Training Camp '16 Daily Report August 5

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Practice #2

Shorts and helmets

7:30-9:30 a.m.  Grass Practice Field

Days to Kickoff 26

Current Owls Birthdays: 0

Former Owls Birthdays:  QB and team captain Robby Shelton (1966-68) and offensive lineman Mike Applebaum (1989-92).

 In Brief:  A quick turnaround after an evening practice on Thursday saw the special teamers back on the practice field on Friday as the sun was just rising over campus. A few issues with players cramping, but no major issues.  Team continues to break in the new Patterson Center and Friday afternoon will be their first time to hold lifting sessions in the new weight room.

 Quotes of the Day:

Defensive Lineman Zach Abercrumbia: "Last year, I was a little naive to how much conditioning you need to play at this level and to play well. Now I know what to expect, how the days are going to go. I now know how long the days can be and that you have to tough it out. The little things really matter, things I took for granted in high school. Things like being sure to jump in the ice tub after practice, which is something I didn't do that much last year. I learned that it definitely helps the recovery process. That's a big thing I learned. You can't go 100% every day without helping your body recover. I have told the new freshmen that things are not going to go the way you think they will. You will have things that might not seem important, but everything we do out here is for a reason, whether its stretching, the extra work, the walk-throughs. I say walk-throughs, but they are extremely hard mental reps. You have to stay focused to be in the right place at the right time. When you get to this level, talent is everywhere.  It's he guys who have technique and who give the extra effort are the ones who will separate themselves from the rest."

 Up Next:  The team moves into a consistent schedule for the next week, with workouts at 7:30 through next Friday, but the intensity ramps up a level on Saturday morning as the Owls will pull on the shoulder pads for the first time this camp. 


Training Camp '16 Daily Report

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Practice #1

Shorts and helmets

5:00-7:00  Grass Practice Field

Days to Kickoff 27

Current Owls Birthdays: 0

Former Owls Birthdays: 0
Special Guest: Former Owl and recent "America Ninja Warrior" contestant Gabe Baker stopped in for the end of practice to get a glimpse of the new setup.

 In Brief:  On a day that began with breakfast at 6, followed by team and individual photos inside Rice Stadium and then the annual media day, the Owls put their new Brian Patterson Performance Center home through its first practice routine paces as the Owls stepped out the back door of their locker room and on to the grass practice field for a two-hour workout.

 Quotes of the Day:

Head Coach David Bailiff:  "We didn't come out here and just survive it, we came out and got better in the heat.   You saw some of the younger players a little over-excited.  We have to calm their enthusiasm since we are not in pads, but you'd rather calm them down than have to jazz them up."


Quarterback Tyler Stehling: "I definitely prepared a little bit harder (this offseason) for this for four years since I've been here. I watched a lot of film, just staying in the playbook, just getting the ins and outs of this offense. That's probably the biggest preparation I did."

 Up Next:  A short turnaround with Practice #2 set for 7:30 in the morning as the teams slips into their normal routine for the next week. 

Max Guercy's Chinese Expedition

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After traveling throughout China and getting to play against the Chinese National Team, I've had a chance to look back on my trip. Overall, it was a great experience. It was truly a blessing, from the amazing fans, to meeting new professionals of this game. Max Guercy.JPG


One of the teammates that I became close with was Joy Williamson, who played at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and was my roommate during the entire tour. We became great friends and made a long lasting friendship. 


Playing with and against professionals has definitely helped me prepare for what I need to work on before playing at the pro level. I learned a lot about my game, including changing speeds and playing with different paces at the pro level. You have to know when and where to change speeds. I also became used to the pro lines. The three-point line is further out than in college and the paint is bigger, which makes a big difference. I need to continue to work on getting used to the professional three-point line as well as using my speed to my advantage. 


China definitely has a different lifestyle and playing basketball was the best part of the trip. If I could travel there again in the next couple of years I would because of the amazing fans that each city had. The culture is much different than in the United States but it was great. Even though it was tough to communicate at times, the people were very friendly and they always wanted to take photos whenever possible.


I would love to go to Europe to begin my professional career. I've heard nothing but great things about it from my teammates that I was on tour with and I want to experience the European culture. 


This has been an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thanks for following me on my trip and Go Owls! 


