|Student has that championship feeling
Centre football player and Ohio native witnesses spectacular national title game
(Freshman Sean McCormick, a Centre football player from Bellbrook, Ohio, was lucky enough to be at Sun Devil Stadium last week to witness Ohio State's upset of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Here are his reflections on the experience.)
RELEASED: Jan. 9, 2003
DANVILLE, KYStanding in section 220 of Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium I'd just been one of more than 77,000 on hand to witnesses what will go down as one of the greatest college football games of all time, Ohio State vs. Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
However, before I get into all the details, let me first explain exactly how I got a ticket to the National Championship game.
My dad graduated from Ohio State University and then went on to dental school there in the 1960s. He's remained a member of the Buckeye Club and is a season-ticket holder for the football games. My oldest brother, Jim, also attended Ohio State and was a scholarship long snapper on the John Cooper teams of the early 1990s.
Everyone in my family is a rabid Ohio State football fan. When we're not attending the games, everyone knows they can find us gathered around the television on our farm in Bellbrook, Ohio, pacing around, pounding on the walls, and screaming at the television. No one apologizes for this behavior, we feel the Buckeyes deserve nothing less than our unflagging support.
So it was no surprise that after Ohio State defeated Michigan 14-9 in late November my parents called and booked hotel reservations in Tempe, Ariz., for the Fiesta Bowl.
The tickets were more difficult to come by. As a former player, Jim received two tickets, but that covered only two of the six members of my family who would be making the trip. Jim got in touch with his good friend Kirk Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback and current ESPN analyst, and tied down four more tickets.
The trip itself was nothing short of incredible. We spent a week in the Valley of the Sun, happy to get away from the Midwestern cold.
I visited one of my good friends, Nick Mangold, who plays backup center for the Buckeyes, and enjoyed the festivities that never seemed to stop.
Downtown Tempe was transformed into the world's reddest mosh pit. Ohio State fans outnumbered those from Miami about 6 to 1. Everywhere you looked there was nothing but scarlet and gray. In the days leading up to the game you rarely went 10 seconds without hearing a shout of "Go Bucks!" or a seamless chant of "O-H-I-O!" The electricity around me was infectious.
The game, to anyone who saw it, was one of the best ever. The stadium was about 80 percent in favor of Ohio State, giving a home-game feel.
The game went into overtime, and on fourth and goal from the two-yard line Miami had to score to send the contest into a third overtime. When a hurried Miami pass fell incomplete, thousands of Ohio State fans felt nothing but pure elation. I hugged my younger sister, and then found myself hugging everyone around me I could reach to hug.
One man in particular, probably in his later 40s, started sobbing on my shoulder as we embraced. A situation that would have been terribly awkward at any other time seemed so right at this moment. After the initial elation wore off, I remember standing there in my seat looking at the scoreboard that read Ohio State 31, Miami 24 and feeling pure happiness. I got my bearings about me, left the stadium, lit up a victory cigar, and partied into the wee hours of the morning.
It's difficult to explain how and why such events mean so much to so many people. Being as young as I am, I certainly don't have the answer to that question. What I do know is, if only for a fleeting moment, I was as happy as I can ever remember being and that is why it meant so much to me.
The game itself will go down in history and hopefully when I'm old and gray I'll be able to sit down with my children and my grandchildren, unearth my ticket stub from an old shoebox, and tell my story of that great day on Jan. 3, 2003 when I was lucky enough to witness the greatest championship ever played.
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