Today’s players luncheon is the last public event for the players and coaches before tomorrow’s game. ESPN’s very own Merril Hoge, former NFL professional and ESPN analyst, addressed the students, coaches, and the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation guests.
Bands and Cheer
Both the University of Louisiana Lafayette and the University of Nevada Reno had their pep bands and cheer squads to ignite the lunchtime crowd in the New Orleans Marriott on Canal today. Players and guests for both teams enjoyed their respective fight songs and cheers from home. Visit our Instagram page for video of each band.
Guests were treated to a pre-game chat with ULL head coach Mark Hudspeth and Nevada-Reno head coach Brian Polian. Both coaches took time to talk about their season and what tomorrow’s game will look like.
Ron Gardner, chairman of the New Orleans Bowl, spoke to attendees prior to awarding two awards to two Louisiana Student Athletes. Speaking about happiness Chairman Gardner offered this:
“If you want to be happy for a lifetime, along the way give yourself away”
ESPN’s Merril Hoge
The former Steeler’s (and briefly for the Bears) running back and current ESPN Football Analyst shared a few remarks with the players. Mr. Hoge was introduced as a champion for concussion prevention and research. Merril suffered a two concussions resulting in brain injury, ultimately ending his career in 1994 while with the Chicago Bears.
Merril shared that his dream from a young age was to play in the NFL. Only .02% of players make the pros he added and he was able to fulfill that dream. Mr. Hoge shared that after his injury the toils he had to recovery from those injuries. His challenges didn’t end there. He talked with the group about his 2012 cancer diagnosis and its effect on him and his family.
Quoting his own coach he shared this with the crowd:
I can be uncommon every time I walk on a field. There is not one person in here that can’t be uncommon with everything they do.
He continued with advice to the teams:
This bowl is beyond the game. It’s the service we can give back.
He concluded his remarks directly to the players with this advice for the game:
Enjoy the moment tomorrow. Don’t fast forward your life. And remember that in this great game there are a lot of lessons taught. Those lessons help you apply your life’s work. Play hard, play fast and play smart.