Celebrating the Unexpected

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jamie wimbledon marcus willis 2.jpg

As with any one of the Grand Slam events in tennis, The Championships, Wimbledon traditionally opens at a leisurely pace as top seeds easily dispatch of opponents and most of the drama is centered on if the weather will impact the heavy slate of matches.

 But every so often, there is a moment that runs counter to the trend, a Walter Mitty-esque effort by a player whose name does easily flow from the announcer's booth to breathe life into the process.  Sports thankfully graces us with just enough of these moments to remind us to never let go of the chance to see something unique.

 Thus it came to pass that Rice junior tennis player Jamie Malik and some of his friends found themselves becoming part the story as one of their own, Marcus Willis, would upset one highly ranked player and then step on to Centre Court to face the legendary Roger Federer.

 Willis was ranked 772nd in the world and fought his way into the bracket by winning a series of qualifying matches.  He faced off against Ričardas Berankis , who was ranked just outside the top 50,  on Court 12  at Wimbledon. Malik was part of a group who were there to support him no matter the slight chance of success, showing up well in advance of the match to stake on a section of seats along the baseline.

"My brother (Jathan, who plays at Michigan) has played Marcus a few times and beaten him once. I've played him in doubles when playing for my club. We also play for the same county in England which is Berkshire," Malik explained. "It wasn't too hard to get the seats we all saved them before Marcus came out and made sure we had a good group of people together to support him."

 Willis' support group roared with every point and their man delivered many chances to cheer, racing to a straight set win over Berankis. Afterward, Willis made a beeline for his fan club in the corner of the stands.

Postmatch Celebration

 Photos of the celebration filled social media and one now serves as the header photo on Willis' twitter page.  

Willis Twitter page.png

 The next day, Willis' and his merry band found themselves at the epicenter of the tennis world, Centre Court.  The combination of the fairy tale story, the most famous player in the world as the opposition and the fact that it was the only match in action thanks to the retractable roof which kept out the rain threw even more light on the moment.

 While Federer won in three sets, Willis thrilled the crowd with a competitive second and third sets, earning an approving hug and post-match commentary from the seven-time champion.

 While they were not seated together, Malik and company were there to cheer every point and savor every moment.

 It was great to see Marcus play against Federer on Centre Court," Malik said. "It was inspirational seeing Marcus play out there, we've all dreamed of it."

Max Guercy's Chinese Expedition

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The last two weeks in China have seen us doing a lot of traveling. WeMax.JPG have been going to different cities in the last couple of days. We have been touring and meeting the fans at multiple meet and greets and getting to tour the city also. Throughout this experience, it has definitely been a wonderful place to see the different type of arts China has to offer. Also, in every city there are new fans who greet us as if we were American superstars.

We are on tour now with a professional team from Chicago called the Steam. They are from the inner city and came out here to play against us. We are now a joined team to play against the Chinese National team. We have now 14 players on the roster against the Chinese national team

One thing that I've had to get used to is the food. It was definitely unique at first although I didn't try everything. Some foods were very tasty. Rice is a staple for every meal including breakfast so it's definitely something to get used to. 

I've been playing well so far going against pro guys for the first time and learning a lot of things as well. It's a lot different than college. You have to do everything on your own and it's especially harder when you don't know the language. At the pro level, it is a faster paced game with a 24 second shot clock. You have to adjust and make quicker decisions with only 24 seconds instead of the 35 seconds that you get in the college game. I can't wait to compete against the national team in the next few days.

One of the most unusual things to happen is that after my best game I was holding children up to take pictures, but also holding a pregnant women's stomach and taking a picture. It was the first time I've ever done that. Luckily, we have a team translator that helps us out with everything. He helps to take care of food, hotels and if people wanted to talk to us he will translate for us. This is definitely an experience of a lifetime. 


Max Guercy's Chinese Expedition

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IMG_3878.JPGFormer Owl Max Guercy is currently in China with a group of college graduates playing exhibition games against teams from the Chinese Basketball Association and the Chinese National Team. Each week, he will write a blog about his experiences in China. Below is his first post.

