Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nicholls St. 9/19/09

The first home game is right here, right now! I have decided to go to the game. Hoo Ya! Travel is HOT right now! Well actually I had a ton of silent pressure to go to his first home game. I heard it loud and clear! Now that Matt has played 2 weeks in a row in his white uniform, it is time to bring the blue ones out. Then we get to see the red one after that against Hawaii. School, weights, practice and film work have gone well this week. Matt was convinced that he needed to chang his approach on his kickoffs. He and Coach Dooley had discussed this on the flight home from the Navy game. He spent a lot of the week working on his kickoffs. They want him to come more at an angle and push the ball to either corner at the number. This sounds like a big adjustment to me. I know I am not the coach, so I can only say what I feel. Nooooooo! Kickers are so unique and tweeking is ok, but no need for a tune up until after the season is over! They are married to Matt for the next 4 to 5 years and I can only watch and make comments to myself without getting in trouble. A quick funny! Matt and Coach Dooley had a drop kick competition on Tuesday. I LMAO when Matt told me this. They started out at the 15 yard line for a 25 yarder. They both missed their first 2 kicks and Coach Dooley made his on the third attempt and matt stepped up and made his. Coach said all is good until we meet again. What a way to end your night. My journey starts out Friday morning as I head to Liberty Hill to catch a ride with Mike & Melynda. (Mike is Janet's brother) This is Mikayla's (my niece) birthday weekend and she got to bring a friend (Holly) to the game. She is #33's biggest #1 fan. I promise she is. The first two games she watched on TV with her stop watch so she could chart Matt's hang times. See, I told you. We hit I-35 about 4:30 and are headed to Big D. We will all stay at Janet's aunt & uncles house. (David & Barbara) After a night of discussing football I was ready for the game to start. I could not sleep a lick. A shower and a cup of coffee were calling my name at 5:00AM. I did not dream about the game, so I am not sure what the heck the deal is. I guess it is my inner brain is doing all of this to me. We hit the road at eight and we should arrive Ruston around noon. Do I hear a Johnny's Pizza stop calling? Yes we do! Janet's mom and dad (Meggie & Papaw) would meet all the rest of us at Johnny's for lunch. The rest of our afternoon would consist of shopping at the bookstore and the Tech Team Shop. Next on the agenda was making sure that the beer and wine had the right amount of ice on it. Since we had multiple vehicles and only one parking pass we would all meet at the field house so we could see the team get off the bus. The football team never stays in Ruston the night before a game. They head to a hotel in another city, just like a road game. They have a team dinner, go to a movie and get a late night snack before lights out. The team has breakfast and meetings on Saturday morning. Then a team lunch before they head back to Ruston. They typically arrive to all stadiums about 2 hours before kickoff. I can hear the sirens for several minutes as the team is escorted to the stadium. My heart is racing and my doubled up pair of drawers are in place as the busses roll in. You see this stuff on TV, but not in person with your own son. Man that suit he had on looked like the bomb and his headphones were rocking! I sure was a proud dad as he passed us and we all got a small head nod. That is ok. I know he is focused. What an experience! I sure need beer! This was a special tailgate today. Beer, wine, sodas and cupcakes were on the menu. Cupcakes? It is all good, we are celebrating Mikayla's 12th birthday. Even though it was his first home game, we kept it simple so we could get the lay of the land and see what we could do for future games. I know, it is not like me, but all is ok! Tailgating will get exotic at future games. Another funny moment! I will get hit for this for sure! As Janet stood at the field house to see Matt get off the bus, she stood in an ant pile and now the ants were kicking in. They had created a serious ant's in the pants moment. She could not wait to get in the stadium to see Matt warm-ups. That is to funny that she had real ants in her pants. She has to know his temperature before game time. He really looked good in warm-ups. That is a good indicator as far as I am concerned. Its game time and my drawers are in place. La Tech will kick off first. Matt wants it this way every time. The crowd is intense and the new jumbotron is rocking and it even had a big picture of Matt and he introduced himself. Are you ready for some college football? I am so let go for a ride. His kickoff is good but not up to his liking. I think that the big adjustment to his steps this week has maybe screwed him up some. I know Matt too well and he will adjust and get things fixed. Once a perfectionist always a perfectionist! Matt would make a 24 yard field goal in the first quarter. He would also make a 44 yard field goal in the second quarter. I am concerned with the ball leaning forward too much on his PAT’s and field goals, but that is just what I see through my telescope. Matt would end up making 6 PAT's on top of the 2 field goals as La Tech would go on and beat Nicholls St 48 - 13. That makes Matt the leading scorer on the team with 21 points and he is perfect with 4 of 4 on field goals and 9 of 9 on PAT's after 3 games. Does he know that he is only 18 and just got out of high school? If I sound calm, I am not. I am just numb at what I am witnessing and that it is my son. I am still open to all drawer care packages. I will need many