College football: Blogger documents SXU’s trip to the title
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media December 19, 2011 9:38PM
St. Xavier football coach Mike Feminis (right) leaps into the arms of an assistant coach as the sideline celebrates after Saturday's NAIA national championship win over Carroll College. | AP photo
Updated: January 21, 2012 8:08AM
(Editor’s note: On Saturday, St. Xavier won its first national championship, beating Carroll for the NAIA football title. The SouthtownStar’s Steve Millar was along for the ride, blogging as he traveled with the Cougars from Chicago to Rome, Ga., and back. Below are some of the highlights from his five-day excursion.)
Tuesday, 7:43 p.m.
The SXU team buses are on the highway headed southeast toward our overnight stop in Columbus, Ind. We pulled away from campus about an hour ago after an energetic send-off inside and outside of the Shannon Center.
The players were fired up as we departed campus with hundreds of fans lining the sides of the buses.
Defensive lineman Matt Yerkes summed it up nicely to me, saying “This is the real deal.”
Well, we’re on our way and — after a spirited debate (“Space Jam” was the other main request) — watching “Avatar.”
Wednesday, 12:42 a.m.
Hello from the Comfort Inn and Suites in Columbus, Ind.
We’ve arrived for our brief stay in Hoosier country.
The bus ride down was pretty quick, though it wasn’t all smooth. We had to make a brief stop on the side of the highway as a player’s left-behind bag was driven out to us. The players also were upset about some problems with a shoddy DVD player.
We did manage to watch all of “Space Jam,” though. And let me tell you, there was a lot of singing along to “I Believe I Can Fly” by Southland legend R. Kelly (yes, “legend” is said tongue-in-cheek there — just to be clear). That was probably the highlight of this relatively short leg of the trip.
This hotel is a nice one for team-bonding as there’s a huge lounge on the second floor, where some players are gathered playing cards and chatting as I write this.
Wednesday, 2:13 p.m.
Hello, again. We are making our way through Tennessee.
Although we began the day in the Eastern time zone in Columbus, Ind., and we’re headed east to Georgia, we’ve actually been bouncing back and forth between the Eastern and Central time zones a bit today.
That led to a bit of confusion and a bit of a funny situation when we stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s in Franklin, Ky. The team had pre-arranged for a bunch of burgers and chicken sandwiches to be ready at 1 p.m., but when we got into town shortly before 1 p.m. Eastern, we were actually in the Central time zone and were an hour early.
But everyone got fed eventually and we continued across the border into Tennessee.
Thursday, 3:37 p.m.
(After a visit to an elementary school)
Greetings again from Rome. Things have been pretty crazy today, with wall-to-wall events all day, but I think everyone on the trip has had a blast.
As mentioned earlier, the school trip this morning was great. The students at the school, which has kids from pre-kindergarten to third grade, shocked us all with how energetic and welcoming they were. From them all wearing red, to all the signs and high-fives, to SXU’s alma mater playing over the P.A. system, they really went all out at Midway School.
The team, and even the non-team members in the travel party, were treated like rock stars with so many autograph requests and star-struck looks from kids. Even yours truly was asked for some autographs.
Friday, 8:27 p.m.
Barron Stadium — it’s a very nice facility with some of the best-looking FieldTurf I’ve seen. It should suit the Cougars well.
The St. Xavier contingent has a big presence in town now as we get closer to game time. It was nice to meet some parents, family and friends of players today. ... By the way, I think being in the south for a few days has began to rub off on the Cougars. The players on the defensive bus were singing country songs in unison on the way back to the hotel from practice today.
One other thing to note from tonight: Carroll running back Chance Demarais was named the NAIA National Player of the Year at tonight’s Banquet of Champions. We’ll see if the Cougars can slow him down tomorrow.
Saturday, 2:18 p.m.
Greetings from the press box at Barron Stadium. We’ve got an hour before kickoff and it’s a perfect day in Rome.
Right now it is 51 degrees but feels even warmer with the sun shining. There’s not a cloud in sight.
Both teams have began loosening up on the field. One other cool part of this event is that each team has a local band tasked with learning the university’s songs and acting as a team band for the day, so each team will get to hear its fight song blaring out today. It’s a good atmosphere out here. Lots of red and lots of purple (Carroll’s colors).
Saturday, 9:20 p.m.
As you’d expect, everyone — especially coach Feminis and the other coaches — was emotional after the win. The locker room celebration was very loud, but it’s pretty laid back on the bus right now. I know the players have a lot of congratulatory texts and phone calls to return.
Monday, 12:09 a.m.
If the Cougars are fortunate enough to make it back next year (and don’t look now, but SXU is expected to return 19 starters, including — how scary is this? — 10 on offense), I’d love to tag along again.