I left from LAX on Monday, May 16th and got to Chongqing, China after some long days of travel. I noticed that I was definitely in a foreign country as everyone was noticing me for the first time. We started out playing in a tournament in Penshui, China which was a three hour drive to this city. We played a total of four games and I played well for it being the first professional games of my career. My first game was crazy as we actually played outside. I ended up with 15 points and 12 assists. It was a great first experience. My second game we played in a packed gymnasium later on that night and I finished up with 12 points and eight assists. The next morning we had an 8 am game and completed 3 games in less than 24 hours. I ended up with 19 points and six assists. Our last game was played outside the next day and I had eight points and a couple assists to go along with a few steals. We are now back in Chongqing waiting to fly to a different city tomorrow to start the Chinese Basketball Association tour against CBA teams. The hardest part now is getting used to the time difference which is 15 hours ahead of California time. But, so far so good.

"Sunshine" Makes an Impact on Broncos' Playoff Push

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                As the final seconds of Denver's season-ending 27-20 win on January 3 over San Diego ticked off the clock, practice squad receiver and former Rice Owl Jordan Taylor's thoughts were already turning to the upcoming playoffs and the next assignment to impersonate an opposing wideout in practice.


                An extended run of football activity that had stretched back to the start of his senior year at Rice was about to add at least another two weeks in his relatively anonymous role as a member of the Broncos' practice squad.  In his mind, it was additional opportunity to sharpen his skills for the future while aiding his team's preparation in the present.

                Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning had made a triumphant return to the field for the first time in seven weeks, coming on in relief of Brock Osweiler to lead the Broncos to 20 points in the second half and capture home field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Afterward, Manning was interviewed on the sidelines by CBS's Tracy Wolfson and in the process, as he recalled the rehabilitation process that led to his return, he might have made Taylor the most famous practice squad player in the NFL.

 It (the NFL) is not just something you can turn on," Manning said. "It's a grind every week and you have to be in the grind. I have been every week in a different way.  I've been in the indoor facility, kind of quarantined, throwing with Jordan Taylor, AKA "Sunshine"--remember that name next year..."

 Taylor was not on the field during the game and was not watching TV as the interview unfolded, but in no time at all, his phone exploded with texts from friends and family.  It might have been worse save for the fact that Taylor remains a dedicated avoider of Twitter and other social media platforms. 

 Afterward, Manning came up to Taylor in the locker room to confirm what the countless texts had told him.

He said he gave me a shout out on TV and wanted to thank me for all the work I had put in with him," Taylor said.

 Five weeks earlier, Manning had sent Taylor a text saying he needed someone to help him out.   "He said coach (Gary) Kubiak had suggested I would be available to work with him."

 Over the following weeks, Taylor would participate in his own personal two-a-days.   He would meet Manning in the morning to run all the routes he needed, then return to practice against the Broncos defense portraying that week's opponent's top receiver.

 It was pretty intense each day with Peyton," Taylor said. "I was the only receiver with him and he would run a two-minute drill. I was running down the field on each route then to get right back to the line.  Once we got to the end of the field, we'd turn around and back down the field the other way. Then I had to go to practice and run all the routes against our defense.  It was tough, but what was I going to do...tell Peyton Manning that I wasn't feeling it today?  I don't think that would have gone over very well," Taylor added.

 While Taylor's assist in Manning's return to the field became his most publicly acknowledged contribution to the Bronco's drive for the Super Bowl, he's been a consistent performer all season on the practice squad.  

As the aforementioned lone receiver on the practice squad, each week he prepped the Broncos defense for that week's opponent. One week, that might mean he was Calvin Johnson. This week he was Antonio Brown of the Steelers and he hopes to add two more impersonations to his repertoire this year.

He might wear many numbers in his days in Denver, but one thing that has carried over from his days as an Owl was the nickname that Manning referred to in his interview, which refers to Taylor's resemblance to one of the characters in the movie "Remember The Titans".

                "I'm not sure who it was that first dropped 'Sunshine' on me at Rice, but it was probably Malcolm Hill, and if it wasn't, I'm sure he'd take the credit," Taylor said. "At the first meeting here, each rookie had to get up and talk about themselves.   As soon as I got done, the chant of 'Sunshine' started up and that's who I've been ever since."

 Taylor came to Denver as an undrafted free agent, albeit one who carried career totals of 175 receptions (third best), 2,585 yards and 20 touchdowns (second best) during his Rice career.  He made enough of an impression in camp that he was placed on the practice squad and has had a front row seat to the Broncos run to the postseason.

