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Touch down in Sydney

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After departing campus Sunday at 2 p.m. CDT for Australia to prepare for next weekend's season opening football game against Stanford in the Sydney Cup, the Rice Owls endured what is likely the farthest any college football team has traveled for a home game -- and it might be the farthest a team has traveled for a game, period. Between the over-three-hour flight from Houston to Los Angeles and then the nearly 15-hour flight from L.A. to Sydney, the Owls took comfort in the 51-degree weather when they arrived in Australia's largest city Tuesday morning.


When the team arrived in Sydney, things started off on a positive note: They were pleasantly surprised to clear though customs in a matter of minutes, which led them to load up on four buses and head out for a full day's worth of activities ahead of schedule.


To help prepare the team to beat jet lag, the strength-and-conditioning football coaches formulated a plan for the team to follow leading up to and throughout the trip. According to assistant director Bret Huth, who was with the Cal Bears staff when they traveled to Sydney last year for the inaugural Sydney Cup, it included wearing compression pants, getting the team to exercise a few times throughout the flight and getting their bodies to adjust immediately to Sydney's clock.


"The most important thing to prevent further sleep debt after the transition is to get their circadian rhythm set to Australian Eastern Standard Time as soon as possible," Huth said.

To do that, Huth said, they wanted the players to start using the clock like they were already in Sydney. "We wanted them in the mind-set that it was Sydney time in L.A."


That meant keeping the players up for the first half of that flight before letting them sleep. It also included having the players do stretches and laps around the plane to keep them limber and to prevent any possible clotting issues in the legs and ankle swelling. The team did laps in Sydney time at 7:15 p.m. Monday and 4:30 a.m. Tuesday in the sprawling United Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner. Watch a video of Rice's Los Angeles-to-Sydney plane trip, which includes footage of the workout  at 38,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean.


170820_Football_Syndey_Arrival_first_Practice 212 400.jpgAfter leaving Sydney Airport at 8:15 a.m., the team took about a 25-minute drive in rush-hour traffic to David Phillips Sports Complex on the campus of the University of New South Wales for a 12-period practice. The university, which is more than 60 years old, has nearly 53,000 students, and the sports complex accommodates 40 clubs and 5,000 athletes, according to its director, Craig Davis. That includes tennis, 15 field hockey teams, 25 football (soccer) teams, five gridiron (American football) teams, eight Australian rules teams, five baseball teans, five rugby teams and cricket. Davis is a footballer himself. He played in the Australian Rules Football league for 16 years, including appearing in nine Grand Finals, "or as you Americans call it, 'Super Bowls,'" he said.


After getting the team's mind off the just-completed long journey and their bodies stretched out and loose again, head coach David Bailiff attended an 11 a.m. Australian government press conference, where the Sydney Opera House was used as a backdrop to welcome the Owls and Stanford Cardinal. Joining Bailiff were sophomore running back Nahshon Ellerbe and punter Jack Fox.


As the Sydney Morning Herald reported:

As the Opera House shimmered in the background overlooking the sunshine-soaked harbour, Stanford and Rice universities were welcomed Down Under by a joey (young kangaroo) and a koala to begin preparations for Sunday's second Sydney Bowl. ...


Ellerbe Fox and Roo400.jpgThey'll spend the week practicing for their season opener, but also taking in the sights and sounds a late winter in Sydney has to offer.


"Just look at this. I think I'm changing where I'm going to retire. I've been here five hours and already I'm thinking I've got to consider Sydney," Bailiff said overlooking the harbour after his side touched down in Australia on Tuesday morning.


"You look at the backdrop of this place, driving over here, just the architecture downtown, how it's so much old and so much new and it's all blended," he said. 

While Bailiff was meeting with the media, the Owls got checked in at the team hotel, which is centrally located near Hyde Park, and got a much-deserved break to freshen up, get devices charged up and get online to report back home.


170822_Harbor_Dinner_Cruise 326 400.jpgIn the evening the team, coaches, staff and Owl supporters shoved off for a dinner cruise in Sydney Harbour, passing by the world-famous Sydney Opera House and the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, the sixth-longest spanning-arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 440 feet from its top to water level. It was also the world's widest long-span bridge, at 160 feet wide, until construction of the new Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver was completed in 2012, according to Wikipedia. A quick trivia question: How many different types of fish can be found in Sydney Harbour? The answer appears at the end of this post.


The team enjoyed a buffet of beef, chicken, ham, rolls, potato salad, shrimp, vegetable medley and salad, a fairly traditional meal, but that could change tomorrow. (We'll wait for tomorrow to report more on that.)

On that note, a couple of quick hits.


The Owls will hold another practice tomorrow, tour the University of Sydney, have a meal and attend a panel featuring the NCAA's Oliver Luck and Rice Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard.


