Jays and Yankee Stadium is out of commission.
Yah, that just happened.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Drinkin' the Poison

So, with any type of fame comes the detractors. I am the first with a joke (or to light up your smoke...that's right, Billy Joel), but I need to answer some questions, comments, and criticisms that have been thrown my way.

1. Does it weigh on my mind that Louisville has an "axe to grind" regarding the so called "bad call" on LT's touchdown return last year?

The answer is, "No." The game of football is played by humans and the calls are made by humans. To err is human (to forgive is Noel divine...ha!). But truthfully, regarding the call, I won't comment on whether it was a good call or not. But I will say that a year removed from that game I'm more worried about stopping the run than I am that their team is extra-motivated by that single play. That is for the fans and the media to worry about. They handled it with class (pay attention, Temple) and just like us they are coming to play the game to win.

2. My Dad (who's opinion regarding me is completely biased) calls me to say that my blog has been relayed on and and places of that nature. Awesome. I'm glad people are taking an interest in what I have to say, and now my Mom can stop logging on every 10 minutes. Apparently there was a post saying that it worries the fans that I am "so consumed with how much media attention we do (or do not) get" ...or something to that effect. Let me say this, for the record: I don't "drink the poison" as Coach Edsall says. I don't pay attention to what others have to say about me or my team. I certainly don't obsess over the media coverage. But like any other 22-year-old with a light academic schedule, I regularly tune into Sports Center and other ESPN programming. Bottom line is that I notice we don't get the respect I feel we deserve. But by no means am I saying that my faith in my teammates is contingent upon affirmation by ESPN commentators. I simply know that to establish tradition, pride, and good recruiting, it would help. And I truly believe we deserve better than we are getting. But I am more than happy to play the role we've been given, and as a team I know that we relish in it.
But I can personally say that I don't follow our team in the newspapers, I don't read or have a membership to Rivals or the Boneyard (I know they exist thanks to my old man). I read Chip's blog because I like his style of writing and his perspective on football is often accurate (in my opinion). I do a segment for TV, which I encourage everyone to watch, but I don't like watching myself. Just ask my (extremely beautiful) girlfriend. The same with the radio program, I enjoy doing it because its fun and novel and increases the exposure of our program. But like I've said previously, I hate the sound of my own voice (its almost too beautiful).

As a corollary, I most CERTAINLY do not read what people write about me in particular. I've been at the highest of highs (Game Ball Rutgers Week 2007) to the lowest of lows (bad long/short snaps against Pitt/Rutgers in 2006). Going into 2007 my poor parents were reading up on the team saying that the weakness was going to be the D-line, that apparently I was not going to "measure up to those before me." I file those away as little notes in my brain and remind myself to keep working hard. Those doubters may have fueled a late night stadium run or two, but little else. The only opinions that matter to me are that of my family and closest friends. It's a lesson that transcends football--just as you shouldn't listen to the criticisms, you also should not listen to the praise. Stay grounded and let your faith in God and family guide you.
...Although, I will say, I think I've measured up. Thanks, Mom.

3. To the guy who shouted at me during the Husky Walk that "I LOVE YOUR BLOG!!"...Dear Sir, I love you. (And thank you.)

4. To the person who saw me doing my pregame routine during the MCCB, I never considered what it looked like to outsiders, but I bet it does seem pretty absurd. More on this to come.

(UPDATED @ 12:19AM)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Where Do I Start?

Well, it has been a little while since my last blog entry. You'll have to blame the demands of college football. I can't spend all my time entertaining the wanting masses (by wanting masses I mean the 65 hits on this page, 60 of which I'm sure was my mother hitting refresh over and over).

So, I do need to catch you up on a lot.