 While he would rather be a member of the 53-man roster and suiting up on Sunday to face a Steeler team that features his former Rice teammate, Chris Boswell, Taylor is excited to be in the midst of a playoff run with a chance to reach the Super Bowl.

            "Everything happens for a reason and I know I am a much better player than I was when I came here.  This year has been an amazing experience both in terms of the football and because of the chance to experience living in Denver. 

            For a kid from Texas, this has been eye-opening.  The other day at practice, it warmed up to the 40's and I was out there in shorts and a shirt.  (I) don't see that ever happening if I was still in Texas," he said with a laugh. 

Super Bowl Memories

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                For the second time in his two NFL seasons, Luke Willson will play in the final game on the NFL schedule when he takes the field with the Seattle Seahawks to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

                Willson is one of only seven Rice Owls who have reached the Super Bowl and on Saturday he becomes the fifth of those seven to play in multiple games.  Three of the other four Owls to play in more than one Super Bowl (Darryl Grant, Earl Cooper and Larry Izzo) have come out on the winning side and Willson hopes to add an 11th Super Bowl ring to the Owls' all-time collection.

                Among  the television audience of billions on Sunday will be the six previous Owls who have first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to play on Super Sunday.  Six men who have experienced the wide range of emotions, the expectations and the aftermath of playing in the country's signature annual sporting spectacle and annually find their own experiences contrasted with those of each new group of participants.

                In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, four of those six, Rodrigo Barnes, Earl Cooper, Darryl Grant and Courtney Hall shared some thoughts on their experiences in the Super Bowl:  

R BLOG:  What comes to mind when asked about being in a Super Bowl?


It's amazing how big it has become.  It's become a global event now and with the internet, there are so many more kinds of coverage.  The Super Bowl was more relaxed than the AFC Championship game, because going into that game (AFC title game vs. Pittsburgh), we hadn't won anything yet.  We played each week in the playoffs, it was a home game and Oakland had lost the last five AFC Championship games. But after we won, we had two weeks to get ready for the Super Bowl.  The Raiders were a pretty laid back group with a lot of veterans who had been around for a while.  They took everything in stride and never let it be a problem. 


Everything was much simpler then.   ESPN was just starting out, and while it seemed like a lot of media, it was nothing like it is now.  


My first year, no one expected us to beat Dallas.  Everything was set up for the Cowboys to be the team there.  They came to Washington all packed and ready to move on to California to get ready for the game.   When we first got out there (to Pasadena),  our gear hadn't arrived and we worked out in blue and gray sweats.  Everything was first class that first year, but the next year (in Tampa) it was like someone was trying to save money.  We stayed at a hotel by the highway that was noisy and it took four hours to get room service.  Then when they moved us to a different hotel for game night, it was just to a motor lodge about two miles away.  All the fans figured out where we were and moved the tailgate party to right outside our rooms.  When we were going back for the third time, the veterans got together with Coach (Joe) Gibbs and we made sure that things we be different than they were (in Tampa).  


I don't know that I have a favorite memory.  It's more remembering how the entire nation was focused on the game and all the excitement leading up to the game.  Our trainer at the time had been to two Super Bowls with the Redskins and he told us that even though it would be hard to do, we had to find the time to enjoy the experience because it easily could all become a blur.  The key for anyone is if you can soak up the atmosphere of the week while maintaining your focus on the reason you are there.

To reach the Super Bowl is special for any player.  Stan Brock had played in the league for 15 years with the Saints and then with us for two, and he had a great career. But as great a career as it was, until that year he could never say he'd been to the Super Bowl.   Winning is obviously your ultimate goal, but the longer you play, you also come to understand how incredibly difficult it is to reach that point.  Each team that reaches the Super Bowl is deserving of the honor that comes with the accomplishment.

R BLOG:  Media Day has become such an over-the-top day in terms of sideshows and distractions.  How does that compare with your memories?

BARNES:  Media Day for us wasn't much of a problem.  In those days, unless you were considered the face of the team, you really didn't get scrutinized.  The media might have been only interested in talking to maybe six or seven guys and the rest of us just hung around.       

