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Carmody's Corner: On playing in the very last Hula Bowl

The following was written by former Louisville kicker and 2006 Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody

The Super Bowl was a great experience and thanks again to Brian for inviting me down.  Still working on filling out the CC Expense Report for Mike to review.  Got to spend some quality time with Brian, Eric Wood, their agents and staff from Athletes First (great people), and some of their teammates and current NFL players.  A few quick highlights from the weekend:

-Getting to see Eric and Brian, who I hadn’t seen in a while.  I am hoping to have Eric on here in a week or so.  Also ran into Renardo Foster, former great offensive lineman, and Chris Redman. 

-Eric ordering an insane amount of room service after our late night of partying, just because he wanted to put it on the room and make Brian pay for it.

-Jerry Jones' Palace is very nice and you can see what $1.2 billion dollars can buy.  The video screen was the most impressive aspect by far and because of the money spent on that stadium, there will be many more Super Bowls in Dallas in the future.

-Had a Beer and a Hot Dog during the game.  Cost = $156, just kidding, really though it was $16.

-Dallas has a lot to improve on.  The weather didn’t help but that was out of their control.  I am sure many of you have read about the seating fiasco involving the NFL selling tickets to seats that were not properly installed.  That was the big issue.  The other issue was the way they handled the security entrance points.  Brian and I waited for almost two hours just to get to the point where we could go through the metal detectors.  Once we got inside the gates things were good. 

-There were three chants throughout the day.  1) Go Pack Go, 2) Go Steelers, and 3) Jerry Jones Sucks!! 

-Great game and a great experience with two great fan bases. 

This is a boring time of the year in college football in terms of news, but an important part in the development of the team.  I have talked before about how the off-season works with weights, mat drills, and conditioning.  The key is to maximize the short amount of time that you have before spring ball starts.  For the current players this is what they have to look forward to until spring break. 

A few current players are getting ready for the NFL Combine, while others are getting ready for Pro Days, tryouts, etc.  There are many aspects of the pre-NFL Draft process, starting with the post-season bowl games.  They have all been played this year with the Senior Bowl being the best of the best.  Many great Cardinal football players have been invited to and played in this game.  In recent years this is where Eric Wood helped solidify himself as a first round pick, where Harry Douglas showed he could play with the best, and where Bilal Powell and Johnny Patrick (before his injury) improved their draft status. 

The Senior Bowl is an established event that is attended by almost all NFL front office personnel.  I was not invited to the Senior Bowl, but was invited to the Hula Bowl in Hawaii along with teammate Breno GiacominiI was excited about this opportunity because as a kicker in these All-Star games there is only one spot on the roster.  Little did we know this would be the last Hula Bowl ever played, and for good reason. 

I will do my best to take you through the week that was the 2008 Hula Bowl, with a quick disclaimer: The Hula Bowl was a free trip to Hawaii and we were fortunate enough to stay in a very nice hotel resort in Oahu. I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything and I don't want to sound like I'm complaining about anything in these next few paragraphs. But considering that this was a well-established senior All-Star game, I just found the whole experience hilarious and wanted to share it with you, the Card Chronicle readers.  Also, this might be happening because I have nothing else to talk about this week.  Here goes...

-I got to the airport early on a Saturday morning to catch my flight from Louisville to Dallas.  From Dallas it was on to Los Angeles and then the long flight to Hawaii.  I found it odd that even though we were going to the same place, Breno was nowhere to be found.  I figured we would be on the same path, but this was the first sign that things might not be as organized as I thought they would be.  Breno and I met up at the gate in Los Angeles, along with many of the other players going to Hawaii.  I sat next to Reggie Campbell from Navy on the plane, a great player who knew he wasn’t going to the NFL because of his commitment to the Naval Academy.  He was looking forward to playing his last collegiate football game.

-Once we landed we got on an old school bus with no air conditioning for a long ride to the hotel.  It was on this bus where we learned that one of the players hadn’t even played football for a year.  He had graduated the year before and was working a normal job when he decided he wanted to play again.  He knew one of the staff members of the Hula Bowl and asked to play in the game.  Hula Bowl said no problem. 