I did the radio show with Joe D. Let me say how much I thoroughly enjoyed that experience and how much I truly hate the sound of my own voice. It creeps me out. But with Will Beatty and me on the air, it was nothing short of a great time. I have to give Joe D some props, while a fan of the Evil Empire (we'll grant him a short exemption of hatred for now) his voice is like that of a winged angel and simply melts my heart (now don't say I never mention you, Joe). I also have to give props to Normy, the "yin" to Joe's "yang." And I need to issue him an apology: I did NOT mean to blow you off Norm, I was just trying to get done with my pregame routine (I'm very superstitious).

Anyway, you can find the radio show here and let me know what you think.

If you are wondering why I kept plugging our Graduate Assistant, Tim Cary, it's because I had a little bet going with some of the guys to see if I could work him into the conversation. That, and Coach Cary is a great guy. So great that after he left, Fairfield University had to cancel the football program because they knew it simply could never get any better. Well done, Tim.

I guess I should probably talk about the Baylor game.

They. Were. Fast.

Top to bottom, running back to receiver to offensive guard, that team had some serious speed. I would compare them with the only other team I've seen demonstrate this kind of athleticism...that's right...our beloved toothless friends from the south, West Virginia University. And while Griffin (their QB) didn't have "Gold Frontz" (you alone hold that honor, Noel Divine), he did have some serious speed.

Want to know just how serious his talent is? The kid won the NCAAs when he should have been in the end of his senior year of high school. He graduated in the fall and entered Baylor in the spring. Still not convinced? Why don't you check out the play where I had him cornered in the pocket, already cutting the tape for my highlight reel, and he made me (a slow, fat, white guy) look like...well...a slow, fat, white guy. He was gone in a flash and rolling out. I chased in vain. He was good.

I have to say that our offense kept us in the game when it had to, and that Tyler manages and leads the offense like no other. People need to stop dwelling on the turnovers, when it came time to score (and win) we (he) did.

Special teams had a great day, and my hat is off to Desi Cullen on that tremendous punt pinning them on their own 4-yard line. I like to believe it was because of the Lunn-Sung-Hero Award that gave him that extra fighting, competitive edge.

The defense could have played a better game. And I think we all know it. But again, when the game was on the line (and it was) we came to play. And we were definitely robbed on that safety call, and the late hit that kept their drive alive to score.

My next blog?
I'm gonna touch on all the pre-game rituals of my teammates, from the crazy to the mundane, to the simply insane. And I'll take you through my gameday, top to bottom.

So stay tuned, and visit often. Tell your friends, you'll save my family a lot of trouble.
Go Sox!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lou Holtz and the Wahoos Cast a Spell...

Please Hit Play Before Reading This Entry
(Every Tragedy Needs a Soundtrack)

I am usually the last one to complain.

But I gotta say something. Today, I rolled out of bed, and knew it was going to be a bad day. You ever just have one of those days? Well this little treat of day went something this:

Wake up at 8:45am. Had the cell phone alarm set for was on silent. Had to scramble to my car and speed to the dining hall to make breakfast check by 9:00.

Got there, thought I could salvage the morning by having my favorite breakfast: 4 eggs scrambled with cheddar, sausage, and onion, side of oatmeal, and a banana. Well let's break this scene down for you. Line for "eggs to order" about 6 miles long. Oatmeal...gone. Bananas...all green. So unless I wanted to wait 45 minutes for eggs that I was already too agitated to enjoy, without oatmeal, but with a surplus of unripened bananas, I was gonna have to settle for a bagel and some Golden Grahams. I was pissed.

Did I mention I forgot we had to lift today? Yeah, sat down to breakfast and was reminded by Anthony Sherman. Had to go pull the sled. Tremendous. So after clawing my way through the late lift, I went to go get some lunch, forgot I had media obligations, and had to eat in our dining hall. Which isn't awful but I'm kinda fat, and since my terrible breakfast debacle I had my gluttonous brain set on a chicken breast sub from Subway. I bit the bullet, did my interviews (which were actually the highlight of my day) and went to practice.

I proceeded to drop my practice clothes in the only puddle in the entire facility, lose my knee braces, and misplace my gloves all in about a period of about 15 minutes. Went to meetings; didn't have my gameplan binder.

