Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Casino del Sol All-Star Game Recap by Drew Zamora

By Drew Zamora
This will unfortunately be my final blog and recap from my time spent at the Casino Del Sol All Star Game.  The game itself had an NFL type speed and execution behind it.  Coming off the field i was very pleased with my performance.  I really got a hold of a couple punts, two touchbacks on kickoffs, and 3/3 on PATs.  My feelings after the game were a mixture of relief, happiness, and a bit of sadness knowing the week was coming to an end.  The bitter sweet emotions came back again, the same emotions I felt after my last NAU game when I had to take off the pads for the last time as Lumberjack.  I am optimistic though that this will not be the last football game of my career and I look forward to suiting up again for another team soon, wherever it may be! 

I was overwhelmed with text messages, calls, and Facebook posts after the game from so many friends and family.  It put a smile on my face and i want to thank everyone who watched and followed me Monday night!  Brian agrees with me that we want to start a tradition of having NAU players represented at this game every year!!

I am so glad to have had the opportunity to go through this experience with Brian.  Getting to hang out and be on the field with him again really made this week one i will always remember.  It seems like just yesterday Brian and I were in our two bedroom apartment in Flagstaff together hanging out, playing FIFA, and  sitting in the living room talking about our football plans and both of our goals in trying to make it further.  He is a great person who works harder then anyone out there! Who knows maybe somewhere down the road I will get to suit up the pads with him again!

The Casino Del Sol All Star game staff did such a great job putting on the event and I am so happy to have got to know everyone involved.  I am back to the grind here in Tempe and even had a workout last night in the weight room!  Thanks to everyone who read the blog and followed me this past week.  I am taking away from this game a lot of memories, experience, and new friends.  Best of luck to my NAU football teammates as they are heading into the off-season.  Work hard boys and put everything you've got into this time you have, leave no regrets, and i expect big things from all of you next fall!  Thank you Steve Shaff for the support throughout my career at NAU, the great articles you wrote, and everything you have done for Brian and I this past week.  I'm officially signing off....ROLL JACKS!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Brian Riley's Blog: I Had a Blast

Finally back home from the Casino Del Sol All Star Game. It wasn't too far of a trip for me to get home, just right across town, but since I was living in the hotel of a casino for a week it sure does feel a lot different. 

Whenever I'm hungry I keep wanting to go into the kitchen to find a whole buffet of foods ranging from lobster tails, all you can eat sushi, salmon, steak, prime rib, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Unfortunately, none of that is in my kitchen. Honestly it is a good thing because I need to get back to paying attention to my "figure."

As I have stated multiple times in my past blogs the Casino Del Sol All Star Game was an incredible experience. It was especially fun coming from a smaller school and competing with some of the best football players around the country. On Sunday morning during our meetings I learned that I was going to be starting at Tight End for the Stripes team and I was PUMPED!

As most of you all know I love playing football and I was so happy to get the chance to play again and represent the Jacks. I got a considerable amount of head banging done in the game and my body is paying for it now, but it was all worth it like usual. I was happy to be a part of an offense that drove our Stripes down the field for a couple scores.

For those that watched, you know the game was very close and it came down to the last 30 seconds before it was decided. I know it's not something that the upcoming seniors of the NAU Football squad should be focusing on right now, but next year after the National Championship game that we are going to win, you graduating seniors should definitely consider trying to get into an All Star game.

I highly recommend the experience and opportunity to show what you got to NFL and CFL scouts. Lastly, I just want to thank all of the coaches and players that pushed me to be my best, competed with me for the past 4 years, and to all the friends I made on the football team over the years it sure was fun. GO JACKS!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Casino del Sol College All-Star Blog Day 6

By Drew Zamora 
It is day six of the Casino Del Sol All Star game week here in Tucson, Ariz. Today is essentially an off day for players and staff who got to sleep in a little today before short meetings with our separate teams.  This blog will highlight some of the community events going on, sponsors and gear we have received, and some personal feelings on the game ahead.