pairs during the future games. It was really cool after the game. We got to hang out by the locker room and visit with Matt. Sweaty uniform and it was all good. We took some family photos and watched as he signed autographs for his biggest fans. Matt seemed to be ok with his overall game, but was not happy with his kickoffs. He will get things fixed. We all know Matt to well. To keep with our Friday night high school football tradition, Matt wanted to go to Chili's and eat dinner. Just like the old days except we were missing Joe, Julie and Jake. (Jake was Matt's holder on every one of his PAT's and field goals during high school at Steele along with being one heck of quarterback and Joe and Julie are mom and dad) Matt would come to the hotel and have breakfast with us Sunday morning before we headed back to our hometowns. What a home opener it was. Matt, all I can tell you is thanks for all of these awesome memories you are giving us. The team will have 10 days to get ready for Hawaii as they come into Ruston for a Wednesday night ESPN2 game. I heard Lou Holtz and Mark May will be doing the game for ESPN2. I can't wait to see how they say Cibolo, TX. It should be a hoot! I will end Nicholls St week here. Hawaii is up next and is almost a must win game. My parents and some friends are driving up from Florida and David (Janet's uncle) is going to the game. Should be a blast and we hope that Hawaii “Lei’s” a goose egg. I want to wish a special birthday wish to Mikayla (AKA MT). I hope you have the best birthday ever! Thanks for letting me spend the weekend with you. Until our paths cross again please have a blessed week and a few days. College Football Dad!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Navy 9/12/09

It is Navy week! Wow is this really real? I still have not recovered, nor caught up from going to Auburn. It was hard to focus on work and writing. I guess this college football thing is going to be nonstop. I had better get my seat belt on and keep my foot on the gas before I get left behind. I did pick up a few extra drawers on the way home. I am still accepting drawer care packages by the way. Matt and the team returned from Auburn around 2:30AM Sunday morning. On the flight home, Matt and Coach Dooley got to see the video of his kicks and special teams so they could start breaking things down. Their charter flights come and go from Monroe. That sort of rhymes. That is pretty cool. Monroe is about 25 miles east of Ruston. Once they land, they still have around 45 minutes before they hit the field house. I have not figured this out yet, but on Sunday afternoons they do a stretch and stride. Maybe before the season is over I will figure it out. I talked to Matt a couple of times during Navy week. Practice and the film breakdown of Navy's special teams were going well. Before I go too much further, I want to say how proud I am that Matt is getting to go experience the Naval Academy. Not only to play football, but to see the Academy. "Honor..... Courage..... Commitment....." This is what they live by. These are very powerful words. I support these young men and women as well as the other military institutions. Now that I have said what I needed to, it is time to be a College Football Dad. An opponent is an opponent and it does not matter who it is. You go into the game needing to kick your opponents butt. You can shake hands after the final whistle has blown. There, now you have it! I will not be making this road trip. Janet will be making the journey with her Mom, along with her Aunt and Uncle. David & Barbara, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done for Janet and our family while we are trying to sell our home in San Antonio. They flew out on Thursday so they could do some of the tourista stuff. On top of that Meggie (Janet's Mom) would eat crab cakes without me! Not fair! The team would leave the field house at 9:00AM Friday morning. Matt called while he was on the bus to Monroe. He felt good and mentally he was focused. I received a text from him at 12:50 CST as they had just landed in Baltimore. Once they got on the bus they would go directly to the field and change into their practice clothes and begin their walk through. After they have gone through their walk through they head to the team hotel. They are staying at the Hilton BWI Baltimore Airport Hotel. When I spoke to Matt, he said that the hotel was 10 times nicer than the Embassy Suites that they stayed at in Montgomery. The team dinner was at 6:30 and meetings started at 7:30. Matt had a special guest sit with him at the team dinner. For those of you who do not know, La Tech has put some great kickers in the NFL. I think you will recognize these three guys. They are Chris Boniol, Matt Stover and Josh Scobee. They all played at La Tech and have done well in the NFL. Josh is still playing and Matt Stover was up until last year. Chris Boniol has been working with Matt for the last three years. Matt's special guest was Matt Stover. Really, a pro kicker talking to Matt at the team hotel? Actually Coach Dooley, Matt Stover and Matt were the only ones at their dinner table. I am not sure what all was talked about, but I am sure some kicking philosophy was discussed. Matt also had another visitor later in the night. You guessed it. It was another Matt. Back at the end of Matt's sophomore year we partnered with NCSA. They are a national recruiting service out of Chicago that helps get your videos and information to colleges all across the USA. Matt Webb was Matt's recruiting contact who he would check in with on a weekly basis during his last two years of high school. Matt Webb also was the deep snapper at Louisville during the 05 -07 season. Matt no longer works for NCSA, but has stayed in touch