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COLUMN: Kids like us

At WAC media day, a reminder that we’re all just in it for the fun

Published: Monday, August 2, 2010

Updated: Monday, August 2, 2010 21:08

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     SALT LAKE CITY — Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick and I couldn't appear more different.

He is an imposing 6-foot-6. I am a not-too-shabby 5-foot-5. He has bulging biceps covered in ink; I have boney elbows I try to keep covered. He is rumored to run the 40 in 4.5 seconds. Given a hand timer and favorable wind conditions, I am rumored to break the 6 flat mark. A Heisman trophy candidate and former Sporting News All-American, Kaepernick has nothing on the "Most Underrated Writer" award I won from the Statesman last year.

He graces the screens of Sportcenter and has even been selected in the Major League Baseball draft. I once made a comment on an ESPN message board, and participated in an online MLB fantasy player draft. We are, in a nutshell, polar opposites in appearance and accomplishment.

But here in the Salt Lake Airport Hilton, Colin and I are one in the same. Two soon to be college seniors, overwhelmed by a flurry of veteran media personalities (ie. old guys) and stiff shirted hotel workers, we find ourselves unlikely kinsmen in an unfamiliar setting.

If you're an Aggie fan there's a good chance you're probably questioning the sanity of such a statement. After all, it was Kaepernick who engineered Nevada's furious second-half comeback against Utah State last year, overcoming a ten point deficit in leading the Wolf Pack to a 35-32 win in Logan.

Heartbreaking, I know. Chances were you booed Kaepernick, and chances are you hated him at the time, reverting to such classic lines as "that guy is an idiot" or "he's not really that good" when at a loss for words to describe the USU second half collapse. And, if I dare to presume to know Aggie fans (and I do), chances are you'll probably boo him and his freakishly timely athleticism when the Wolf Pack take on Utah State this season.

Far be it for me to tell you to root against the Aggies, but when it comes to rooting against the young men who'll take the field against USU this season, just remember that they're not so different from you or I. In fact, in a lot of way they're just like us.

I didn't always think this way. Sure, I'm on good terms with some of USU's players, but heck, the players in attendance at WAC media day were superstars, and more than a few of them are bound to find their way into the NFL. Surely they wouldn't want to talk to the lowly sports editor from the Utah Statesman. Heck, if it wasn't for my press credentials, I'm pretty sure they would have just assumed I was some coach's kid.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

The WAC's best football players and I may have come from different backgrounds, and goodness knows we've all had varying college experiences. Here at media day though, we're ducks out of water. "Can I eat bacon with my hands," whispers Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle to me at breakfast, as I awkwardly attempt to cut a piece of watermelon with a knife and fork. I shrug my shoulders, peering cautiously at the hotel attendant hovering over us with orange juice jugs and a coffee pot.

"More coffee for you, sir," she says to me. I quizzically turn to her attentive question. Do I look like a sir to you? Enderle gives me one of those looks as I reply "yes, please." He returns to pondering the bacon question. I sneak a peak at commissioner Karl Benson. He's not looking, so I tell Enderle I think he's in the clear.

Phew.

Day one at media day couldn't have started more awkwardly for us "young guys," and it wouldn't get any more relaxed over the next few hours. The players -- flown in and rushed around – would withstand several hours of repetitive interviews and questions while I, the college student turned journalist, sat through optimistic talk from coaches and asked those same, repetitive questions.

No it wasn't horrible, not for any of us. But it wasn't the ideal way to spend summer vacation either, especially not with real work and school right around the corner. What ever happened to being kids, to joking around and not always staring over our shoulders, cautious and weary of what others might think? Tired from traveling and awkwardly put up in a hotel full of people we've never met, media day felt more like a prolonged job interview than anything else, and it soon became apparent that the players in attendance were feeling the strain.

By the end of the first media session it was also apparent that something had to give if we were to keep our collective sanity and return to our universities with any semblance of our youth. A flurry of reporters had swarmed over Kaepernick and Moore, so talking to them was more or less impossible. But as reporters peppered the star quarterbacks with questions about the Heisman and post-Boise WAC, Bronco defender Jeron Johnson sat alone in the back of the room. 

He looked bored as heck. He wasn't alone in that.

"'Sup Jeron," I said like the dorky white guy I am. He looked skeptical, as if dreading the inevitable. God forbid a 21-year old have to avoid going a day without the constant questions as to what's in store for his future, or what life will be like once he and his team find themselves in a new, brave world. Are expectations higher than ever? How do you handle that? Are you ready for the season opener? Yea, like he's never heard those questions before.

But I wasn't going there. If there's one thing I hate, it's getting ambushed with the same questions over and over by the same kinds of people. You know, the kind of people who you randomly meet and/or only know through your parents. The kinds of people who seem to always ask you what it is that you're up to and what you've got planed next, all the while holding you up to ridiculous expectations of the person or player you ought to be.

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