Omni Hosts BHAFB Luncheon

By Andrea Masenda and Ryan Haddox
The Omni Hotel and the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl welcomed the BYU Cougars and the Tulsa Hurricane along with service men and women, volunteers and many others to the ninth annual Kickoff Luncheon in downtown Fort Worth.

Award-winning sportscaster Scott Murray of Murray Media again served as the Master of Ceremony, and speakers included Armed Forces Bowl executive director Brant Rangler, Bell Helicopter CEO John L. Garrison, keynote speaker, former Dallas Cowboys three-time NFL Super Bowl champion, Miami (Fla.) All-America and NFF College Hall of Fame member Russell Maryland, and Salvatore Giunta, U.S. Medal of Honor recipient,who also will be receiving the Great American Patriot Award during halftime of Friday's game.

"I thought it was fantastic. It was really, really neat to see the Medal of Honor award winner and hear what he had to say,” said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Then Russell Maryland, in a really unique and authentic way shared his experiences in a way that the players could relate to, and in a way that they'd remember, I was just very impressed, as I have been the entire week."

The luncheon guests dined on Belgium salad, roasted chicken, and triple fudge chocolate cake all before paying tribute to Giunta, who is one of only 85 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, which is also celebrating its 150-year anniversary this year.

Both coaches also had to chance to express their sentiments. Mendenhall bypaying tribute to his 19 departing seniors, and Tulsa head coach and former Tulsa quarterback Bill Blankenship by giving his thanks for the opportunity to be affiliated with the Armed Forces Bowl.

The former NFL All-Pro Maryland stole the show with his reflective yet humorous keynote speech. He communicated to the players in the audience by reminiscing on some of his biggest successes as a college athlete as well as some of the biggest upsets he faced during his time at Miami.

"I hope that these young kids, and I know that they're smart enough, will listen to somebody whose been there before," said Maryland. "I've played in bowl games, I went through college, I've played in big games, so to have someone to speak to you that's been there before, that's had that experience, to be able to share. It's a great thing."

Maryland kept the laughs high with his open candidness and honestly, and Mendenhall felt as though his delivery was exactly what his team needed to get a boost of confidence and insight for the Friday bowl game.

"I think he led by example," said the BYU mentor. "He showed that you can have success but still not take yourself too seriously. He laughed at his own expense and at his university's expense but they also were very, very successful on the field,” Mendenhall said. "But he spoke in a language and his delivery was in a way that the players were kept entertained and captivated and I think they listened, so he was very effective. "

Maryland enjoyed his time not only sharing his own personal testimony, but being able to be associated with a bowl game that has so much meaning and honor behind it. He also hoped that the young men listening would take to heart his offered words of wisdom.

"I hope they take away the lesson of working hard; that's what got me through it," Maryland said. "Working hard and doing the little things: if you're able to do that, you'll live with no regrets, and that's the main thing I want them to come out of this. Live with no regrets."