Hat tip to hometown TV: KPRC and KTRK did nice, quick reports on the Owls departing Rice for Sydney. Bailiff comments in both. Watch the KPRC clip here and the KTRK clip here.


The Associated Press recapped our events today with this story: "No rest for jet-lagged Rice: Straight to practice Down Under."


And the answer to the trivia question: According to the Australian Broadcasting Company, 586 different species of fish can be found in Sydney Harbour.

View more photos from the Owls' first day in Sydney by using the arrows below in the Flickr gallery.

Owls touch down in Sydney

The Rice Owls football team will open the 2017 season more than 8,500 miles away from Houston as the "home team" at Allianz Stadium when they face the Stanford Cardinal in the second annual Sydney Cup in Australia Aug. 27 (Aug. 26 in the United States).


The Owls closed last season losing on the road to Stanford 41-17, but before this back-to-back matchup, the teams hadn't played each other since 1964.


The game in Sydney will mark the first football game Rice has played outside the United States in its more than 100-year history.


"When (Athletic Director) Joe Karlgaard first asked me about moving the game to Australia, I thought, 'God, it's going to be 125 degrees in Houston, which is a home-field advantage,'" said head football coach David Bailiff. "But then you get to thinking that it will be an incredible experience for these young men, not just to go play a football game but to go to a different continent, a different culture. With what they are going to learn when they are there, it's worth moving a home game to do that."


He jokingly added, "I would guess that our trip to Australia is probably the longest road trip in the history of the world, and then we have the shortest road trip in the history of the world: We're going to Australia to play Stanford and then we load up the bus to play across town (5 miles) against the University of Houston."


The Owls will depart Houston Aug. 20 on a more than three-hour flight to Los Angeles, where they will have a short layover before taking a 15-hour flight to Sydney. The team will lose a day and arrive in Australia Tuesday morning, Aug. 22.


"I've never traveled outside the country, so I'm really excited," said senior linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee. "I can't wait to see what their culture is all about. I really want to see how they live and compare it with my own (way of life). I can't wait to have this experience."


media day kprc 500.jpgTo prepare for the early start to the season and the unusually long travel for their first game, the Owls opened summer camp a week early and have been preparing the student-athletes not only for football on the field but the long flight and the visit to a foreign country.


Last year the University of California beat the University of Hawaii in the first Sydney Cup 51-31. As part of his preparation for Sydney, Bailiff tapped former Cal head coach Sonny Dykes for some advice.


"Cal went last year, so I've been on the phone with Sonny Dykes to find out some of the mistakes that they made so that we wouldn't make the same mistakes," Bailiff said. "We know to get our guys compression pants. We have a walk and stretch schedule on the airplane because of the length of the trip."

Head football trainer Brad Kimble said, "As far as hydration and that type of prep, we're in our normal camp prep already. We'll continue to practice the good habits that we encourage all of the time.


"As for the flight, it's relatively natural to get dehydrated on a flight, so we're preparing food packets and making sure they'll have access to plenty of liquids on the flight," he said. "Plus we'll be monitoring them closely throughout the trip."


The players, coaches and staff will be encouraged to get some sleep on the flight, especially the second half, because once they arrive in Sydney at 6:45 a.m. Aug. 22, they will have a full day of events in hopes of adjusting to the time difference as quickly as possible.


While in Sydney the Owls will attend a welcoming news conference, enjoy a dinner cruise, visit and tour the University of Sydney, meet with Australian media, visit a rugby training facility, visit a grammar school for a football skills demonstration and, of course, hold football practices.


"This is going to be an incredible opportunity for this football team," Bailiff said. "Not only are we going play a football game, but we've teamed up with the University of Sydney. We're going to spend a day with them after practice talking about the Australian educational system."


Leading into the historic trip, the team received a crash course on what to expect during their six days in Sydney from Jae Cross, a former standout on the Australian women's national basketball team who currently serves as the head women's coach at University of St. Thomas in Houston. Cross previously served as an assistant coach at Rice for seven seasons. Watch a video of her visit here.

While the Owls are down under, stories, video and photography will be posted daily on Rice Athletics' The R-blog, along on Athletics' social media sites Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.


The football game, which will be at noon Aug. 27 in Sydney (9 p.m. CDT Aug. 26 in the United States), will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Use the right arrow button to scroll through the Flickr photo gallery.

Rice football prepares for Australia

Senior Reflection: Darik Dillard

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As his former teammates continue to prepare for the next chapter in their Rice career's, Darik Dillard reflects on his journey from high school recruit to Rice graduate, four-time letter winner and one of the top 10 rushers in school history

Coming into Rice University, I really just had the high school mindset of I'm going to come in, take three years and then I'm going to go pro.

