Well, folks, it's been over three months since the magical March occurred and the Rams are still reaping the benefits. The next three days are just an example of some of what the Black & Gold earned with their outstanding play with a cross-country trip to the prestigious ESPY Awards.
We here at VCUatheltics.com wanted to give "Ram Nation" a chance to come along for the trip with some blogging, video and pictures of the crew heading to Los Angeles. We will be part of the first group that leaves along with seniors Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell. Classmates Joey Rodriguez and Jamie Skeen will be flying from Orlando and Charlotte respectively, while Coach Smart and Bradford Burgess will be leaving Richmond later today after camp and academic obligations are fulfilled.
Our flight leaves at 9:50 in the morning and the good old folks over at ESPN dropped us in the first class seats, which will be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for myself (sidenote: first class and Athletic Communications don't go hand-in-hand). We'll fly through Atlanta and we're supposed to arrive at LAX around 3.
There's a chance that some guy named Maynor may be flying on our flight, since he asked for the flight information earlier this week, but I'll confirm that in the morning.
We hope you enjoy the ride and we'll update this as much as possible to give you a behind-the-scenes look into this really cool experience.
DAY 1 - TUESDAY, JULY 12TH - 12:00 P.M. (ATLANTA AIRPORT)
First of all, let's just say that flying first class is the way to go. You have flight attendants literally tripping over you trying to give you drinks, snacks, pillows, tell you bed time stories, whatever you want. Anyway, after battling some internet issues here in the Atlanta airport, we're here to tell you that B-Rozz, Ed and VCUathletics.com have arrived safely at our first stop and will be departing to LA in about an hour or so.
My first observation of this trip came in the Richmond Airport when it became blatantly apparent that B-Rozz is literally the Mayor of Richmond. Dude knows EVERYBODY. Baggage handlers, people at the security check-in, passengers on the plane, doesn't matter, they know Brandon, it was incredible. We also saw Parney and some of the Squirrels crew as they were headed out to the Double-A All-Star Game. Parney was giving Brandon a hard time about not coming back out since his first pitch appearance, like I said, everyone wants a piece of B-Rozz. Brandon proceeded to try and convince me he could play baseball, I know he's athletic and all, but I'm doubting it.
The flight down was great, we actually arrived 30 minutes early which obviously means we had to sit on the runway for 20 minutes before actually getting off the plane. However, Ed and I were the first ones off and at the same time, we both looked at each other and said the exact thing "I've never been off the airplane that quick before."
I grabbed a quick lunch at Checkers (Don't worry Coach Roose, I went with the Grilled Chicken Sandwich). I told the guys we had plenty of time and I had to do some work so they ventured off to Popeyes, while I headed back to the gate.
Here's what I do know so far. Ed has a black suit for tomorrow, while Brandon hit up Joseph A. Bank and has a dark gray suit. Here's a hint though, don't be surprised if you see a couple bow ties on some of our guys, that's all I'm going to say. Even though I went out and got a new suit, I'm expecting to be the worst dressed by far in our group, that's just how things work out.
Alright, that's it for now, I'm hoping to have some video of us arriving in LA if I can get the internet to cooperate. RamNation, keep on tuning in for what is sure to be one heck of a trip.
4:00 P.M. EST, 3:00 P.M. SOMEWHERE OVER MIDDLE AMERICA
It's really crazy to think how far techonology has come in the past 10 years or so. The handheld games of connect four or checkers that parents used to back are no longer necessary when planes have TVs in the headrests and wireless internet. Why are we talking about that and not what B-Rozz and Ed are up to? Well, the "Energy Brothers" as Coach Smart called them, are way up in the front row of the plane, while I'm in the back row of first class, so they're a few rows behind us.
In fact as I'm typing this, they are currently talking to our flight attendant, pointing and laughing at me, somehow I don't think this is good. Anyway, I'm logged on to "gogo inflight", so it's pretty easy to pass the time on the plane. I actually just got done reading a book, I HIGHLY recommend the Last Lecture. Great and easy read, pick it up next time you're out at Barnes and Noble.
Just to clue you in on a little what's going to go down out there in LA, when the three of us get out there, we'll have a car waiting for us at the baggage claim (if he's holding a sign with our names on it, I'm totally taking a picture), then we'll head to the W on Hollywood Blvd, where we'll have six hours or so to take in the scene before hitting up the "Pre-Party", which is hosted by Serena Williams, you may have heard of her. I'm going to take as many pictures and as much video as I can when we land, and I'll get a post up before we head out for the evening.
I'm hoping to give you as much coverage as possible for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
10:00 P.M. EST, 7:00 P.M. IN HOLLYWOOD
Sorry about not checking in sooner. Getting through registration and everything was a bit more complicated than I thought it would be. However, we're all into the hotel and to see it is nice would be an understatement. There is stuff everywhere and security makes sure to know you are definitely with the ESPYs. The hospitality room is legit with a pool table, EA Sports Games, Photo Booth, all sorts of stuff... I'll get pictures later on.
Let's be honest, you guys wanna know who the sights have been. I'll run through the check list... As Brandon, Ed and I were registering, Erin Andrews walked in. We also saw Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson (Hawks), JJ Barea (only from afar... I have to get a picture with him and Joey), Penny Hardaway (yes, apparently he's still alive), Mike Greenberg (from Mike & Mike) and the only one I talked to was Eddie George and that was because he's in the elevator.
Tomorrow will be a little easier to chat with these people because I'll be with the players and Coach Smart. Nobody wants to talk to an unathletic, overweight media relations dude.
