Jan. 5, 2007
MOBILE, Ala. - Guest speakers were the order of the day on Friday as the Bobcats attended events that featured Florida State Head Coach Bobby Bowden and former NFL quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst Boomer Esiason.
The team had an early wake-up call on Friday to attend a 7 a.m. breakfast sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The higlight of the event was a speech by Bowden who is the winningest coach in major college football history.
After breakfast, Ohio traveled to Ladd-Peebles Stadium for its final practice before Sunday's game.
Following lunch, the players were given some free time to rest or see the town on their own. The team then departed for the Mayor's Dinner at the Mobile Convention Center. A highlight video of each team was shown followed by a performance from each team's marching band. The Bobcats gave the Marching 110 a standing ovation as they entered the event and all Bobcat players and fans in attendance were on their feet for a performance of Stand Up and Cheer.
Also at the dinner, former Ohio University President Vernon Alden was honored as the MAC's choice for the bowl's annual Champions of Life Award.
The program closed with a speech from Esiason whose message to the players was to savor the memories their collegiate career has provided.
The dinner was the last official event on the Bobcats' schedule. Ohio will be all business on Saturday, treating the day like a normal road game travel day. After a late wake-up and meetings, players not on the dress list will attend the Mardi Gras parade in downtown Mobile, while the players on the dress list will attend the team's customary movie the night before a game.
The players are not the only ones to have a busy week. On Wednesday, several family members of the Ohio coaching and support staff travled to the Ninth Ward of New Orleans to help rebuild a church damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Families who attended included Lee Ann Mason, wife of recievers coach Derek Mason, and their daughters; Jackie Germano, wife of tight ends coach Pete Germano, and their son Joey; Kelly Pelini, wife of defensive line coach Carl Pelini, and their daughters; Jane Els, wife of linebackers coach Ross Els, and their children Julie and Taylor; Robin Burrow, wife of defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow, and their sons; Allyson Horsley, wife of Director of Equipment Wayne Horsley, and thier girls; Lesley Bowman, wife of Director of Athletic Training John Bowman, and their daughters; and Melba Evans, football staff secretary, and her daughter Rebecca.
The group joined Pastor Marc Smith and his wife and co-pastor Angie, of the Abiding Temple Ministries located in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. He has pastored the church for 15 years, and his mother served as the pastor for the previous 10. Their church had two feet of water and housed 40 people during the evacuation in 2005.
Anyone wishing to donate money to aid the restoration project, may send to:
Abiding Temple Ministries
c/o Marc A Smith, Pastor
2433 Knightway Dr.
Gretna, LA 70056
The Smiths have returned to the area after being in Dallas for the last year. The Ohio wives and families assisted the pastor with cleaning and restoration of the damaged church. The families were served a bayou lunch by members of the congregation.
"We were grateful for the opportunity to extend a helping hand to those in need. It was a valuable experience for all," Lesley Bowman said. "I think what caught most of us off guard was the amount of destruction in the radius around the city. The rebuilding process is very slow. Many neighborhoods have FEMA trailers parked in the driveway with debris stacked along the street. This is even as far out as the Pascagoula and Biloxi areawhere the actual hurricane did the destruction."
To view photos from the trip click here.
The Bobcats are just two days away from kicking off their first bowl game since 1968. The 2007 GMAC Bowl gets underway at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, Jan. 7. The game will be televised live on ESPN.