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A Week in Texas at the Army All-American Bowl

A brief, well maybe not that brief, recount of my trip.

Day 1 – The Departure (Saturday)

Dear diary, I woke up early to get everything ready for my flight this morning, and when I checked on it the flight was canceled. Apparently the wonderfully thick fog kept the airport shut down too long and my plane never arrived.

Not to worry though, I am in line for the next available representative with the airline! I’m sure they will fix everything. How many people can be calling them at 4:30 in the morning?

… 1 hour

… 2 hours, and they need some better hold music

… 2 hours and 40 minutes later, I’m booked on another flight. This one is for Tuesday! Only three days late… I had probably better find something else.

I ended up finding a flight on the next day to Dallas, a short (4 hour) drive to San Antonio.

Day 1.2 – I Depart Again (Sunday)

My flight was okay, a small delay in Little Rock. For some reason Southwest airlines now sells Red Bull… I would think that energy drinks are the last thing you want to sell to people cooped up in an enclosed space, but what do I know?

Who knew that traffic was so bad from Dallas to San Antonio? I live in a Chicago suburb, and all 280 miles of the trip to San Antonio was like driving in the morning commute to the city. I pull into the hotel about 11:00 pm.

These were my sleeping quarters for the week.

It had all of the amenities, like these bottles of water.
At $4.00 a piece they were a steal!
I drank 5 to 10 of them a day, just to be on the safe side.

Outside my window was a lovely view.
Right below me, across the parking lot, you can even see the Denny’s!

The nice girl at the counter was really excited when she saw I would be there through New Year’s eve and gave me that room special because I would then have a good view of the fireworks New Year’s eve. Something told me I’d probably be a little tired for fireworks.

Right as she was making my room key, the nice girl at the counter noticed that I was there with the Army game, so she had to give me a special room key. She was sure to warn me that they had been having some difficulty with the new keys. I am pleased to say that I never had any of the difficulty.

Day 2 – First Day of Practice (Monday)

I can think of things I would rather shoot as a photographer than practice. While to the game, practice is important; for the photographer practice can get a little slow. The best part of practice was the fact that it was 80 degrees and sunny.

After practice I headed to the 4th floor with the Rivals guys. The 4th floor was a ballroom area that housed player and parent registration as well as the media.

Down the hallway, across from the ballroom where the players ate, was what we later dubbed “The War Room”.

The “War Room” was a super sexy set of tables and chairs where I and the Rivals guys would work at the end of the day. I would edit pictures, while the writers would do their thing and let me know whose pictures they wanted for the stories they were writing.

It made for a long day, but I actually learned quite a bit about football listening to the guys talk about what they had seen in practice that day, comparing it to what I had seen. I mainly learned that I’m still way more photographer than football analyst.

Day 3 – Second Day of Practice (Tuesday)

I headed down to the War Room a little early to get some work done and one of the Rivals Amp video guys was already there. “Going to be over 80 today!” he told me. Hot damn! That convinced me, I left my stuff and headed back up to the room for some shorts, man I liked the weather here in Texas!

By 10:00 I was getting my sweatshirt out of the car during a break in practice. It probably got close to 80 that day, but it sure took its sweet time doing so.

One of the team’s practice fields was right by Kelly Air Force Base, so one of the days we were treated to F16’s and a steady stream of jumbo jets.

In the afternoon there was an boom in the direction of the base, one of the kids even hit the deck. We were joking that there was some kind of ordinance test, but we don’t actually know what it was.

By that evening we had our credentials, mine was all high tech with computer font
that looks like hand writing with a sharpie.

Day 4 – Skills Challenge (Wednesday)

It’s New Year’s Eve and headed out early for an 8:00am start over at the Alamo Dome. The players were having their skills challenge, which was a competition between the East and West sides where the position players showed off their skills for team points.

It was dark in the Alamo Dome Wednesday, I’m talking High School field dark. Considering I had several more days shooting in the dome, I was really hoping that they would turn more lights on.

That night after the skills challenge we worked in the War Room until about 9:30. A couple of the guys were heading out for dinner, but I was starving and not looking forward to the long walk across the river walk, so I had a quick bite to eat at the Denny’s across the street and rang in the New Year with a beer at the hotel bar. I actually made it back up to my room in time to see some of the fireworks display, but I was exhausted and not all that interested. Yeah I know, glamorous NYE, I was tired so leave me alone.

Day 5 – Combine Registration (Thursday)

Combine registration was, well it was interesting. Nothing says challenging photography like taking almost 500 mug shots. I ended up having a good time, the Michigan Rivals guy that I was working with made sure to point put all of the IL kids, I made small talk with them along with a bunch of the other kids that came through.

Day 6 – US Army National Combine (Friday)

I would think a place like Texas should have their combines outside, in the light. Or at least turn more lights on. While I’m at it, I’m going to complain about combine shirts; who thought it was a good idea to have a dark grey shirt with black numbers? Don’t they know it makes identifying kids difficult?

IL WR Kyle Prater had a good combine, reaching over to bat an underthrown pass out of the hands of the DB to avoid and interception.

The Rivals.com gang hard at work watching and analyzing the combine, the combine is a long day and these guys did an excellent job with coverage.

Day 7 – US Army All-American Bowl (Saturday)

The army rolled out some pageantry for the game, drill teams, musical groups, and several thousand spectators in the South East portion of the stadium.

The players each came out ad met different individuals that served in the army. Some, like these guys did the chest bump, while others did various handshakes, or greetings. Hard for me to shoot though, because partner media wasn’t allowed on the field. I was pleased to see that they turned another row of lights on in the Alamo Dome which helped a bit.

How do you cover a football game without cheerleaders?

Sweet victory.

Day 8 – I Depart for Home (Saturday)

I shot the Army Bowl, and all I got was this shirt. In reality I have to thank the Crabby, for both the opportunity to shoot the week and hooking me up with the Army polo. Despite the long days, I had a good time and actually learned some stuff.

Things like, Rivals guys can clean up for TV when they need to!

I knew I was home, because immediately as I walked off the plane the cold air hit me, I already missed the weather in Texas.