FIESTA BOWL MEDIA DAY; Oregon Enjoying the Bowl Experience While Keeping Their Eye on the Prize

There’s no question media day is the most entertaining of all press conferences when it comes to BCS bowls.

Monday morning, the 42nd Annual Tostitos Fiesta Bowl launched its media blitz giving national and local reporters the opportunity to meet and talk to all coaches and players from both Oregon and Kansas State.

If you’ve never attended before, you’d immediately think it’s a stuffy formal press event that’s tightly monitored by over zealous sports information directors.

Far from it actually. Fiesta Bowl staffers and those associated with each school relax just a bit and allow their players to enjoy the festive bowl experience.

It also allows the media to enjoy the players they’ve covered all season.

Take for instance, Oregon safety Brian Jackson grabbing a microphone and interviewing his All-American teammate Kenjon Barner and sharing quips about which player drives the fastest car.

Now, that might seem boring to the average person or fan, but to us who cover the Oregon Ducks with such limited access, well, it’s like striking it rich during the era of the gold rush.

Certainly, the Oregon Ducks are here in Arizona to win a football game, but it’s the memories from the bowl experience that will last a lifetime for many of these players, especially those who may not be fortunate enough to play at the next level.

“I think you have to” says Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich about enjoying the experience of a BCS bowl. “If you don’t, you’ll go crazy. This is a special deal. You have to pick your moments to be with your family, or in the players case try to be a human being for a little bit. They deserve it,…they’ve worked really hard to get here.”

As one of the veterans and someone who’s been part of the current BCS bowl run, senior linebacker Michael Clay understands the importance of enjoying the entire experience of bowling in January.

Oregon senior linebacker Michael Clay answers questions at Fiesta Bowl media day

“After practice you get a couple hours just to relax, take a quick nap or something” explained Clay. “From 6 to 10, it’s your time. Just stay with familyor go to the mall, hang with buddies, get in the hot tub. There’s free time for us. It’s good free time, not to much, not to little.”

By the same token, relaxing and having fun doesn’t mean there’s a lack of focus. Chip Kelly and his staff have done a terrific job of balancing the bowl experience and the task at hand.

“I feel like we’ve prepared really well” said Sophmore running back De’Anthony Thomas Monday morning. “We was in Eugene and had some pretty good practices. Came out here and had some great practices. I feel like our team is dialed in and ready to go.”

Having been here before, senior running back Kenjon Barner knows it’s important to keep an even keel with a razor sharp focus on the prize.

“It definitely helps because you know what to expect” explains Barner when asked about maintaining that even keel.

“We’ve been here on the BCS stage four years in a row now. We’ve become accustomed to the bowl season, what not to expect, what to do,…so it helps.

For a younger player like redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, this BCS bowl is different, and special because it’s his first as a starter. As a younger player, Mariota leans on the veterans for guidance.

“Some of the older guys have been here” explains Mariota.

“I watch what they’re doing. Still business, but sometimes you want to enjoy it. These older guys have done a good job of making sure we’re prepared and enjoy what’s going on.”

( Take a moment to watch the enclosed video. You’ll enjoy the BCS bowl experience through the eyes of Oregon’s younger and veteran players. Click on the video box to play )

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