Kids Clinic
Brian's blog touched on his experience at the kids camp from last night, but i thought i would share some from my time on the field with the kids.  The specialist group (kickers, punters, and snappers)  were in charge of running a kicking and punting station for the kids.  I really enjoyed seeing the them attempting to kick field goals and challenging one another to see who could kick the farthest.  Highlight of the camp was one little boy who told me that i could, "kick farther then his Dad could!"  After drill work we signed about 20-30 autographs before heading over to a feast of a BBQ that the resort prepared for us. 

Well Oiled Machine
Yesterday my practice took place inside Kino Stadium where i had a chance to get used to the surface.  The field is in excellent shape and should be perfect to plant and kick off of tomorrow night!  Snapper James Winchester (Oklahoma) and holder Jarret Lee (LSU) joined me as we got to work on our operation.  Several spectators commented on our snap to kick operation telling us that it looked like "a well oiled machine" and that is seemed as if "we had been doing it together for the past 4 years, not just 3 days."

I have been getting a lot of questions about what type of gear and gifts we have received since getting here.  Nike is the big apparel sponsor for the game and what a great sponsor it is to have!  They gave us brand new Nike duffel bags that were loaded with shorts, shirts, All star game polos, and hats among other things!  We also received a really nice Nike hooded sweatshirt and will be able to keep our custom nike game day jerseys.

I am truly blessed to have had the support of so many people throughout my life and career in football.  My parents Mike, Lori, and younger sister Sierra arrived last night in Tucson for the the game tomorrow.  They have been my foundation through highs and lows both on and off the field and have not missed a single college game in my whole career!  Calling them expert travelers would be an understatement.  It means the world to me to have them here this weekend for yet another game, and i hope there are many more in my future for them to come to. 

Thanks for reading the blog!  I hope everyone has cleared their schedule for Monday night to watch the Casino Del Sol All Star Game on Fox Sports Arizona.  I will be wearing #48 in red for the Stars squad.  Best Wishes and go Jacks!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Casino del Sol All-Star Blog: Brian Riley

TUCSON, Ariz. - This week of practice has been some of the most intense hard hitting football I have ever played.

Everything has been turned up a few notches since the scouts have been here watching our every move but I know I have enjoyed the pressure and I think a lot of the other players here have as well.

Today we finally had a small break from all the contact. Part of me definitely wanted to continue to keep up with the full contact but at the end of the day my body was thankful for the day of review. Practice today was more like a Thursday or a Friday practice up at NAU just making sure personnel groupings and transitions on and off the field were crisp along with making sure everyone on the field knew the playbook inside and out.

Also today we had the opportunity to serve the community of Tucson by participating in a mini-camp for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. Nearly 100 kids of all ages joined us at the Casino Del Sol to work on football drills and get to know us ex-college players and professional hopefuls.

I had a lot of fun cheering on the kids during the 40-yard sprint race. As you can see in the picture it was pretty intense and the kids had a great time!

After the drills the kids asked us for autographs and we had a little BBQ out on the pool deck. The food was amazing and trust me it has been all week!

Lastly the stripes team is definitely ready to play on Monday. All of the practices have been completed and now it's time to get into the game. I'm extremely excited for Monday and I know my team is as well. Everyone should come down to Tucson to enjoy the game, the weather is beautiful, or just check it out on Fox Sports Arizona. It is going to be a lot of fun!

Casino del Sol College All-Star Blog Day 2 by Drew Zamora

Player Check IN
Hello Lumberjack Nation!  I hope everyone is off to a great start in 2012.  The week is moving right along here in Tucson AZ at the Casino Del Sol College All Star Game.  This blog is a nice way for me to reflect on my opportunity and share about my experiences here at the game with some of the greatest coaches in college football and future pro athletes...Enjoy!

We sure aren't in Kansas anymore Dorothy
Nittany Lions, LSU Tigers, and Baylor Bears..oh my!! haha.  It really is a whole other level down here, and the athletes are physical specimen who are very good at what they do.  My Stars (East) team head coach Houston Nutt from Ole Miss is a very enthusiastic man from the south.  He has made it very clear that these practices and game is essentially a week long interview for the National Football League.  I certainly don't feel like a college athlete anymore and am pushing to bring my game to a professional level in front of a large gallery of NFL and CFL scouts.

