Baylor Senior Danny Watkins was exhausted when he spoke to me late in the 4th quarter. "Not bad, eh?" The Canadian born hockey player and firefighter went on to tell me that at least three different NFL teams had scouts in Waco that night. One of them was the St. Louis Rams. When I told him he could be protecting Sam Bradford's blind side next year, he said "No, he's too good looking... he'd take all the girls." He was joking... I think. How about the Steelers?
The Buffalo section of Floyd Casey Stadium was full well before kickoff. Each player was allocated four tickets but Buffalo Junior, Terrelle Jackson got enough from his teammates to invite his church congregation, the New Wine Worship Center. Jackson grew up down the road from Waco in Temple, TX.
When I first met Baylor Head Coach Art Briles at Media Day in July, he was one of the most laid back and friendly guys in the room. When Coach arrived to meet with our crew the day before the game, he seemed more Bill Belichick than Pete Carroll. In actuality, Coach Briles just takes game day seriously. There wasn't any kidding around or casual conversation before game time; he meant business. Right on cue in my postgame interview, Briles was back to smiling and laughing... and talking about penalties.
I ran into Buffalo Head Coach Jeff Quinn and some of his staff in the hotel business center Saturday morning before heading to the stadium. Sure enough, they were on the computer looking up scores and stats from high school football games within 100 miles of Buffalo. Recruiting local guys is a passion of Coach Quinn's because he wants guys who understand what it means to represent his school and community.
Freshman Quarterback Bryce Petty wore a sling on his left arm on the Bayor sideline and told me he injured himself in practice on Thursday. Fortunately, it's not his throwing arm. He said he already knew he was going to redshirt but this solidified it. I covered Bryce in the Junior World Championships after his senior year in high school. He's a smart, articulate kid and star at QB in the coming years for Baylor football.
Jeff Quinn explained to me that the reason I didn't see any "general studies" majors on his team is because the major doesn't exist at Buffalo. One of the best-kept secrets about Buffalo is that the school is very challenging academically. He knows that when he recruits a young athlete, they must be able to keep up with the heavy workload. Junior Center Josh Violanti hasn't had a problem though, he is holding down a 4.0 GPA.
I wanted to do a quick hit about it being "Hometown Heroes Day" so I asked a trainer if I could borrow a helmet to show the digital camouflage they added to honor military members. He assured me the helmet he gave me wasn't needed and that it didn't belong to anyone who played. I ran away, assuring him I'd have it back in a few minutes. When I returned, one of the Buffalo kickers was running around frantically looking for, you guessed it, his helmet. I apologized profusely, picturing Garrett Gilbert in last year's National Championship. Fortunately, he didn't actually need it... he just thought he had lost it. Now that I think of it, he should be more upset with the trainer for guaranteeing he'd never go in!
Buffalo Senior Safety Devonte Shannon had a moment of panic while packing for his Waco road trip. He thought he forgot his Superman shirt he wears under his jersey every game. Even though he told me he's like the "professor" of the team, he tries to transform on the field. "During the day I'm Clark Kent," he said, "but when I get on that field I'm Superman." With Tim Tebow gone to the Broncos, there is a vacancy.
Baylor's Phil Taylor is what coaches call "nasty" but don't get that confused with a guy who eats too much McDonalds. I spent some time in the weight room at Baylor, where I learned about the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) scans the Bears use to track bone density, body fat and monitor injuries. Interestingly enough, a staff member told me that Taylor has a low body fat percentage and actually is much more proportionate than even a few skinny receivers who live off fast food. Baylor is one of the only schools in the country to have one in their weight room.
If you wondered how Buffalo Head Coach Jeff Quinn was so composed at halftime, look no further than fishing... mental fishing that is. Coach Quinn told me that fishing is one of the things he values most in life. It's one of his "5 F's" of faith, family, football, fishing and fun. When he has a lot on his plate and he can't get to the lake, he just does a little mental fishing which helps him focus and keep things in perspective.
If you're looking for a football player in the Baylor dining hall, they're pretty easy to find... just look for the guy sitting in a chair. The dining hall was once composed of long tables and benches (think Harry Potter style) but the school agreed to add a few select wooden chairs because the football players (okay, the linemen) couldn't fit on the benches with everybody else. If you're trying to win football games up front, that's a good thing!
Lastly, but maybe most importantly, if you're ever in or around Waco, Texas, you must go to the legendary "Health Camp". Don't let the name deceive you; it has nothing to do with health. The peanut butter and banana shake I had from Health Camp was the best I've ever had in my life. You can trust me, I'm an ice cream shake connoisseur.
Join us next week for Hawaii at Colorado on Fox College Sports!
Samantha Steele will be reporting on all the games listed below: