Outback Bowl Notebook: Christmas, Team Welcome Dinner
Brendan Gibbons

Dec. 26, 2012

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Christmas Day was day three for the University of Michigan football team in Florida for the 27th annual Outback Bowl. Team 133 had the entire day off before assembling for a 7 p.m. dinner with 290 members of U-M's travel party.

The team Christmas party featured plenty of entertainment, including an appearance from Santa Claus. After the travel party finished dinner, head coach Brady Hoke instructed each class to perform a Christmas carol. One by one, the freshmen ("Deck the Halls"), sophomores ("Santa Claus is Coming to Town"), juniors ("Jingle Bells") and seniors ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer") completed the task to a rousing ovation. Michigan's coaching staff even got into the festivities, performing a special rendition of the "Twelve Days of Christmas."

Before leaving the party, players created personalized holiday cards for troops stationed in Afghanistan, thanking them for their service. Those cards will be delivered to troops who are based out of Chelsea, Mich.

On Wednesday (Dec. 26), the team ended its four-day stay in Clearwater and moved locations to its official bowl hotel in Tampa. The Wolverines also moved practice venues, transferring their workouts from Bright House Field to Jesuit High School. Coincidentally, Jesuit is where former U-M kickers Jay Feely and Garrett Rivas attended high school.

With the weather failing to cooperate, Michigan's first outdoor practice at Jesuit did not last long. After less than 15 minutes conducting drills in pouring rain, the team was forced off the field due to lightning in the surrounding area. Despite the conditions, U-M was able to get plenty of work done during a detail-oriented walk-through on the Jesuit High basketball court.

After checking into their new hotel in Tampa, the players had afternoon meetings before heading to the Outback Steakhouse Team Welcome Dinner at the A La Carte Event Pavilion. The dinner, catered by Outback Steakhouse, was the Wolverines' first opportunity to interact with South Carolina. Both teams were treated to a feast while bowl representatives welcomed the players and presented gifts to the head coaches, athletic directors and their wives.

Combined, the team travel parties ate more than 4,700 lbs. of food, including 750 lbs. of sirloin steak, 750 lbs. of chicken and 900 lbs. of ribs. The feast also included 700 lbs. of house salad, 400 lbs. of topped lobster mac & cheese, 1,600 lbs. of coconut shrimp, 160 lbs. of bloomin' onions, 1,200 lbs. of cheesecake, 80 gallons of barbecue sauce, and 90 cases of soda and water. At the conclusion of the event, kicker Brendan Gibbons, wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, offensive lineman Ricky Barnum and running back Vincent Smith, all Florida natives, spoke with the media before the team bused back to its Tampa-based hotel.

Michigan will return to the practice field Thursday with an 11 a.m. practice at Jesuit High before several members of the squad visit St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in the afternoon.

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