PLAY­ERS SPEND DAY WITH CU “FAM­ILY”

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Brian How­ell

san an­to­nio» Christ­mas didn’t feel nor­mal to a lot of the Colorado foot­ball play­ers, but they weren’t com­plain­ing.

Sun­day, the Buf­faloes had their first prac­tice at the Uni­ver­sity of the In­car­nate Word in prepa­ra­tion for the Alamo Bowl against Ok­la­homa State at the Alam­od­ome on Thurs­day.

“No, it didn’t (feel nor­mal),” se­nior safety Tedric Thomp­son said of Christ­mas. “It was my first time be­ing away from my mom and my sis­ter, so it was dif­fer­ent. It was cool, though.”

Sev­eral of the play­ers have fam­ily in San An­to­nio. But in gen­eral, the Buffs (10-3, No. 10 in the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings, No. 11 in The As­so­ci­ated Press poll) are ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity to be here and to fi­nally play in a bowl game. It is CU’s first bowl ap­pear­ance since 2007.

“Ev­ery­one wants to spend Christ­mas with fam­ily, but this is my ex­tended fam­ily,” se­nior line­backer Jim­mie Gil­bert said. “To be able to be here and spend time with them and do some­thing that we’ve never done be­fore at a time we’ve never done it, it’s great.”

Of course, be­ing here presents some chal­lenges. The Buffs have to bal­ance game prepa­ra­tion with the events sur­round­ing the game.

The fes­tiv­i­ties started Satur­day night, when a mari­achi band greeted the Buffs upon their ar­rival at their ho­tel. The Buffs re­ceived their bowl gifts be­fore Sun­day’s prac­tice.

They at­tended the San An­to­nio Spurs vs. Chicago Bulls game Sun­day af­ter­noon. Bowl week in­cludes a visit to SeaWorld, a pep rally and team fi­esta, a kick­off lun­cheon and more me­dia events than usual.

“I don’t see a chal­lenge,” ju­nior wide re­ceiver Shay Fields said. “We’ve been do­ing it for the whole sea­son. We travel, see dif­fer­ent places, ex­plore a lit­tle bit and then go back to work. Since we have a lit­tle bit more time, it just comes with a bit more ma­tu­rity. I feel we can all han­dle it.” Sun­day was a good start. “Our kids had an ex­cel­lent prac­tice,” coach Mike Mac­In­tyre said.

Mac­In­tyre said he has no prob­lem with his play­ers en­joy­ing their time in San An­to­nio, as long as they keep pri­or­i­ties straight.

“I tell them to com­part­men­tal­ize,” Mac­In­tyre said. “En­joy their time, but when we get ready for meet­ings and foot­ball prac­tice, they have to be fo­cused and locked in and be phys­i­cal or we won’t have a good game.”

Af­ter en­dur­ing 10 con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons be­fore 2016, the Buffs are hop­ing to en­joy ev­ery­thing about bowl week — on and off the field.

“It’s a bless­ing to fi­nally be play­ing in a bowl game be­cause usu­ally we’re home around this time, and be­ing around this at­mos­phere is a bless­ing,” Thomp­son said. “We’re just try­ing to en­joy this mo­ment.”

Foot­note. Three CU play­ers did not make the trip to San An­to­nio: wide re­ceivers Jaleel Awini (sus­pen­sion) and Justin Jan (el­i­gi­bil­ity) and line­backer Chris­tian Shaver (sus­pen­sion).

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