with us. He now works for the US government in Washington DC and is a volunteer kicking/deep snapping coach at Georgetown University. I know this is a lot of Matt's for one night. None of these Matt's had ever met in person before and my Matt was on cloud 619. Game day has arrived and I am nervous. I guess I am nervous because I cannot see what he is doing during warm-ups and such. This is going to be very weird getting two perspectives of the game. Janet's will be live and mine from the TV. A lot of our family and friends are watching the game with exotic food menus. I know gumbo five ways is on one of them. My menu will consist of a few adult beverages and the smelling of Italian beef. Janet calls right before the game is getting ready to start and said Matt's warm up kickoffs were good and his field goals were very consistent. She said they had an incredible fly over with two F-18's. Tyler and Arnell had come down to watch the game with me. Navy would kick off to start the game. I knew this would not set well with Matt as he wants to get into the game in the very beginning. With the coin toss it is 50/50, so that is going to happen at times. La Tech started out quick with two quick scores. Matt was spot on with his two PAT’s. I have to tell you that even after a few adult beverages, I could not sit and watch him kick his PAT's or kickoffs. I had to go into the kitchen and watch from a far. I don't know how this made it any easier to watch. After he would kick, I could watch the game from my big brown chair. I know, I am weird. I decided to go with only one pair of drawers for this game. I was very close by to extras if I made a mistake. Tech's offense would sputter the rest of the game. Navy won the game 32 - 14. Our offense needs some major tweaking. I am confident that Coach Dooley will get things fixed. After the game the Navy team goes over to where the band and cadets are and La Tech files in behind them as they sang the Navy song. Even though they had their tails handed to them, it was pretty special to see. Then both teams walk off the field together. Janet got to visit with Matt after the game for a few minutes before they headed to the airport. Matt called when he was on the bus while on the way to the airport. He was very disappointed. I did the dad thing and said there is no “I” in the word team. He knows that, but I just had to say it. I told him I was proud of him and to use this as a learning experience. Take the positives out of the game and grow from them. This is still a young team. Matt sat next to Coach Dooley for part of the return trip. They got to dissect the special teams and the kicking game film. There is no rest in big time college football. As soon as the game is over, film is broke down and you start preparing for your next opponent. The team arrived back to the field house about 11:30 PM. It would be lights out and get ready for the next day. We are 0-2 and have to get things on track this coming week. La Tech will be at home as they host Nicholls State. After that game they start the WAC conference games. Hawaii comes rolling into town next. I am not sure if I will make the Nicholls St game or not. I will probably listen to it on the Radio. I will end our Navy game week here. Two weeks in and I am a proud College Football Dad, but a nervous one. Until our paths cross again, have a blessed week. College Football Dad!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Auburn 9/5/09

WOW! What can I say? I think I have finally caught my breath. I keep telling myself it is really happening. I have been to most of the big college venues across the USA, but nothing was bigger than being on the grand old stage watching your son on the green grass. The years of hard work and his complete dedication has presented a reward that not many young athletes get to experience. The day has arrived and my external nerves are in check. I have my extra drawers with me for my internal nerves. The Suburban was loaded from top to bottom with just barely enough room for the six passengers. Tailgating supplies were stuck everywhere. It was an unbelievable site. Why do we need so much stuff? You only need beverages of many adult kinds and several fillers. My travel companions consisted of Janet, my Mom and Dad, along with my brother and his wife. We left Troy at 8:45 AM to head out to Montgomery to visit Matt at the team hotel. They were staying at the Embassy Suites downtown. He would be available to meet with family at 10:00. It took us an hour to get there. They had a team breakfast and many meetings that morning. We were there and waiting at 10:00. There were coaches and players everywhere. We spotted Matt wearing his new La Tech warm-ups. I have not seen him since the first of July. He looked really good. I think the flu bug was running through some of the team and Matt was one of them. They gave him a B-12 shot that morning and we found out later that they gave him an IV before the game. We got to visit with Matt in the lobby for a little bit and then went to see his room. Took a few family pictures and it was time to say our goodbyes and let Matt get focused for the game. Our travels would take us from Montgomery into Auburn. We hit Auburn around noon and drove around the campus looking for a spot to tailgate. I have never seen so much orange and blue in my life. We finally found a few parking spots over by the intramural fields. I would say we were about 1 1/2 miles away from the stadium. We took a few of our chairs to put them in the other parking spot to save for Tyler and Kasie who were driving over from Ruston. We got the tent set up with the help of several Auburn fans who were set up next to us. No one could remember how it went up. The ice chest, grill and