“Team Welcome Party” at Billy Bob’s Texas

Wednesday evening found the Rice Owls and Air Force Falcons taking a break from their preparations for the 10th Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at the event's annual Welcome Reception Dinner. The two teams gathered at the renowned Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth’s Stockyards district, had dinner and ended the evening pitted against one another in some light-hearted competitions.

After opening comments by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison and bowl officials, players from Air Force and Rice participated in a “Minute To Win It” competition.  Here is a recap of the event followed by quotes from bowl guests, officials and players.

By Samantha Parker, www.armedforcesbowl.com

There were five hilarious challenges, created not only to be difficult, but also to amuse the hundreds of volunteers, sponsors, media and dignitaries in attendance. The first competition was a bubble blow-off, in which four players attempted to blow a single bubble and use only the power of their lungs to push it through a hula hoop across the stage. Sounds easy? Wrong. This challenge lasted far longer than the allotted minute and finally was won by Rice's Christian Covington AFTER the hoops had been moved closer to make the challenge easier.

The other challenges included: attaching four small boxes filled with ping pong balls to the behinds of two Rice and two Air Force players and then watching them shake to empty the 10 balls from the box. Air Force's Jordan Easton ended up the winner. Players also had to remove tissues out of the box one-by-one until empty and Donte Moore of Rice set the standard. Finally, two players from each team were tasked with wrapping long strands of crepe paper streamers around their arms as fast as possible. This event was won by Rice's Julius White.

Although it was obvious each player who participated was in it to win it, the main focus was on creating a fun, relaxed atmosphere that brought each team together, as well as their coaches, staff, and bowl volunteers. It was a brief, but nice, respite from each team’s preparation for Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. CT contest.

After all, a college football bowl game consists of more than just the physical game.

Following are quotes gathered by Bo Carter, Charity Chambers, Drew Chambers, Ryan Haddox and Andrea Masenda, of the BHAFB media operations team.

Armed Forces Bell Helicopter Executive Director Brant Ringler - “There are several things that come to mind for the teams, coaches and university administrators as we welcome you.  First, there is the unique Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl Trophy. It is made of materials gathered from U.S. forces serving overseas in Iraq.  It is unique among college bowls. Another is that you are playing Saturday’s final game of the season for the name on the front of your jersey and not the back.  Team means everything, especially for the seniors on both squads.  This has been a true journey of four years for many of you, and I would like to ask the seniors from both teams to stand.  There is a lot of pride involved in a bowl game and your final game, and enjoy your experience.  Also know that about half the stadium will be filled by military veterans and active duty people who have fought or are fighting to allow us to play football and enjoy the freedoms we are accustomed to in America.”  Note - Rice has the “youngest” team in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with just seven seniors completing their careers Saturday at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Bell Helicopter President and CEO John Garrison - “Let me add our welcome from Bell Helicopter, and I see a lot of seniors who left this bowl game happy three years ago when they played for Air Force’s winning team. Both universities are going to make this a special game for those seniors who will be lacing up the cleats for the last time.  I know that is the way it was when I played my final game as a senior.  Bell Helicopter is so happy to be saluting the men and women of our armed forces as they are standing on the gates of freedom’s frontier.  We also are proud to be part of helping to bring 700 Wounded Warriors and their families to the game Saturday, and these are our true heroes. Enjoy the evening, and best of luck to both teams.”  Note - Garrison was a linebacker for four seasons at Army in the 1980s.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price - “I want to have a contest of each team to see which can say ‘howdy’ the loudest.  Well, that was pretty amazing, and our visitors from the Air Force Academy did very well for a non-Texas team.  We know the Rice players and coaches know their versions of ‘howdy’ well.  I want to welcome you on behalf of the city Fort Worth and whether it’s your first or 15th visit to the city, I know you will have a good time.  We pride ourselves on our hospitality, and we want you to enjoy your visit thoroughly. Welcome!”  Note - Mayor Price was one of the first-ever volunteers for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl when the bowl started in 2003.

Emcee Scott Murray - “We are so pleased to have Mayor Price and her husband Tom with us here tonight.  You will note that Mayor Price was one of the original volunteers for the 2003 bowl, and she has been a great ally for the game.  Again, welcome to Fort Worth and just have a wonderful time and a great game Saturday.”

