All-American Game and Championship Weekend Recap

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I am back from another successful All-American game and thought I would provide an inside look on the events. My flight out was scheduled to leave early Thursday morning. I got a ride from my teammate to the airport and got in line to check my bags. That line was not too bad at all so I thought I would have plenty of time to relax before my flight. I was wrong. I reached the security line to find it was so long that it ran into the security line next to it. I kept walking and trying to find the end of the line but it kept going and going. I heard whispers from people that they had never seen it so bad. They had dogs out to sniff bags to try to make it go faster but it still took 45 minutes for me to get through it. By the time I did, I had 10 minutes to reach the gate before the plane took off. I started to book it through the corridor. Once I got to the gate, I found out the flight had been delayed which was ironic.

Because that flight was delayed, my already tight connection in Oakland, literally consisted of me getting off the plane, walking to the gate next door, and right onto the next plane. I arrived in LA around 12:30PM. I took a shuttle to the hotel and ran into a few players from the Columbus Comets which was fun. We talked about our seasons as well as compared notes on my Oregon Ducks and their Ohio State Buckeyes. I arrived at the hotel and was met by the group I was staying with.

I should back up and give you history on my traveling buddy LeAnn Laymen.FB_IMG_1439436487141

We go a couple of years back to when we traveled together to Dallas to the 1st World Games Camp. She plays center and linebacker for the Everett Reign and we have become very good friends and have experienced many football adventures together. For this trip, even though my team had several people selected to play, only 2 of us could attend due to injuries and financial reasons. Kase Tukutau IMG_20150809_182544was the other Majestics selected but she was also busy with a family reunion at the same time so I decided to stay with LeAnn and a few of her Everett teammates.

We couldn’t check into the hotel quite yet so we left our bags at the front desk and went to grab lunch. The restaurant was called Islands. I had a pretty decent hamburger. We returned to the hotel and checked in before jumping in the rental car to drive to Santa Monica Pier.IMG_20150809_203107

After finally finding parking we explored the beach and took a bunch of pictures. We went to the arcade and played air hockey and shooting games. Then we went to the pier and watched people on the beach dance to music from a concert series that was going on. The theme of the night was to celebrate Australia so there was Australian music and food. I got a new hat from street vendor and had a chicken pot pie from an Australian food booth. Also of note was the fact that when I looked on the beach to see several different flags, I did see an Oregon Duck flag that made me happy. IMG_20150809_180055We are everywhere! We got back to the hotel and crashed pretty hard.

I also ran into Robert Mac in the lobby of the hotel. Robert is the producer for the documentary called Women With Balls. The documentary consists of following the DC Divas from the start of the season to the finish to provide insight into the world of women’s football. Because DC had gotten to the championship, the entire film crew had followed and was going to film the experience. It was great to speak with him. It’s awesome when people outside the immediate world of our sport become as in love with it as everyone else playing it. I really think this documentary will be a positive influence and will open further doors up for the sport. I look forward to watching it when it comes out.

Friday, we had practice at 11:30AM. We made sure to stop and get plenty of water and Gatorade because it was going to be hot. We arrived at Southwest College around 11AM so we could stretch and warm up. It was great to see a lot of people that I hadn’t seen in a while. One of the cool things about the All-American is that you get to play on the same team with players that you normally play against and have to prepare for. It’s much more fun to play with some of them than against them. Since this was my 5th All-American game, I kind of know what to expect, but it is also interesting to watch the events through the eyes of someone who is at their 1st.

We started off with a warm up before getting into our position groups. We had around 8 linebackers on my team. The thing about these games is that because there are typically a lot of players at each position, there is a rotation during the game so everyone can get in. You don’t typically play as much as you would normally on your team at home. After linebacker drills and figuring out where everyone was going to play, we played some 7 on 7 and then 11 on 11 so we could run through plays. It was a short practice which is always a challenge to get everyone in the right places and gelled together.

After practice, we returned to the hotel and shower. My group wanted to go to Hollywood. Other people wanted to go as well but got delayed in meeting us up, so the Everett players ended up going on to Hollywood while I waited at hotel for Alexis Synder. Who is Alexis? She plays running back for the San Diego Surge. We actually met up at the Team USA tryouts a couple of years ago. We were in the same running back group. I remember watching her play and I went over to her and told her I was impressed by her. She has a pretty unique skill set in her strength, speed, and low center of gravity. She also fights through tackles well. We finally got to play against each other this year in the playoffs and had a decent battle on the field.

By the time Alexis got to the hotel, it was around 5pm on Friday and we saw from the GPS that it would take a very long time in traffic to get to Hollywood so we decided to take a detour and get ice cream instead. We stopped at this awesome ice cream parlor called Baby G’s and I had cookies and cream with rainbow sprinkles. Don’t judge. I love rainbow sprinkles. We then walked down to the beach for a bit which was fun. IMG_20150809_202955We jumped in the car and headed back towards hotel. We checked with the group who was eating at the Hard Rock Café for dinner but by the time we got on track to head there they had already finished eating. We decided to find a bar to get some food and hang out at. I looked some places up on line and settled on a place called Backstage.