enough food to fill a refrigerator all made it under the tent. I have had enough of the setting up. It is time to start reducing the amount of adult beverages that we brought. We had brats, burgers, hot dogs, chips, peanuts, gold fish, cashews, crackers, dips and who knows what else. It was like we were on a camping trip and the food would last us for the week. Tyler and Kasie pulled into Auburn around 2:00. The grill was fired up and the cooking would commence. While we were tailgating I would get to hook up with Jeremy. Jeremy and I are both in the travel business and had met while at training with Cruise Planners. He was a huge Auburn fan and we had planned on this meeting back in November. Today was his birthday and Matt's first college game. What a way for both of us to celebrate, a couple of beers and the love of college football. As game time nears, we stuff our face with all of the grub that we had brought with us. My eagerness is about to get the best of me. It is 4:00 and I am ready to head to the stadium. We take all of our stuff down and load the suburban back up. We all grab two cold ones for the walk to the stadium. About a 1/2 mile from the stadium we come to a standstill. I had heard of the Tiger Walk, but have not witnessed it until today. The Auburn football team gets off the bus at the top of the road that leads to the stadium. They walk between rows of thousands of fans the entire 1/2 mile into the stadium. It was quite a site to see orange as far as you could see. We all stood out like a swollen thumb all dressed in La Tech blue. As we made our way to the stadium, it was like we were walking with the Auburn team down the hill. At least that took the attention off of us as we made our wat through the sea of orange. The Auburn fans that we talked to were all very friendly. Not once did we get a "Tiger Bait" yelled at us like they do at LSU. We picked up our tickets from will call and headed into the stadium. I had been to Jordan Hare before, but I was still in awe. I stood at the rail for a bit as I spotted Matt warming up. He looked like he was hitting the ball pretty well. I was holding things together on the outside, but my insides were a mess. It was finally starting to hit. Before the teams come out they release a War Eagle and it fly’s around the stadium a few times and get the crowd really riled up. It was quite spectacular as it landed in the middle of the field. As game time neared we spotted the La Tech team getting ready to come out of the tunnel and Matt and Cade were leading them out on the field. I was quite shocked to see two freshmen leading the way. Matt had told us that morning that he wanted to kick the opening kickoff. He did not want to wait. His wishes came true as Auburn elected to receive after they won the coin toss. The realness has set in and I am sweating bullets. Matt takes the ball from the ref and his first kick is on its way. Matt's girlfriend Kasie was sitting next to me and after that kick she asked me if she could borrow an extra pair of my drawers. Since I had several in reserve I gave one up. HaHa! The game would go back and forth in the first half. Matt set several goals for his first game and I think he hit all of them. He kicked a PAT, a kickoff, a short field goal and in the 3rd quarter he was sent out to attempt a 46 yd field goal. I am not going to lie, I was sick at my stomach. I saw the snap and from my vantage point it looked like it was going right and then it went through the uprights. I saw the refs hands go up and there it was a 46 yd field goal in front of 85K on national TV. What a moment to share with our family and friends. Matt had proved to everyone that he was the real deal. ESPN announcers quote! "Matt Nelson, Welcome to the world of division 1 football, pretty big leg for a little man!" La Tech would not play up to Coach Dooley's expectations in the 4th quarter. Auburn would win the game 37 to 13. It is always tough to go into a hostile environment, especially a big SEC school. He had 7 of the 13 La Tech points with two field goals and one extra point. I was happy for Matt in his kicking efforts, but extremely disappointed in the results of the team. Win or lose, you do it as a team. There is no "I" in team. We found the buses that would take the team back to the Montgomery. We waited for Matt to come out. He came out with his bags and put them on the bus. We got to visit with him about 30 minutes before they would load up and head out. What an experience for a College Football Dad. I could not be prouder. Matt had taken another step in his journey. While I made it through my multiple pairs of drawers, I cannot think about this game too long. We will celebrate as a family tonight. As Sunday rolls around it will be time to get my mind set for Navy. They play Navy on Saturday at 2:30 on the CBS College Sports channel. That will be an experience for a young man to go to Annapolis and play at the Naval Academy. I just wanted to give a shout out to all of our family and friends who either went to the game or had game watching parties. We could feel all of the support and I cannot thank everyone enough. I want to give a super special thanks to Jim & Jean Mueller for letting us stay at their home in Troy and treating us like kings and queens. Before I leave to get my game face on for Navy, I wanted to give my official drawer count for game #1. The official drawer count that I wore to the game was two. I needed all of the extra support on those hard metal benches. Pops will not be attending the game at Navy. Janet, her Mom, Aunt and Uncle will all be in attendance. I will be in front of the tube with Tyler, along with a few adult beverages. Until our paths cross again, have a blessed week. College Football Dad!