The life of a college football player quickly can turn monotonous, one chain of class-practice-study hall-sleep after another with games thrown in once a week.
That’s all about to change for Champs Sports Bowl-bound Maryland.
Already out of the picture are classes and exams, which wrapped up yesterday. After a brief workout this afternoon, the Terrapins will scatter into planes and cars to escape a soon-to-be deserted campus.
When the team reconvenes tomorrow in Orlando, Fla., more than just a warmer temperature will be different. There are scores of tourist traps to catch the Terps’ attention, and many families figure to trickle into town for Christmas and the Dec. 29 game against Purdue.
It leaves an interesting balancing act for Maryland (8-4) to maintain as it plays in its first postseason game in three years.
“Teams, sometimes you hear them say it’s all business,” quarterback Sam Hollenbach said. “We’re going to go there and have fun. We’re going to enjoy this experience. My first two years we went to bowls, and my second two we didn’t. It’s a completely different feeling. We want to enjoy this.”
In some ways, the reward of spending a week in a pleasant clime can be just as fulfilling as the bowl game itself. It’s especially true for a program coming off consecutive 5-6 seasons, records that ensured plenty of what-ifs wafting through players’ heads as they watched bowl games the last two years.
And it’s not as if many Terps have enjoyed their own bowl experiences. Only five players who appeared in the Gator Bowl after the 2003 season remain on Maryland’s roster: tailbacks Josh Allen and J.P. Humber, left tackle Stephon Heyer, punter Adam Podlesh and cornerback Josh Wilson.
“It’s rough. There’s only a few guys who know it’s going to play out,” said Heyer, who started in the Gator Bowl. “It’s going to be our job to incorporate what it means to go on the bowl trip. It’s not just the simple fact there’s interesting things we’ll be doing in such a great city, but we also go there for a reason — to win like any other away game.”
Coach Ralph Friedgen plans to bring every eligible player on the trip and indicated earlier this month he will provide some latitude during the team’s first few days in Orlando before adding some restrictions as the game approaches.
The Terps will practice Saturday and Sunday, then take Christmas off before resuming a usual game-week approach Tuesday. All the while, Friedgen will be juggling his desires for players to savor the well-earned bowl week and for the team to pick up its ninth victory and snap a two-game losing streak.
“That’s something every kid wants to have, the experience that he’s been to a bowl game,” Friedgen said. “Hopefully, they’ll want the true experience of going to a bowl, and that is to win the bowl. You don’t have a lot of guys who know how to make sure this is a business trip and they’re going down to win the game. [But] I understand they want to enjoy themselves and want to relax.”
The Terps probably won’t struggle to occupy their free time with so many attractions close to their hotel. Still, they realize their time on the field each day has a purpose as well.
“We’re going to go down and prepare hard for this game, but we’re also going to have fun and take it in,” Hollenbach said. “We’re going to take in the sights and the sounds and everything that’s going on down there. Hopefully, that will motivate next year’s team to get back down there.”