Postcards From Jacksonville: Day 1 At The Gator Bowl
Dec. 26, 2003
Fast Fact of the Day: The Terps roster features seven players who call the state of Florida home: Josh Allen (Tampa) Garrick Clig (Port Orange), J.P. Humber (Lakeland), D'Qwell Jackson (Largo), Jermaine Lemons (Tampa), Eddie Matto (Miami Lakes) and Donnie Woods (Dade City). Clig had the shortest trip to Jacksonville as he traveled just over one hour to get the team hotel on Thursday morning.
By Jason Yellin
JACKSONVILLE -- Hello from one of the Southern Jewels, the beautiful city of Jacksonville.
Fresh off celebrating Christmas Day, the Terps' official travel party met up at the Gossett Football Team House at 8 a.m., to load up luggage and prepare for the trip to the 2004 Gator Bowl - the Terps' third straight New Year's Day Bowl game.
Only 23 players made the trip down with the official party as many of them chose to spend extra time with their families and not have to make the trip back to College Park. Among the notable Terps to come down with the official party were Leroy Ambush, Lamar Bryant, Ray Custis and Domonique Foxworth.
With the team loading up FOX 5's Lou Holder interviewed head coach Ralph Friedgen, Ambush, Bryant and Foxworth. All locked and loaded by 9:15 a.m., the Terps headed off to BWI Airport for their charter flight.
The staff and players went through security at BWI and boarded the plane for a 10:30 a.m., departure. Meals were already in place at each player's seat featuring two subs, chips, Snickers bars along with Gatorade and water. Dove bars were served as dessert. As the players and staff enjoyed their meals, they were treated to a showing of the movie. Sea Biscuit which they enjoyed.
We arrived at the Jacksonville International Airport at exactly Noon. We were greeted by sensational sunshine and brisk temperatures in the mid-60s. As the players headed down the jet ramp staircase members of the Gator Bowl committee were on hand to say hello and welcome coach Friedgen and his staff.
Once we were loaded up, we headed to our home for the next week - the Omni Hotel on the Jacksonville Landing. The 16-story hotel is right next to the signature landmark in the city.
The players got their room keys and went up to their rooms - only to have their first challenge of the trip - the keys didn't work. For some reason nearly every person had to have their room key reset in order to get in. By 2 p.m., every Terp was expected to have arrived at the hotel. Among the players who had the shortest trips were freshman Garrick Clig, who made the just over one-hour trip from Port Orange with his girlfriend who dropped him off. Josh Allen, who calls Tampa home, drove up with his sister.
At 2:30 p.m., it was time for the players to say "Show me the money!" as they first installment of per diem was issued on the second floor. ASCDU staffers Heather Arianna and Natasha Criss were the most popular people for about 30 minutes as they doled out the money for food.
Many of the players checked out the game room while waiting for their per diem. Senior Bernie Fiddler chronicled all of the happenings for his friends and family with his camcorder.
Former Terp Jess Atkinson was following suit as he was filming for FridgeTV.com - giving fans an inside look at all of the Gator Bowl festivities from the players' perspective.
Coach Friedgen held a team meeting at 3 p.m., as he explained the Terps' plans for the week and the ultimate goal of coming home as Gator Bowl Champions.
Following the meeting, the Terps headed up to ALLTEL Stadium for the CSX Welcome Party. It was a great event in which both teams gathered in the stadium's club level for a huge dinner featuring ribs, chicken, turkey, hamburgers along with a wide variety of salads and side dishes. To top off the meal, the desserts featured cherry pie, pecan pie, Boston cream pie, brownies and much, much more.
Needless to say the players were happy. It was also the Terps' first chance to see the stadium they would be playing in on New Year's Day. ALLTEL still had all of the Jaguars decorations up and the end zones had yet to be painted. But the players were visualizing their chance at a second straight bowl championship.
The event featured a live band and some comedians that were moderately funny - and even caused coach Dave Sollazzo's newborn son, Christopher, to cry. But overall, the players enjoyed the meal and a chance to mingle with each other.
After the dinner, they headed back to the hotel for a free night with plenty of rest after a long day of travel.