I blurred my way through practice, dragging ass the entire time. I just couldn't flip the switch.

I slipped in the shower. Awesome. Turned the shower on. No hot water. Even better. I got back to my locker...someone took my towel. Someone is screwing with me. Karma is a bitch; I swear Lou Holtz is casting a spell on me for what I said about him. You know what? I'm sorry I'm not sorry, Lou. You still sound like Sylvester the Cat.

Or maybe it's the Wahoos from UVa, upset that I came at their seersucker, collar-popping, pearl-wearing student section.

(Did I mention my dog chewed my glasses?)

Whatever it is, today the world conspired against me. Well guess what, World? I'll be back tomorrow to see what you got in store for me. Perhaps you'll burn my house to the ground or kick my dog? You stay classy, World. Today was unfair, but tomorrow is a new day, and I get to be a part of it.

Just don't screw with my breakfast again.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beating up Virginia. Bringing on Baylor.

Everything was clicking for us, in every phase of the game.
Let me break this down for you by unit:

Donny Brown was over 200 yards rushing. Again.
Our offensive line, led by Keith "the Koala" Grey, and Mo "Laden" Petrus is absolutely punishing opposing defensive lines.*
What did I say in my previous post? Everyone who was about to try and run Tyler Lorenzen out of town is now singing his praises. Kid works hard. And it pays off.
Nice catch and run by Steve Brouse. He'd make Zack Morris proud.

*Not the UConn Defensive line. Ever.

Desi Cullen was hanging kickoffs in the September night sky. He averaged 4.4 seconds of hang-time on those blasts. Well done Dez.
Return-men: Being slow, fat, and white--I admire your work. It looks like you're on ice skates out there...not sure how you're doin' it. But keep on keepin' on.

Linebacker play was outstanding, and holding UVa to just 30 yards rushing is an accomplishment. But I think we need to take note of Julius Williams' and Cody Brown's sack celebrations. I see a future on Dancing With the Stars for both of you...possibly together.

I'd also like to commend Julius Williams for bringing the jockstrap back into style. If you ask him he'll tell you that it makes him "feel like a cat out there" (apparently it lifts AND separates). I've been told its like the "Wonder Bra of the gridiron." I'm not that curious nor secure enough in my manhood to go down that road, so I'll stick to the Under Armour.

My Post Game Thoughts:

I take no greater pleasure than absolutely dismantling opposing offenses. Seriously, knowing all the time we put in to lifting, and running, and conditioning, endless film sessions, and even longer practices, there is a supreme feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing that our best was better than their best. Our fast is faster than their fast. Their offensive line was a little on the soft side and certainly a bunch of sore losers. For people attending the university founded by Thomas Jefferson I'd expect a little more. They weren't good sports and didn't stay around after the game to shake hands or even wish us much for Southern Gentleman.

Speaking of Southern Gentleman, and judging by their fan section, I'd like to offer a suggestion to their athletic department: seersucker football pants, and jerseys with a popable collar. And for the accessory obsessed...optional pearl necklaces. Get back to me, I'll sell you the rights at a price.

There is something thats not so intimidating about fans that look like they stepped out of the J Crew Catalog . Then again, I do play football in Connecticut, a state that had a pro basketball team called the Millionaires (here's to you, Greenwich!), and practically founded the conservative-preppy look.* Bottom line: Our fans are awesome; theirs suck.

*As I type this I'm wearing seersucker shorts and a peach colored polo. Seriously. And yes, I am sorry.

Well done, student section. Loud as hell. Worked to our advantage on defense. Thanks for getting us that delay of game penalty, we owe you that. Again, please stay until the end of the game. I mean, you pay for the ticket...enjoy the show.

We have a tremendous test this coming week. The fellas from Baylor are bigger (insert bigger in Texas pun here), stronger, and faster than the competition we've seen the past three weeks. Also it's a short recovery week, since we play on Friday. Furthermore, their quarterback is definitely legit and extremely athletic.