Coach Smart, Brad, Joey and Skeen are due to arrive in town within the next two hours and then I'm hoping to head over to the pre-party tonight at a club downtown.
Brandon and Ed are out with E-Maynor as he is also in town for the event. They said they were going to hang at James Harden's crib since he lives in town. I'll probably try to post one more blog tonight and then we'll catch up in the morning.
Thanks for joining along for the ride, and I promise I'll have video tomorrow.
3:30 A.M., 12:30 A.M. IN HOLLYWOOD
It's tough to put into words exactly what we experienced tonight. As Jamie said on Twitter, "I'm star struck right now".... So many names and faces and it's amazing how many people recognized our guys at the ESPY Pre-Party... hosted by Serena Williams (who by the way could snap me in half with ease).
Coming out here, I thought it would be a cool trip, never thought it would be like this. How about having a NBA Finals Star (JJ Barea) asking me where Joey was cuz he wanted to meet him? Not too bad for a so-called "mid-major".... More after I get some rest in the morning. Thanks for tuning in.
11:00 A.M., 8:00 A.M. IN HOLLYWOOD
Well, we're up and moving out here on the West Coast... At least Coach Smart and I am. I'm going to wager a guess that our players are still sleeping and will be for a while. Coach Smart and I are going to hit up the work out room which I'm sure will make Coach Roose happy to hear. We have to go over some things with ESPN production people today as well as check out the ESPN Style Studio, which should be a good time. I'm going to add one picture to the blog this time and it's just Dirk checking in.
I spoke with him briefly and he actually seemed like a really chill dude, he had heard of VCU before just cuz he was following the tournament, which again speaks to the impact of that run. The one thing I will say is that it's amazing to see what happens when teams win... Every championship team had their own VIP section, the Mavs were definitely the big attraction though, which was pretty cool to see.
Other observations from last night: Robert Horry is definitely not in playing shape anymore, Cam Newton is a large human being, NFL guys are a lot shorter than I thought, I was definitely taller than Adrian Peterson, Jason Avant and others, Tim Tebow is just as nice as he would seem, really good dude.
Alright off to get a workout in, I'll check in hopefully after the Style Studio.
5:00 P.M., 2:00 P.M. IN HOLLYWOOD
This will be the final blog post before heading off to the big show. It's been an insane day, and when I say insane, I mean absolutely crazy. While I met a lot of people yesterday, today was more talking to guys. Joey was outside on the back patio doing an interview with ESPN Deportes, while I was minding my on business off the side.
Aaron Rodgers (yeah, that Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP) walks up to me and says "VCU", that's what I'm talking about. Guy was as nice as can be. I can't make these stories up.
If you guys follow any of our players on Twitter, which I'm sure most of you do, you've heard about the Style Studio. Unfortunately, VCUathletics.com didn't get to enjoy the free stuff because I wasn't an athlete, which is all well and good.
It's basically heaven. Free TouchPad from HP? Sure. Free EA Sports Video Games? Sure. Free Personalized Headphone from Skull Candy? Why not. Shirts, shoes, hats, whatever you want.
I mentioned JJ Barea wanting to talk with Joey, well, apparently they're best friends now. Want evidence? Here's a picture for you. Below are a couple pics from the Style Studio craziness.
5:00 A.M., 2:00 A.M. IN HOLLYWOOD
Well, I told you it would be a while before I could post again and the 12-hour span between blog posts shows that. It's been an incredible night that saw my phone die because of getting some many texts/tweets/Facebook messages as well as carrying the hardware back to the hotel. It is actually sitting right next to me as I type this.
To say this experience has been unreal would be an understatement. The people we've met, the places we've gone and the things we've done have been nothing short of spectacular. And as I type this all I can think about is that it's exactly how our tournament run in March was. There were 14 guys, a great coaching staff and a great support system that enjoyed being around each other so much that they didn't want it to end, which resulted in a march to the Final Four.
It's kinda like how the last three days have been. It's been our five players, Coach Smart, Coach Smart's brother Alfie and myself truly enjoying our time together and experiencing stuff we never thought possible.
When guys like Amare Stoudemire, John Wall, Jason Kidd, Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Tim Tebow, Matt Hasselbeck, DeSean Jackson (do you want me to stop?) all talk about VCU and know exactly who we are.... That's when you can sit back and say, "We've arrived."
Brandon Rozzell has put it best over the past three days by saying we're all truly blessed over and over again. Well, B-Rozz all of RamNation says together, "You guys deserve it."
I'm going to hit the sack before myself and Brad Burgess have to catch an 11 am flight... That's an early wake-up call, the best news though? We get to travel with the ESPY trophy... You best believe that thing is sitting in our laps.
11:00 A.M., 8:00 A.M. IN HOLLYWOOD
I had to get a quick post in before heading to the airport with B-Burgess. I woke up this morning and still didn't believe the last three days happened. I've watched these tremendous athletes, reporters, megastars on TV for years and never thought I would be having a beer with Al Jaffe (VP of Talent at ESPN) and George Bodenheimer (President of ESPN).... It wasn't a long drink, but they were really happy for VCU and thanked us for giving them great TV for a month before the lockouts hit.
The stories can go on and on and if any of you see me back in Richmond, don't be afraid to stop and ask me, but for now, I'm going to finish packing and head home cuz I can't wait to see my wife and six-week old son, along with the rest of Ram Nation.
You best believe that ESPY Trophy is sitting in the seat next to me on the plane.