GRANT :  Media day can be tedious because you have people asking you the same question over and over and we had to stay there as long as anyone wanted us.  The hardest part was the international media, which was something new for me.  You had to wait to have them ask the question, then have it translated for you, then you answered and it was translated back.  It was pretty interesting for me, but at the same time you had to keep reminding yourself that there was game to be played and you didn't want to say anything your opponents could use.

After my first one it was pretty easy to get ready for Media Day since I knew what to expect.

If you are the underdog, all the media and attention around the Super Bowl can really work to your advantage. I know in San Diego we got really annoyed being asked over and over and over about John Elway.  It was never about us and many of us had been to two already.  I'm sure it was the same for the Raiders the year after we won and were the favorites.  I am sure they were tired about hearing about playing the defending champs.   I would always want to be the underdog in a Super Bowl.

COOPER:  I am so glad I am not a part of what they go through now with all the social media out there.   What people tend to forget is that reaching the Super Bowl makes for a long season and the mental and physical toll builds up.  It takes a toll on you and I understand why some guys when they get to the Super Bowl want to be left alone and focus on the game.

HALL:  Most of Media Day was pretty tame for me.  One thing I do remember about that day was I was interviewed by a reporter from a small town in South Carolina where my Granddad lived.   He lived in Cameron and was 108 at the time.  He was bed ridden and could not read the paper.  He was a veteran of World War I and had been born and raised in the deep south, right after the end of slavery. Now here was his grandson playing in this game that touched every corner of the country and there was a story about me in his paper.   When we went back for his funeral the next year, that story was framed and hanging on the wall in his house.

R BLOG:  Memorabilia is such a big part of the sporting world these days.  Do you have any special keepsakes from the Super Bowl?

BARNES:  I really don't have anything.  Most of the stuff from that time I gave away over the years to family and friends.  I donated a few things to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

GRANT:  I really don't have anything from the games.  I have pictures and those are really the best things to have.

COOPER:  I should have kept my shoes, but at that time, I didn't think about such things.  I kept wearing those shoes and eventually they wore out.  I didn't know I was walking with greatness.  I didn't know that I had Hall of Fame teammates or that I was catching a famous touchdown pass.  I didn't think that way at the time.   The one thing I did was have all my teammates sign a poster at (second one), but it's all wrinkled up.  A lot of it came down to when I left the NFL, I put that part of my life behind me.

My daughter is a senior in high school right now and she was so excited to see some highlights from that first Super Bowl, including my touchdown catch, but other than watching it with her, I've never really watched old highlights.  It was a great ride and it was nice to see her reaction, but as I said, I pretty much put those times behind me.  It was a happy chapter in my life, but I don't talk about it much these days.

HALL:  No real special piece of memorabilia specifically from that game. From that year I have my jersey and my AFC Championship ring, but that's about it.

R BLOG:  As a Rice graduate, describe your reactions when you know that a fellow Owl will be back in the Super Bowl this Sunday.

BARNES:   I am very proud of him.  I don't really know any of the others (Owls who played in the Super Bowl), but we share the bond of having graduated from a great institution.  We are all Fighting Rice Owls.

GRANT:  It's always an added treat to see an Owl in the Super Bowl.

COOPER:  I pump my fist whenever Luke makes a play, because I know what he's accomplished to have gone to Rice and then reached the league.  It's a great accomplishment and every Owl who has played football knows what it took for him to reach this level.

When I first made it, I had many friends who had grown up Cowboy fans and the games with the 49er's had so much on the line.  M friends all had mixed emotion in those games because they also appreciated what I had done to graduate from Rice and be playing on Sunday. Nobody expected it to happen, but  I was always most proud of the fact that I came from a small town, graduated from Rice, reached the NFL, played for Super Bowl Champions and then walked away on my own when I decided it was time.

HALL:  When I watch NFL games on television, I don't really root for any particular team, I root for individuals, so this weekend is perfect. I can point with pride for every contribution Luke makes on Sunday.

A Personal Connection

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Four years ago while on a family vacation to Hawaii, Andrew Reue and his family made their first visit to the Arizona Memorial.

At the time it was a powerful experience, making the solemn trip to the site where so many young men were lost.  

 But two years later, he learned that his family had a far more direct connection to the events of December 7, 1941, a connection that made the opportunity to return to the Arizona Memorial on Monday with his Rice teammates a much more personally moving experience.

