Check out the photos at the bottom of the page and email me with any questions, comments or ideas - firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is a photo of some of the players enjoying their meal at the Brazilian Steakhouse.
5:10 p.m. ET
What an afternoon … players and I have been busy as bees. I left practice early with ten of our players to go over to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa to hang out with some of the children who are having a rough time. Justin stayed at practice and took care of coach Bielema’s media interviews following practice.
First-Team All-American Taylor Mehlhaff, Ray Guy semifinalists Ken DeBauche, special teamers Paul Standring, Steve Johnson and Dave Peck along with some others visited the youngsters Thursday afternoon for about an hour. I’m not sure how many kids we got to meet, but it was a lot. Each and everyone had a huge smile on their face and couldn’t have been happier to see some football players and hang out with them for a while.
I would just like to let everyone out there know that this isn’t a chore or a thing that the players just walk-through and do the motions. This group of guys has been visiting the Children’s Hospital in Madison ever since they walked onto campus. They have close relationships with plenty of the patients and truly enjoy the time they can spend with kids who are in a place they rather wouldn’t be.
The players were first class with all the children and the staff was overjoyed to have the guys come visit. Even though we were only there for an hour and spent five minutes with each child, it didn’t quite feel like it was enough. The players wanted to stay and spend more time with the children and their families who were able to forget their problems for a little while and talk football with some Badgers.
I would like to personally thank the players for their time and kindness to the children and to the St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and their staff for taking care of the day and allowing both the players and children to have a great afternoon.
After our amazing time at the hospital we met the rest of the team who had just finished practice at Boizao Steakhouse. What a place!! The restaurant featured an all-you-can-eat buffet style meat extravaganza.
Everyone has a card at their seat. One side is green, the other red. If you are hungry and want one of the dozen styles of meats you leave the green side up, once you’re full enough to explode turn the card red and the waiters stop bringing you meat.
I don’t even know how many kinds of meat were served or how many pounds of meat we went through, but it had to be a ton. With some big 300+ pounders on the team, I can only imagine the amount of food we went through. Everything from bacon-wrapped chicken to filet mignon to pork chops were flying around the room for everyone to enjoy. It was the first time I had been at one of these steakhouses and boy was it good … I’m sure the rest of the team and coaches agree 100%.
The players have free time for the rest of the afternoon before getting a chance to attend a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game right down the street. I’ll check in with everyone later on, I hope you all aren’t getting too much snow.
1:30 p.m. ET
Second practice of the week here in Tampa … and boy is it hot out. I’m speaking for a lot of others when I say I’m not used to the weather (but I’m definitely not complaining). 20 periods today, compared to 12 yesterday. Players are in full pack today (full pads and game gear), and we have two pro scouts hanging around (Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars).
More photographers and reporters were in attendance today. We allow them to take photos and video of the players stretching and then the first ten minutes of individual drills (we can’t have anybody stealing plays). After that, we escort the photographers out and the rest of the reporters still around watch practice from behind a fence.
Given I don’t really have any responsibility for the rest of practice I took some time today to talk to a few of the “unsung heroes” of the football staff – The Student Managers.
I hung out with four of the managers, Thomas Cassini, Josh Leuck, Ben Swanson and Mike Gutierrez. This is the second or third Bowl Trip for these guys and they really enjoy the opportunity they have with the team.
“We are the first to get here before practice and we are the last ones to leave after it’s all done,” said Swanson. “We make sure that every single coach and player has what they need prior to practice and if anything comes up during practice we take care of that too.”
The managers are the do-it-all people for the team. They set up gear, assist with drills at practice and do all they can to make sure practice and games run smooth. Even with all the work they still get some free time, and what better way to enjoy it than in sunny Tampa.
“Yesterday we had a lot of free time so we all went out to eat, enjoyed the sun, relaxed by the pool and played some video games,” said Gutierrez. “We like to hang out together and have a lot of fun off the field.”
Alright well it’s time to head over to the Children’s hospital, I’ll check back in later today.
11:15 a.m. ET
Good morning Badger fans. Another relaxed morning here in Tampa. Earlier some of our players, coach Bielema, Tennessee players and their coach, Phillip Fulmer, attended the Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast (Justin was there so check out his blog for a cool story on Paul Hubbard).
The rest of the team had breakfast from 9-10 a.m. and we will all be heading over to practice shortly. I’ll get in touch with some of the team’s student managers today (guys who don’t get much credit for the hard work they do).