PLAYERS SPEND DAY WITH CU “FAMILY”
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).