Reue's grandfather, Walden Miller, had been at Pearl Harbor that fateful day, and had manned one of the many vessels that dodged flames and debris to pull as many injured sailors from the waters in the aftermath of the sneak attack.

"My grandfather actually never told us he had been at Pearl Harbor," Reue explained. "Whenever we'd ask him about his experiences in the Navy, he never tell us about where he was stationed, or things like that.  It wasn't until he was really sick, that his daughter was talking about it with my mom and we learned that he was stationed here as an electrician on a smaller ship when the Japanese attacked."

Miller was assigned to one of the smaller ships in the harbor that day, one that was spared the onslaught of the attacking Japanese planes.  He saw the destruction of the Pacific Fleet's battleships and was powerless to do anything other than to join in the rescue efforts.

Whatever he witnessed that day, he chose to keep to himself and spare his family any of the details of that horrific morning.

"I had the opportunity to come four years ago and that was an awesome experience," Reue said. "When you are on the memorial you can feel a presence there.  It's very sobering, just remembering everyone who had died. But that was before we knew my grandfather had been here.  Now that I know that, it has even more impact. "

Nearly 70 years later, and four years removed from his first visit to the final resting place of the Arizona, Reue faced the reality that he and his teammates were perhaps even older than many of the servicemen who saw their lives cut short that day as well as many such as his grandfather who were thrust into a Word War.

It puts a different perspective on the challenges that await on Christmas Eve when the Owls face Fresno State.

"I am very thankful for what he has done and everyone in the military has done to make sure we have opportunities us to do things like come to beautiful Hawai'i and play in a football game," he stated. 


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On the ride back from Rice's first practice at Aloha Stadium on Saturday, the bulk of the Owls were eagerly awaiting their arrival back at the Sheraton Waikiki when they would visit the Hawai'i Bowl Gift Suite to pick up their bowl gifts.

But their starting quarterback was far more interested in the constant flow of information that was coming to him over his cell phone.

While he was also excited to pick up the gifts that further validated his performance in his first year of leading the Owls' offensive attack, Jackson was equally enthralled with the efforts of the Cedar Hill Longhorns, who were locked in an epic duel with the Katy Tigers to decide the Texas Class 6A Division II state title for the third year in a row.

Jackson, who was a three-year starter for the Longhorns from 2008-10, was anxiously seeking the latest news as the two Texas titans took their rubber match down to the wire, except when he first checked his phone after practice, his delivery system was not working as planned.

"My girlfriend, Sydney Davis was supposed to be getting me the updates, but she was slacking early on as far as giving me the information," Jackson recalled after Sunday's workout at Aloha Stadium." I had to get on to her a little bit and from that point on she was basically giving me a play by play."

As Jackson and the Owls headed to the room in the hotel where the bowl gifts were waiting, he got the one piece of information he wanted most of all and Cedar Hill nailed a 25-yard field goal with two seconds left to down Katy for the second consecutive year.

"When I got the update when we won, the first person I had to go find was Coach (Larry) Edmondson, since he had told me he picked Katy to win and then I was messing with Nico (Carlson) because he was giving me a bad time because he's from Katy," Jackson stated.

Jackson's weekend brightened even more when he learned that his beloved Dallas Cowboys had demolished Indianapolis 42-7, making him 2-for-2 in terms of his rooting interests as a fan.

"It's refreshing to know that my high school is still handling its business long after I am gone and the young guys there are able to go out and dominate," Jackson noted. " And the Cowboys won today to clinch the division, so it's been a pretty good weekend."

On Wednesday, Jackson will look to close out the run by leading Rice to a win over Fresno State in the Hawai'i Bowl.   The Owls have never beaten the Bulldogs in six career meetings and should Jackson do so, he would also become the first Rice quarterback to win two bowl games.   His first win came in relief of an injured Taylor McHargue when he came into to complete 15-21 passes for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns, 231 of those yards and both TDs in the second half as the Owls outscored Air Force 26-0 after the break to win 33-14.

After the success of his favorite high school and NFL teams, Jackson has a chance to complete the picture with a Christmas Eve win.   And he won't have to rely on any third parties to let him know how it turns out. 



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