Backstage is a karaoke bar across the street from Sony Pictures. It’s known as a place where people from Sony and surrounding areas come to relax and sing at. These are talented singers. Not just your typical drunk karaoke guy who thinks he can sing Justin Bieber after 5 tequila shots. We found a booth that surrounded a mini fireplace and settled in to watch the singers. The one that stood out was this older lady who had a walker. The walker had a seat on it so when you turned it around you could sit down. She was watching the singers intently and I kept glancing over curious. She was quiet but it was obvious she had a presence about her and a knowledge of singing. She signed up for a song and slowly walked up with her walker to grab the mike. She then sang powerfully before using the walker to quietly get back to her seat. She was one of those strangers that you run across that you know has to have a very interesting back story to her. We had a great time at Backstage but left early because our game was scheduled for 10am the next day.

I woke up on Saturday around 6:30AM to shower. I have to shower in the morning on game days. It’s just a habit and wakes me up. We had to be at the field at 8am which is an ungodly hour considering most game days I’m not at the field until 3 or 3:30PM. From my previous posts you can tell that football players like routines. Getting to the field that early means a lot of that routine is messed with. I typically cannot eat a lot directly before a game and my stomach doesn’t seem to want to wake up in general before 10AM, so I settled on bananas.

When you are in the locker room before these games, it is pretty awesome to see everyone in the same color jersey but with different helmets on. That is usually the time I feel most a part of something special. We had light warm ups on the field compared to a normal game and won the coin toss. We received the ball but the offense was forced to punt. I came onto the field in the 1st defensive group ready to go. One thing you should know about these games is that there is a no blitzing rule. This is rough on a player like me who loves to be aggressive. I try to work my way around it. On the 1st drive, there was pass in the middle and me and Stacey Shipmon from Utah almost knocked each other out both going for the ball. Luckily she caught it off rebound and fell with it for the interception.

I got some action early in the 1st quarter and was able to make a few tackles. One of the most funny football moments I have had in my career happened after that. The National Conference was in the red zone and I believe it was 3rd down around the 15. My cleat came untied. I had this moment of panic of oh no I need to tie it. But I can’t tie my cleats well with my gloves on so it would require me to take them completely off, tie the cleat, and then put back on the gloves and I did not have that time. I decided I’d play another play with it untied and fix it on the next play. Then the ref steps across the line scrimmage and looks at me and then down at my cleat and asked me if I was going to take care of that. I look behind him and see that the offensive has broken the huddle and is coming to the line of scrimmage. I ask him if he was going to grant me time to fix it. He looked at me and said no. Which was hilarious because I was unsure why he came over to tell me when the play was about to happen and not give me time to fix it. But I shrugged and carried on. I read the off tackle run to the right, scrapped through the line, met the running back around the line of scrimmage and drove her back 2 or 3 yards. The whole time I was thinking, don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip.

There was another play in the 3rd quarter I believe where I pushed a girl out of bounce so she wouldn’t get the corner and I apparently got her in the right moment because she went sliding and ended up under the bench and hitting her head on the bench. I got up and was like oh no, are you OK? I’m hoping she is!

We ended up losing the game 26-0 but it was still a lot of fun. The temperate definitely spiked around 11am. There are different types of turf out there and we played on the type that I call carpet turf. When it’s hot, the heat literally bounces from the surface of the turf and into your cleats which obviously makes your feet warm. We were definitely all pretty hot by the end of the game. FB_IMG_1439436471336

We went back to the hotel, showered, and got ready to for lunch. We decided we all wanted steak and went to Outback.

We then returned to the field for the last part of the Alliance Bowl. The Alliance Bowl is an exhibition game that pits a team from each conference that normally wouldn’t play each other. This year it was the Central Cal War Angels against the Atlanta Phoenix. Central Cal pulled away for the victory 28-8.

The championship game had a lot of hype. The DC Divas were being followed around by the Women With Balls documentary and had an almost storybook year. The Dallas Elite are a new team started up by veteran players of previous Dallas teams. Both teams market well. Both teams had athletes. I expected it to be a dog fight. I ended up sitting mostly with Alexis and her friends from the Pacific Warriors who had me rolling most of the game.

DC started off very well and got up a couple of touchdowns early. They were effective in their passing game and strong in their running game. But Dallas hung around and put themselves in good position late. They got some yardage on counters and draws and eventually got to a point they could use their speed. They were able to score with about a minute left to close within 4 points. They tried an onside kick to get the ball back but it went out of bounce. DC retained the ball and ran out the clock for the 30-26 victory.

The after party was at the hotel we were staying at so we went back to the bar in the lobby to meet up with people. We found a lounge area with comfortable couches and mingled a bit before going to our rooms to sleep.

Sunday morning I woke up and decided to take the shuttle to the airport early so I wouldn’t have to rush. I got to the airport and relaxed a bit before jumping on the plane and passing out. I woke up for a short bit in Oakland before passing out again when we took off for Seattle. I picked up my bags from the baggage claim and took a Lyft home. Started my first load of laundry and took another well-deserved nap.

I will say that one of the most interesting things is that several times through the weekend people came up to me and complimented me on my blog. This was surprising and humbling to me. I’m very happy that I’m getting good response. It was my goal to both share my experiences and help people through them. I have a vision on where I want to go and projects I want to get to work on. It will be a process as I find the time to do these things but I appreciate the support.

You and I are part of a movement. Congratulate yourself on that. One day there will be little girls who play football and it’s not a big deal because it’s completely normal. They will be told what they CAN do rather than what they CAN’T.

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