OSU stoic, while UF is ecstatic
Published: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
One team was stoic and reserved. The other was having a ball.
It was Media Day for the BCS National Championship Game and Ohio State looked like a group of guys who have been here before. Florida looked like a bunch of guys who couldn't believe they were here.
Gator players took hundreds of pictures and videos. They posed with the national championship trophy. They had to be shooed back into the stands while posing near the cordoned-off field.
They toyed with each other, shouted over the shoulders of players who were being interviewed and took turns interviewing each other for television stations.
Eric Wilbur, a telecommunications student, grabbed a microphone and worked on his next career.
"It's my major so it had better be," Wilbur said.
He even approached the podium where Urban Meyer was sitting and asked the Florida coach a question about the buckeye — a symbol of good luck in Ohio — that Meyer used to keep in his pocket.
People keep talking about a team of destiny. Maybe this team's destiny was just to be here.
I asked Meyer if he could have imagined this a year ago?
"I imagine it every second of my life," he said. "That's why you get up and shave in the morning and go make recruiting calls."
But was it realistic to imagine it this year?
"No," Meyer said. "With Ray McDonald having two ACL injuries and when Chad Jackson and Dee Webb left early, no."
Brandon Siler imagined it. Sitting on his couch at home watching last year's Texas-Southern Cal game, he let himself fantasize about it.
"Watching Vince Young run around, I was thinking, 'How lucky is it to be there?'" Siler said. "I could be that guy. You see it and you want to be on football's grandest stage. But it seemed unrealistic a year ago."
A year ago, Florida was coming off an Outback Bowl win. A year ago, just getting back to Atlanta seemed like a stretch. A year ago, we were wondering how this team was going to do against a brutal schedule.
"You had guys that didn't want to practice," Siler said. "They were always asking, 'How long is practice?' This year, everybody wanted to practice."
And when you practice that hard, that long, good things come to you. That's why this Gator team was celebrating its first look at the incredible stadium, hooting and hollering and having fun.
"I remember watching that game last year, too, eating chicken wings and imagining what it would be like to be there," said safety Kyle Jackson. "We're excited to be here and we're not just going to just let it pass. We're going to work to get back here again next year and I promise we're going to be the same way."
The dream became reality, and Friday was the day it started to feel like reality. Just seeing the playing field, the bright green turf and the lines drawn, the end zones painted, brought huge smiles to the faces of the players.
"I still can't believe it," said offensive tackle Phil Trautwein. "Now that we're here, it's kind of sinking in. The stadium is awesome. It looks like something you'd make up in a game or something."
Imagine if you're Chris Hetland and you wondered if those misses were going to cost your team. Or if you're Wondy Pierre-Louis and you know that Chuck Heater may have saved your life by fighting to get you out of Haiti. And now you're here, taking it all in.
"I think about that sometimes," Pierre-Louis said. "I'm just so thankful that Coach Meyer gave me this opportunity."
Or if you're DeShawn Wynn and a year ago everybody saw you as a classic underachiever. And now you're getting ready to start at tailback in the biggest game of your life.
"You always think about something like this," he said. "But to actually be here, looking at all of this, for the dream to come true is shocking for everybody. You can't help but to have fun."
They were having plenty of fun on Friday. What is often a tedious day for players, answering serious and bizarre questions, was a day they didn't want to end.
When you've worked so hard for a dream that didn't seem possible, the reward tastes that much sweeter.
Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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