-I was on the East team, which was coached by Ron Zook and his staff from Illinois.  Our team had the first practice of the day and when we went out there were no footballs.  Luckily our long snapper had brought one with him, which we used as a team for the entire practice.  The scouts were flabbergasted by this.  During the QB/WR drills after a completion the WR would turn around and throw the ball back to the quarterback so they could get the next rep off as quick as possible.  After a few terrible passes from the WR, we started a relay system to get the ball back to the QB.  How can you not have any footballs for a football practice?  Needless to say we didn’t have any special teams practice that day.  Brett Kern (punter), Nick Jarvis (Snapper) and I just sat around in the dugout of the stadium.  When the West team came out to practice they asked if they could borrow our football.  We finally got footballs the next day but had to take really good care of them because it was all we had to last both teams throughout the week.

-Ron Zook was the man.  We were supposed to have meetings in the afternoon with walk-thrus, and all that good stuff.  We had one that first day, but after realizing that the week was turning into a joke he canceled the rest of the afternoon meetings so we could enjoy the trip to Hawaii.  He also made practices fun.  The West team had their meetings and walk-thrus and were looking great in practice.  The consensus among the East team was that we were going to get blown off the field. 

-We quickly learned that if the bus said it was leaving at 7:00am for practice then it wasn’t leaving until 7:45.  It was the most unorganized event I had ever been too.  On our last day of practice the bus left over an hour later than it was supposed to.  There was supposed to be an East bus and West bus, but everyone just jumped on whichever bus they felt like.  I sat next to a little running back a few times that I thought was pretty good but figured he would have no shot at the NFL because of his size.  He was a really nice guy and I am glad that Danny Woodhead has proven me and everyone else wrong. 

-Both teams got the chance to head over to Pearl Harbor for the day.  We were supposed to have practice out in a field on the naval base but they didn’t bring any of our pads from the stadium to the base.  It was like being a little kid again. The field was like playing in your backyard when the grass hadn’t been cut in a month.  The East team practiced for about thirty minutes while the West team got in about an hour.  They then brought an ice cream truck out for all of the players and for the kids that were in attendance.  All of the players started racing the little kids to the truck screaming "Lieutenant Dan, Ice Cream!!!" in their best Forrest Gump voice. 

-The Pearl Harbor tour was incredible and one of the best experiences of my life.  To get a first hand glimpse into the history and tragedy of that day was something I will never forget.  To think about that event, what it led too, and the sacrifices made makes you really proud to be an American.  We also saw a submarine coming up out of the water. 

-Later in the day we had team photos.  The photos were delayed a little while they went to pick up the uniforms so we could wear them in the photo.  A lot of guys ordered pictures from the game, including me, but I never saw them and I am willing to bet nobody else did either.  

-On game day we had a pre-game meal at an elementary school and then were off to the stadium.   The game was a lot of fun and our East Team went up and down the field all day to easily beat the West.  It just goes to show you that if you don’t really practice all week you can win a football game. 

-Ray Lewis and Larry Fitzgerald’s little brothers played on our team and both those guys were on the sidelines for the game. Event though Ray Lewis was very nice he is still a mean looking man that I would not want to be tackled by.  Also, how does anyone cover Larry Fitzgerald? 

-I was named the Special Teams MVP for the game (I guess because they didn’t have anyone else) and was presented with a commemorative Hula Bowl coin, or so I thought when they handed me the box.  There was no coin; it was just an empty wooden box.  The guy who ran the Hula Bowl said that they "hadn’t come in yet."  I still have the wooden box, which I use in my kitchen for sugar packets. 

-We all had early flights the next morning and once again the bus didn’t leave on time.  One of the offensive linemen from Virginia Tech had gotten into a little trouble the night before and was the last one to get on the bus.  He had apparently pissed off some of the locals and got his butt kicked a few hours before we left.  His face was bloodied and bruised and he was holding a towel over his lip, which had been busted open.  It was a long flight back home for him.  Speaking of flights, we barely made it to the airport in time to leave. 

-I had a nine hour layover in LAX before I took the red eye flight to Chicago.  I then would catch a flight to Louisville.  The Hula Bowl had basically just booked the cheapest flights they could find on the internet and I was happy that mine had me going on a regular path.  Breno flew from LAX to Charlotte, and then to Louisville.  My favorite though was the punter from San Jose State.  His original schedule had him flying from LAX to Dallas, and then back to San Jose.  He luckily was able to get it fixed to catch a shorter flight.

Even though it was an interesting week and unorganized I had a great time in Hawaii.  It was a great experience and for the meantime I can at least say that I played in the last Hula Bowl.