The Cattle Call
The Cattle Call was on day one where each players height, weight, and measurments were taken in from of a large group of scouts.  Your shirt is off and numbers are yelled out for everyone to make note of.  After this, each player proceeds to walk through the scouts to a back door exit where scouts may be waiting to get more information from them.  My nerves calmed after scouts introduced themselves to me while i completed specific paperwork for the different teams.

Who I've Met
The Casino Del Sol kickoff banquet started off the game week festivities and gave me an opportunity to meet and talk with a variety of people and players throughout the college football world.  At my table sat Head Coach of the stripes team Pat Hill from Fresno State, John Fina who is a Tucson legend and former Super Bowl Champion with the Buffalo Bills, and lastly Coach Ron McBride who recently retired from his increbile coaching career at fellow Big Sky rival Weber St.  It was great to pick Coach McBride's mind about football and took some time to reflect on some very cold and snowny games in Ogden between the Wildcats and Lumberjacks.

Players here at the game have come from all over.  There is not a single bus ride where i haven't sat by someone new and got to know a little about them.  Fellow specialists i have met and spent a good deal of time with at practice is kicker Kevin Goessling out of Fresno St, punter Anson Kelton from TCU, and long snapper Cameron Kastl from Arizona State.  It is true that there is never a dull moment in any specialist group!  A true pleasure to watch and talk to are quarterbacks GJ Kinne out of Tulsa, and Jarrett Lee from LSU. Jarrett will also be my place holder during Monday nights game.  Both men are professionals and are unreal at what they do on the field! 

At dinner last night Brian and I got to talk to defensive back Deshawn Shead from Portland State University.  We talked for over an hour about the Big Sky Conference, games, teams we disliked and wanted to beat most (Montana), and just about fellow players we all knew.

The hype and energy at practice is like one i have never seen before.  It is a combination of tension, skill, speed, and players having fun all at once.  Today was a great opportunity for me to let loose on some punts and kickoffs in front of scouts who lined the field with stop watches.  I found myself in a nice groove and dropped some bombs.  I left the practice field with a confidence i have never felt before and am counting down the days and hours till Monday nights game!

-Drew Zamora

Roshelle and Hannah's Dance Blog from Nationals

Team dinner at House of Blues in Downtown Disney (From L to R): freshman Chesi Previte, junior Aletha James, junior Roshelle Stulz, junior Hannah Degnan and freshman Raven Nacke.
Its the night before semifinals and were just finishing up a long day of practicing at Orlando's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. We are anxious and excited for the competition tomorrow. We have a long day ahead of us beginning at 530 a.m. We will compete our hip hop dance at 9:30 and jazz later on at 530 p.m. In between we get the opportunity to watch and support our NAU cheer team and also get to scope out our competition from colleges all over the country! Its a really big day for us dancers, finally we get to see if all our hard work has payed off. Time for a good nights sleep! We'll check back in after the competition tomorrow :)!
- Roshelle & Hannah

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Casino del Sol All-Star Game by Brian Riley

The NAU Media Relations office asked me to write about some of my experiences so far at the Casino del Sol All-Star game in Tucson, Ariz. 

So far it has been an absolute blast. It has been very organized and everyone is having a lot of fun. Practice is ran at an extremely fast pace and we have been doing a lot of hitting since day one. 

Every single player out here understands that these practices are the equivalent to a job interview and therefore they have been very competitive. Today was a full pack day and the stripes and the stars had multiple team periods throughout the hour and a half practice ending with a short scrimmage. 
The Casino del Sol game field at the home of the Tucson Padres. 

I'm on the stripes team which is all players from teams out west and we are coached my Pat Hill ,who brings a lot of energy to practice. I've met a lot of guys from both teams and it is fun learning about each other’s schools, sharing football stories, and discovering that everyone seems to know at least one person in common in the small world of college football.

Also practices have been filled with scouts from every NFL team and a lot of CFL teams which has been a great opportunity to display our football abilities. The scouts are also inside the locker room facilities, which are stationed at the home of the Tucson Padres at the Kino Sports Park.

Lastly the Casino del Sol Hotel and Casino has been a great place to stay for this week of practice and I recommend everyone to come down here and check it out!

The Casino del Sol College All-Star game is Monday, Jan. 16. The game is televised by Fox Sports Arizona at 6 p.m. Riley and teammate Drew Zamora will each be providing blog updates from the practice and game during their stay in Tucson.