I've also been told by numerous sources that Coach Hank Hughes referred to me as the "Brains of the Defensive Operation on the field" in his ESPN interview. And while he'd never say such a thing to my face, I'd like to say that is the closest to to a compliment I've received from him in five years. This is the same man that once told me I was playing so bad, I was "...stealing from the program being on scholarship." Thanks, Coach. I think.

I need to give a huge shout out to my favorite UConn Dad (other than my own father Judge Lunn), Scott Lutrus' Dad, "Big Al." You are one of a kind--and unlike myself, the ESPN Cameras don't add 20lbs to you. See for yourself:

Atta boy, Big Al!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Virginia Week. And all I want is some ham.

It's Virginia week. Meaning it's our first match up with another BCS Conference. Sorry to disappoint, but no--Hofstra is NOT a BCS team. Neither are those pudding pushers from Temple (okay, last Cosby reference, I swear). Anyway, with those games already in the record books, I guess I can be more candid than I would be in the days leading up to playing an opponent. Playing UVa will be the first real test for our program. Temple and Hofstra were not high caliber teams (though Temple is showing that it's one of the better teams in the MAC).

UVa always had an NFL-sized offensive line, and it's no wonder why two guys were drafted off their front five last year. Not to mention tight end Tom Santi who was taken by the Colts. This year their starting left tackle Eugene Monroe is something like number five on Kiper's Big Board. But if you've read this blog you know how I generally feel about those ESPN prognosticators. But he is a native of Plainfield, New Jersey--played high school ball with my boy, Dan Davis.
And regardless of Monroe's five stars coming out of high school and the millions of accolades bestowed upon him, the "eye-in-the-sky" don't lie. Eugene Monroe is legit.

UVa has a storied program and a lot of tradition in football excellence, and this year is no exception. Don't be fooled by the show that USC put on in week one. USC has superior athletic beings, and Pete Carroll has the easiest job in college football.

Ever asked Pete Carroll what his defensive scheme is? At USC they play "thiscat-thatcat" defense. Let me break down this complicated schematic for you---you take the 11 best defensive-minded athletes in the country, put them in white and crimson, and tell them to go cover "This Cat over here and That Cat over there." Real defense is when you take a bunch of mediocre athletes, instill a sense of unquestionable pride and sacrifice, and turn them loose on opposing teams. (Thanks, Todd Orlando and Hank Hughes.) But again, I digress. Back to UVa.

Their starting QB won't travel because he doesn't want to be a distraction, in order to help his team win. So their starter wont travel, so that he can help them win? This sort of logic only found south of the Mason-Dixon, folks.

But really, don't let this country-fried thinking fool you. This team will come to play, and Friday night at the 'Rent it's gonna be a grudge-match slug-fest. The fans will certainly get their money's worth.

So the only thing that might make this Blog worth reading is that I can perhaps offer some perspective on college football otherwise not available. (Well, that, and I am getting graded on this for class--who says the American Education system is failing? C'mon, it came down to this class or advanced water-ballooning.)

Virginia week practice was only slightly different than past weeks; I think Coach Edsall is becoming more aware of the grind that a 15-week college football season can take on his players, and is scripting practice accordingly. I say 15 weeks, because don't let anyone fool you--the "bye week" is a complete myth, or at least in Storrs it is. For that one week it's like training camp has been reopened (click here for my thoughts on that).

All in all, Virginia is a tough opponent with great recruits and great players. Should be a great test to see the direction of our team this season.

Some final thoughts:

I gotta say I absolutely adore the Connecticut Football Fans. You really are some of the best in the country. I'm just begging you, PLEASE, stay 'til the end of the game. We DO notice that on the field (or at least I'm too ADHD not to). You are probably the best part of my experience here in CT. I mean, what do they have to experience in Virginia that's better than in Connecticut?
Virginia Ham, Virginia Coalition, and "Virginia is for Lovers"? Bullcrap. I love Connecticut. We have the Whalers (well, we used to), UConn Football, and fall-foliage tours. Take THAT rednecks!

Please download the following songs: "Rescue Me," by The Alarm; "Mrs. Washington," by Gigolo Aunts; and "The Best You Ever Had," by Hot Rod Circuit. Enjoy.

Prayers to Alex Lamags on a speedy recovery. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to laugh and have your shoulder pop out, just ask 'Mags, but don't tell him I sent you.

Congrats to Darius Butler on having a beautiful baby girl, "Maya." Consensus on the team is that she is already taller than Larry Taylor and Robert "Reggie" McClain.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Justice Will Be Served

It's two days removed from the Temple game, and I think since everyone is offering their perspective on what happened last year, the media campaign that Temple ran, and this year's game played in a monsoon, it's time for an actual player to explain what happened.

Let me start by saying that last year, the referees got the call RIGHT. There was a referee not 5 yards from the play in question. Even though video replay shows that he got his foot in bounds, he clearly did not have control of the ball as he exited through the end zone. But like the face that launched a thousand ships, this was the play that launched a stupid media campaign (complete with billboards, poor quality YouTube videos, and Jello Pudding Pops--here's lookin' at you, Temple's most famous graduate).

The slogan became "JUSTICE." As in, justice will be served, the wrongs will be righted, and somehow this one loss is the most egregious for a program that hasn't had a winning season since 1990. There were MAC officials making the decisions (not Big East bias here). And yet they put up a billboard in downtown Philadelphia, with the word JUSTICE set over UConn and Temple football helmets. They posted YouTube videos comparing the 2007 match up to Batman battling the Joker (read: THE NIGHT IS ALWAYS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN...JUSTICE IS COMING). These videos were produced by the Temple video crew. It's just incredibly disrespectful. If those clowns from Temple had lost to Penn State or USC in the same manner they wouldn't have said boo. For one, I'm sure if they had lost to Penn State and put up such a billboard the Governor would have made them take it down in a heartbeat. That, or Joe Pa would use his superpowers to burn Temple to the ground.

It's the same reason that when UConn beat Army in 2005, then head coach Bobby Ross issued an apology to all branches of the United States Military at home and abroad for the disgraceful loss. How was losing to UConn any different than the other 7 games Army lost that season?? Give me a break. But again, the similarities come from one thing: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. (Sorry, Aretha.) The national media hates UConn. I wouldn't have it any other way, but you know what? Take heed Temple; you lost to the eventual 2007 Big East Champs, who went undefeated at home. Don't start a media campaign; feel lucky to have taken the field with us. Bottom line: you lost, get over it.

Temple v. UConn 2008:
I never wondered what it would be like to play football underwater. Despite my lack of imagination I found out this past weekend. Don't let anybody tell you different--it was pouring out there. Even worse, warm-ups were completely dry; we only got our first taste of the rain when we ran out of the tunnel to take the field. The only redeeming quality was that the temperature outside was in the high 60s to low 70s, meaning that it was only barely tolerable.
But I gotta say I love playing in the rain. It tends to even the playing field for athletically limited and genetically disabled persons such as myself. (Have you seen the title of the blog? Yeah...)

The game: Sloppy. The defense: Tremendous.

But I need to say, get off of Tyler Lorenzen! The kid is doing his best, and you know what, it's tough playing quarterback. Add in rain and the pressure of blitzing linebackers and it's near impossible. Am I making excuses for the guy? No. He knows he can do better and he works hard--everyday--to get better.

I loved the look on the opposing fans faces when we won. It's some sort of sick justice (pun intended) when the students sitting behind you are yelling obscenities and assuring you that your mother is of questionable morals and then you go on to beat their team in overtime.

One Final Thought:

It is a pregame tradition of my mine to watch College Gameday before boarding the bus to go to the game. I put very little stock in what these "experts" have to say about the game, but it's a guilty pleasure. Everyone on ESPN picked Temple to win. Corso called for "an upset in front of an empty stadium--Temple wins." He was right about the empty stadium.