Paul Galvan, 10-Year BHAFB Volunteer, longtime Fort Worth ISD Director of Athletics, Final Four Basketball Official and namesake of Paul Galvan Stadium - “I can remember our first meeting about the bowl when we had eight volunteers in 2003.  It has come such a long way, and we are blessed to have so many willing volunteers these days.  I don’t think anyone who ever played in the bowl has come away without a great experience.  Logistically, it has become much more of a task, but thanks to the work of Brant Ringler and his staff, things have gone very smoothly in the area of our faithful volunteers.”

Lance Barrow, special guest and CBS Sports Senior Producer, longtime Masters Golf Producer, Co-Star of the popular movie “Tin Cup”, and Tarrant County resident - “This is such a great event for Fort Worth, the players, coaches, and team administrators.  You can sense the excitement surrounding this bowl, and the players will remember this experience for years to come.”

Quotes from Rice players after attending Wednesday’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl “Welcome Party” at Billy Bob’s in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards.

Guy Billups, freshman quarter back
• What are your thoughts on Billy Bob’s? -“It’s cool; we need one in Houston.”
• Is this your first time in Fort Worth? And what do you think about it? - “It’s cool, really cool.”
J. T. Blasingame, freshman cornerback
• What helped turn the season around from 1-5 to becoming bowl eligible at 6-6? - “We had great team unity.  We all knew what goal we wanted to get to and made it happen.”
Jeremy Eddington, junior runningback
• What are your thoughts on Billy Bob’s? - “I love it. It reminds me of a couple of places we have back home so it’s pretty legit.”
• What do you think about Fort Worth? - It’s my first time being here.  It’s different, a lot different.
Zach Espinosa, freshman safety
• What are your thoughts on Billy Bob’s? - “It’s awesome, I know a lot of the guys back in Houston like to go to Wild West and some honky tonks like this, but those don’t really compare to this place. This place is pretty cool.”
• What do you think about Fort Worth? - “Fort Worth is a great place.  The hospitality has been nice and everyone has been very welcoming so far.  It has been a great experience. “
Garret Furhman, freshman safety
• What does it mean for you guys to make it to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl after such a rough start? - “It means a lot to the team to turn it around. It was a great way to finish the season and we feel we have a lot of momentum to build on. We’re excited to make it to such a good bowl to celebrate our armed forces.”
• What has stuck out thus far about how special this bowl game is? - “Just the hospitality of everyone here in Fort Worth, and all the volunteers and how nice everyone has been.”
Brandon Hamilton, freshman runningback
• What are your thoughts on Billy Bob’s? - It’s my first time being here.  It’s nice and big; I like it and the environment.  The brisket was good so I’ll give it a thumbs up.
Ryan Pollard, freshman cornerback
• What does it mean for you guys to be able to play in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl? - “It means a lot.  It’s our third bowl game in 50 years so we’re excited to be here.  We rallied a lot, came from 1-5, so we’re definitely excited.”
Luke Turner, freshman runningback
• What are your thoughts on Billy Bob’s? - "It’s a good atmosphere.  It’s the world’s biggest honky tonk so it’s pretty cool.”
• What do you think about Fort Worth? - “This isn’t my first time in Fort Worth.  I don’t live very far away from Fort Worth so this is home to me.  I love it.”
Spencer Stanley, freshman offensive lineman
• How special is it for you guys to be here in Fort Worth for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl? - “We’re very excited to be able to represent our university and our individual communities.  It’s a great opportunity for the school, and we’re just proud to be here.”
• What helped turn your season around? - “Our senior leadership, combined with the entire teams effort to sell ourselves for the whole aspect and everything that we love to be able to go out there to do what we can to win.”
Tyler Stehling, freshman quarterback
• What does it mean for you guys to be able to rally back from 1-5 to make it to a bowl game? - “It’s great.  How we fought back and how we were so bad at the beginning, and then how we started clicking towards the end to figure it out.”

Quotes from Air Force players after attending Wednesday’s Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl “Welcome Party” at Billy Bob’s in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards

Mike Dewitt, senior runningback
• How has the bowl experience been so far? - “It's been really nice, they treat us like kings!  The food, the people, it's been great.

Chris Miller, junior defensive back
• How has the bowl experience been so far? - “It's a little cold, but it's been good.”

David Baska, junior punter and defensive back
• How has the bowl experience been so far? - “Being in Fort Worth and in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl is a great experience.  The bowl always treats us well.  Great gifts, great venues, great meals.  It's a blessing to experience this."

Chris Jordan, senior receiver
• How has the bowl experience been so far? - “It's a great experience and a great town.”

Gavin McHenry freshman defensive back
• How has the bowl experience been so far?  “It's been great, we've been treated outstanding. The hospitality is incredible.  It's a great experience and a great town.”