But after finishing my first summer and then my first year as a freshman, I realized three things: I had to be flexible, I learned the power of surrendering and all my successes and triumphs were a team effort.

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Your Rice career teaches you these things.

It sounds so cliché but people told me you have to be really good at managing your time. And that's something I learned throughout my entire time at Rice. Having football practices and 8 a.m. classes, every time-gap had to be utilized well. This would carry me into my professional life, into my social life and one day, when I become a husband or father.

I also learned the power of surrendering.

As a student-athlete, you go through a lot of hard times. Being a student-athlete in general, you go through a lot of suffering, a lot of long nights studying and preparing for tests that you know you're going to fail, doing projects where your other teammates aren't helping you or you can't help your teammates. But you realize, every success and triumph is a team effort--in the classroom or on the field.

You have a class that you individually take or if you play a singular sport you have an idea of what you need to do. Despite that singular play, you realize when you reach those points of success and triumph and you recognize all the individuals with you-that helped you along through your good and bad times.

I've had a number of people, especially at Rice University, that helped me through those difficult times to realize those three things: flexibility, the power of surrendering and success and triumph are team efforts. 

Behind the Scenes

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Growing up, young kids in all areas of the world dream of becoming professional athletes. However, for the majority of them that dream of working in and around professional Owen 2016-12-15 SEU (3).jpgsports eventually becomes a fantasy. Whether because they grow up, lose the drive, or just don't know how to make their dream a reality.

For Addison Owen, he's making sure that he is doing everything it takes to eventually turn that dream of working in the NBA into a reality. Owen recently spent time in May and June as an intern with his hometown Atlanta Hawks.

                "Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to have a strong relationship with Mike Budenholzer, head coach of the Hawks," said Owen. "I went to school with all of his kids and am really close to his oldest son. I've gotten to know him over the past few years. He knew about my desire ultimately to work in basketball. I'm still undecided on whether to get into coaching or the front office. He thought that it would be great for me to come on and intern with the Hawks for five weeks. It allowed me to get my foot in the door and see if it's what I wanted to do."

 Once done playing, there are several routes one can go to stay involved in athletics. Coaching, scouting and working in the front office are just some of the ways one can make a career in professional sports. Most professional teams hire a plethora of interns throughout the year, both in and out of season.

When seeking interns, most teams keep their hires to a certain area. However, Owen, who wants to be either a coach or work in the front office, was able to gain experience in both areas, working with the coaches as well as the front office staff.

Said Owen, "I had the unique opportunity of interning with both the video coordinators and coaching staff along with the front office staff as well. My typical day began around 7:30. I'd run whatever errands the front office needed me to run. Around 10 a.m., I'd head to the court and help the Hawks players with their offseason workouts. Rebounding, passing, playing defense. A few days, I got to jump in and play with the guys. That was a really, really cool experience. I was also responsible for the players that came in for pre-draft workouts. On top of that, I helped on court with the draft workouts. Typically, I would help with rebounding and passing."

The timing of his internship was also crucial for Addison, as it occurred during the lead up to one of the biggest nights in the NBA, the NBA Draft. One of the biggest things he learned was just how much goes in to every decision that is made.

"Just being around that, you see what goes into every decision the team makes," added Owen. "For every player, there is so much intel. Not just as a basketball player, but who he is as a person. To see how teams document each player; they go back and talk to their high school coaches, high school principals and high school teachers. They look to see what type of character the player has. That really goes to show how much thought goes into bringing a player onto your team.

 "The great part about being around the office was what you are able to see. For example, there is a big board filled with potential trades that they might do or potential trades that other teams might do. It shows how much communication goes on across the board. It shows the possibility of trades that never really come into play. Draft time was very hectic, but I'm glad I was there at such a busy time. I think it was the most exciting time for me. There were days that I worked 14-16 hour days. The day of the draft, I came in at 7 a.m. and worked until 1:30 in the morning."

Just like any job, Owen learned that one of the biggest things is getting your foot in the door and then, once you're in, making a good impression.

The main thing is getting your foot in the door and once you're there, making a good impression. You have to continue to keep the connections that you have on top of making new ones, which is something that I think is very important. It's not set in stone yet, but looking forward to next summer, I think I'll have the opportunity to intern with the head of the NBA Summer League. Through that, I should be able to meet a lot of different people who can ultimately help me down the line.

          Through the five weeks, Owen learned many things. However, his time with the Hawks has also given him a new outlook on the game that he grew up loving.

 "Having this experience has given me a different perspective (on the game). It's shown me how good you have to be to play in the NBA and what it takes. On the other side, it's just as hard to work in the NBA. When you get into it, you really have to sacrifice a few years of your life. But, that's a commitment, like college basketball, where you have to be willing to give something up to have an ultimate reward.





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