How can the folks from Bristol (only 45 minutes away) not be bigger fans of the big-time football happening in their big backyard?

The Out of Shape Lumberjack

The Out of Shape Lumberjack

July 31, 2008

Training camp is like a dentist appointment, you dread it all month long, you see its impending approach, and when it's finally there you are sweaty and nervous and your heart races. Only unlike a dentist appointment it wont last an hour, the professional to whom you've entrusted your care isn’t trying to make you as comfortable as possible, and there really is no way to dull the pain of two-a-days.

It’s a combination of Christmas day excitement and what I think the proverbial lamb must feel on its way to slaughter. Everyone has their little routines that get them mentally prepared for the torture that lies ahead. Walking into our training camp dormitories I looked down at the carpet and thought to myself, “What is it with these industrial carpet patterns?” I read somewhere once that they make those patterns a certain way, especially in Las Vegas, to hide dirt and grit while at the same time keeping people alert. To me it's almost nauseating. The pattern of dark and light crisscross and checkered borders will only remind me of one thing: being a terrified 18 year old embarking on his first real college experience. Not eating in a dining hall, or attending his first class--instead, moving into a dorm with 104 people he didn’t know and playing a game that for the first time in his life was foreign to him. But my routine has been the same for almost 5 years now.

Go to wholesale club. Buy bottled water, Gatorade, cashew nuts, and one tin of chewing tobacco. While the water and Gatorade are for hydration, the nuts are a calorie-dense food that I consume before bed in the hopes of maintaining my weight (which I never do). And the tobacco, my most grievous vice, is to keep me awake for the endless cycle of meetings that will I will endure in the weeks to come.

Training camp is a completely outdated practice. Going back to the very roots of football, back when there was an actual “off-season” and the purpose of a two-a-day was to get the out of shape lumberjacks and insurance and car salesmen back in shape. The problem is that in football today, from professional to pee wee, there really isn’t a true “off-season." The modern football landscape and the desire for elite athletes to perform at elite levels means that after the fall there is winter conditioning and weight lifting. After the winter there is spring football practice (and more weightlifting); after the spring there is summer conditioning and lifting, and summer leads right back into fall.

But the only purpose of training camp I see that is still relevant is to turn the unfocused into machines, let go of politics and social matters (only concerns for the outside world), and become a drone memorizing defenses and formations and blocking schemes and countless line stunts. In his 1982 football recollection, The End of Autumn, one-time Kansas City Chiefs center Michael Oriard wrote "thinking was an unwanted burden, it was easier to stumble from bed to practice field, from meal to meeting, without much reflection." Under Oriard’s (astute) observation, I should probably stop writing right now. The truth is I have very little in common with the training camps of the 1920s and 30s that were associated with the birth of modern football. I am not sequestered miles from the nearest modern amenity; I sit in a college dorm with a fan, internet access, a TV, DVD player, and a cell phone.

But the grind of football is the same. Two-a-day workouts in the summer heat are still two-a-day workouts in the summer heat. And a yelling football coach is still a yelling football coach. And being out of touch with society (and reality for that matter) is also a burden. We miss girlfriends and parents and showering alone. We miss our own beds and actually being treated like adults who can manage their own time. Instead, every minute of every day is mapped out in a way that would make the Marines jealous.

What I really can't understand is that no player enjoys training camp, yet most players eventually become coaches, or should I say most coaches were once players. Yet none of them have done away with this ridiculous practice. It's like the minute the whistle blows on the last play of your last game, your mind starts to work backwards, erasing all those days you were sweating and puking your guts out in the high sun of August, and you begin to romanticize about how "when I played, men were tougher and coaches more informed--the game was harder." No. Training camp sucks. But perhaps it is a necessary evil to ensure that the bonds and ties to the game from generation to generation are never broken. After all, misery loves company.

"Leave me no compromise on things half done. Keep me with a stern and stubborn pride, and when the last fight is won, God keep me still unsatisfied."