Dec. 30, 2011
PONTE VEDRO, FLA. - Ohio State held its third TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl practice in the state of Florida Wednesday. The team went through 18 five-minute periods plus a five-minute stretch session under slightly overcast skies but still with plenty of sunshine and blue visible.
"It was a good practice today," coach Luke Fickell said. "I felt like the guys got after it and really gave a good effort out there today."
Practice started about 9:45 a.m. and the Buckeyes were through at 11:35 a.m.
Another Fine Lunch
After practice the Buckeyes enjoyed another fine lunch underneath the stands of North Florida's Hodges Field. Locals prepared some incredibly flavorful steaks and grilled boneless chicken breasts Wednesday and today there was a feast of barbeque chicken and beef brisket. Side sauces included "Memphis Sweet," a "Kansas City BBQ" and "Carolina Gold." All were good. The sweet was sweet. The BBQ was tangy. And the gold was mustard-and-vinegar like.
A Good Attitude at the Latitude
The Buckeyes had a fun-filled Thursday evening of food, bowling, X-box, bowl game watching, dee-jaying and dance battles at the Latitude 30 entertainment complex. Highlights had to include the 30-minutes or so that some of the players, led by the receiver Corey Brown, Verlon Reed, Kenny Guiton, Chris Fields and Jordan Hall, took control of the dee-jay booth and dance area. The guys rapped and danced in front of a nice crowd of onlookers and, in the words of Boom Herron, "they were just going away!" And then...
The Dance Battle
A Latitude 30 employee was seeking a dance battle and out of the throng of Buckeyes to take him on was...senior manager Sean Branick, from Dayton, Ohio and Chaminade-Julienne High School. Engaging in some freestyle hip hop moves, Branick took down the employee with a routine that ended with a whole body shake that included what could only be described as a "shaky-shake" of the right wrist.
"I had some friends in high school who could dance really well, so I learned from them," Branick said. "I spent a lot of time in front of a mirror looking stupid, but hey, it paid off!"
The entire Ohio State team and its coaching staff attended the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) breakfast Thursday morning at the First Baptist Church in downtown Jacksonville. The event started at 7 a.m. and with a 30-minute ride from the Sawgrass Marriott to the church, the Buckeyes were welcomed into the day with 6 a.m. wake-up calls. A smaller group of Gators attended the event, including Jon Bostic, a junior linebacker, and Trey Burton, a sophomore running back.
Keynote Speaker: Sammy Smith
Former Miami Dolphin and Florida State Seminole Sammy Smith was the keynote speaker at the FCA breakfast. He said his wife asked him this morning if he was going to be nervous speaking at an event attended by Florida Gators.
"We are all Christians," Smith told his wife. "We all love the Lord. Plus there is a coach here who played for the University of Georgia. If Will Muschamp can be accepted here, than I can be accepted here."
Same Dolphin Drafts
Ohio State strength and conditioning coach Jeff Uhlenhake was the Miami Dolphins' fifth-round draft pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Sammy Smith was the first of two first-round picks for the Dolphins that year: Louis Oliver, a defensive back from Florida, was the other. One other player was drafted ahead of Uhlenhake: Syracuse defensive back David Holmes. Uhlenhake had one of the longer NFL careers of all these picks: 10 years (five with Miami; two with New Orleans; three with Washington).
Sweat and Jackson Take the Stage
Taking the stage at the FCA breakfast for the Buckeyes to talk about their personal lives and their spiritual development were senior linebackers Tony Jackson and Andrew Sweat. Sweat was appreciative of his teammates for helping him through the tough times early in his career.
"You are overwhelmed as a freshman, but guys like James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins helped guide you through and helped keep your perspective in focus on what's most important in life."
Jackson, who was 13 when he really started to want to understand his own spiritual life, has relished an opportunity to be a Christian leader for this team.
"Being able to pray for the team and with the team before we take the field, and again after games, has been a real highlight of this year," Jackson said.
14 Years in Top 5
Sammy Smith, who spoke of experiencing the loss of a child, a career-ending injury and a six-year prison stay before he changed his life, played for the Seminoles when that program was in the midst of a 14-year run of Top 5 national rankings each year. His teams missed out on national titles, and he said the Seminoles didn't win their first national championship until FSU had players with great character on and off the field, in addition to having great talent.
"Guys like Charlie Ward, Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks weren't afraid to hold teammates accountable, and they had more than just talent on the field," Smith said. "They had character."
Smith then challenged the Ohio State and Florida teams, both of which are in transition: "Stand up and pull some leaders out of your teams," he said. "Find those leaders during this transition period so you can move forward."
Local Award Winners
Tony Boselli, the former great offensive tackle with the Jacksonville Jaguars, presented two scholarship awards, called Boselli Excellence Awards, at the FCA breakfast to local high school individuals who are leaders in their schools and communities and who live their lives with great character: Brandi Walker and Robert Wright.
One Final Practice
The Buckeyes will practice one more time prior to the bowl game: Saturday morning from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. After practice the team will attend the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl's Hall of Fame luncheon and then attend a walk-through at EverBank Field.
Buckeyes in the NFL - Divisional Round