QB Nathan Scheelhaase Kickoff Luncheon Interview
Day 3 Photo Gallery
Fighting Illini Bowl Central
After we enjoyed a Wednesday that was somewhat light on official Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl activities, Thursday's schedule was full. The Illini went through their final practice at Laney College before heading to the Westin St. Francis hotel for the KFHB Kickoff Luncheon. We had a few free hours in the afternoon and in the evening, the team headed to Players Sports Grill and Arcade on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf.
Illinois put together a quick, crisp practice Thursday morning in its final workout at Laney College. The team wore "spider pads," which are thin foam pads worn underneath players' jerseys, with helmets and thigh pads, indicating a lighter practice. In addition to the usual offensive, defensive and special teams work, the team also practiced situations like hail mary's and the final play of the half or game. About 25-30 fans watched the workout, including former Illini linebacker Tim Bourke - who made it to all three practices this week - and former Illini linebacker James Finch. Head coach Tim Beckman also watched practice and chatted with fans and reporters.
Following practice, the team returned to the Hyatt Regency to change into their jerseys and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl sweatsuits, and board the buses once more to head over to the Westin St. Francis for the kickoff luncheon. Everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch, watched each team's highlight video - both of which were set to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo," coincidentally - and heard from the interim head coach and two players from each squad. One of the cooler parts of the event actually happened before it started when we walked into the hotel and were diverted into a room next to the ballroom where members of the Marching Illini pep band and the Illini cheerleaders were pumping up the Illini fans in attendance. It never gets old hearing the band belt out favorites like "War Chant," "Oskee Wow Wow," etc.
We had a bit of free time in the afternoon so my wife, Mandy, and I joined up with assistant equipment manager John Birdsell and did some sightseeing. We all wanted to ride a classic San Francisco street car, so we hopped on one outside the hotel and rode it toward Lombard Street, which is known as San Francisco's "crookedest" street. It has a one-block section that features eight hairpin turns on a steep hill and is quite the sight. From there, we walked down to Fisherman's Wharf to meet the team for their excursion to Players Sports Grill and Arcade. The players enjoyed some good food and a couple hours of playing all the arcade games they could handle. From Pop-A-Shot to the Two-Minute Drill football passing game to sniper games, skee-ball and air hockey, Players had it all and the Illini enjoyed all of them.
That's it for today. Time to turn in and get ready for a activity tomorrow morning that I'm really looking forward to. The team and staff are going to St. Anthony's Dining Room, one of the Bay Area's largest community meal programs, to help serve lunch and reach out to the dining room's constituents.