Getting Ready to Play in Jacksonville

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When the media portrayal of bowl games gets back to the schools' hometowns, pictures of beaches, games and some practice grace their platforms.

After all, there is no better way to spend a week in late December than playing in a bowl game. But the pictures are truly just snapshots. You don't see the true grit, the need to get your game back in shape and prepare to win a game on the national stage.

The bowl teams haven't played a competitive game in nearly a month. Final exams, holidays and family create an array of personal decisions that in the everyday lives of the individuals cause consternation.

Now add weather problems into the mix and the teams and coaching staffs have to be shaking their heads as they try to get teams back into game mode.

For Michigan, two travel stories involving four players typify the travel problems the Wolverines have faced on this trip. But it also tells you how these Wolverines are thinking about the team first and foremost.

Starting offensive lineman Patrick Omameh finally arrived in Jacksonville on an evening flight Monday, Dec. 27. He and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint were both in Columbus, Ohio, and when their flight though Washington, D.C., was canceled, they had to fly to Philadelphia.

There was only one seat on the direct flight from Philly to Jacksonville. The players had to decide who would take that one seat and get to Jacksonville on time for the first practice. Tousaaint knew Omameh, a starter on the offense, needed to be on that flight. Toussaint made the decision to put Omameh on the direct flight. He would take the long road to Jacksonville through Charlotte, thinking he was getting his teammate to Jacksonville first.

Ah, but the best laid plans sometimes go awry. The flight from Philly was cancelled and Omameh was stuck, and the Wolverines were without their starting right guard for two practices in Jacksonville. Toussaint, on the other hand, made to Jacksonville late on the 26th.

Junior safety Mike Williams and freshman linebacker Quinton Washington also tried to make necessary moves to help the team when they reached their connecting flights in Atlanta. Williams' flight on Delta was leaving as scheduled, getting him into Jacksonville on time for the Sunday practice. Washington's flight was delayed. Williams, who played in two games this past year, knew it was important to get the Washington, a nose tackle who has played in all 12 games, to Jacksonville first.

The players pleaded with Delta to switch the tickets, but in this day and age of travel, the airline's hands were tied. Williams made it to the Sunday practice, while Washington came in later that evening and was ready to go on Monday.

Decisions on the fly are something football players need to make on the field. These four players had to make decisions about how they would fly and the value to the team of their fellow teammates.

There is a different feel to each bowl game, but in many ways they are quite similar when it comes to what the cities want to portray. The committees try to get the PR photos that will showcase their cities: the beaches, the top video game rooms, the great food and everything the Chamber of Commerce can showcase. The media will eat it up, sending back snapshots of what the team is doing on the side.

And despite the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce to show their cities as a place for play and enjoyment, the real scene for a bowl team is getting ready to play and, in some cases, getting everyone to the bowl site.

Michigan Bowl Central

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1 Comment

It is fun to see what is behind the scenes...THanKS.

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