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!