As their final bowl game activity before the big game today, the Ragin’ Cajuns with coach Mark Hudspeth and the ECU Pirates and coach Ruffin McNeil attended a luncheon with several hundred of their friends yesterday. The school’s marching bands, mascots, cheerleaders and players got in on all the action before the official program began.
After introducing the special guests Paul Valteau Jr, explained the significance of this year’s Most Valuable Player award. The helmet, created by a local Louisiana artist, was designed to combine both football and the spirit of the state of Louisiana. Paul said it was destined to become “among the most unique, distinctive MVP awards in all of sports.”
Pre-Game Comments from the Coaches
Jim Henderson, a local New Orleans sportscaster, sat down with both coaches for a bit to ask them about tomorrow’s game. Coach Ruffin McNeil, coaching his 3rd year with the Pirates said the East Carolina University was “looking forward to the challenge” and that he’d asked his fans to “come down to New Orleans and paint the town purple.” We’ve seen a lot of East Carolina fans around the city, so we’d say they listened! Coach Mark Hudspeth of the Ragin’ Cajuns says his team is “glad to be back” and thanked R+L Carriers and everyone associated with the bowl.”
Celebrating Athletes and Academics
Each year the New Orleans Bowl awards a $5000 scholarship to a student athlete. This year’s award was presented to basketball athlete Jalen Gray. The bowl also presented a scholarship to Erin Fernandez for the annual energy award.
Following the awards, the New Orleans Bowl gave an emotional tribute to Chad Jones, an aspiring football athlete that has come back from a very serious car accident. After the tribute Chad announced he has been released to play full contact and he is already seeking out some NFL options.
Inspirational words from Warren Moon
Keynote speaker Warren Moon then took to the podium. Warren Moon played most of his college football career with the University of Washington Huskies, where he went 11-11 and capped it off with an MVP performance in the 1978 Rose Bowl, leading his 13th ranked team to a 27-20 upset victory over the #4 Michigan Wolverines.
Moon played in the National Football League (NFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL). He is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (2001 class), and was ranked as number five on a list of fifty greatest CFL players. Moon spent ten seasons with the Houston Oilers in the NFL, where he was named Offensive Player of the Year by the NFL and AFC Player of the Year. His football stats, when you combine his CFL and NFL years, are some of the best in the history of football.
Drawing on his bowl experience, Moon shared with the players that “only half of 1% make it to the next [NFL] level” and to “take advantage of [opportunity] when it comes to you.” He told the players that “hard work is what brings opportunity,” and to “focus for the next 24 hours on the game.”
Moon assured the players that if they followed these six things: play hard, play smart, play tough, give everything mentally, physically and emotionally, and the “score will take care of itself.”
We wish both teams good luck and a great game at tomorrow’s New Orleans Bowl. Let the good times bowl!
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