Let's start the week with one last shout to Troy Aikman was officially enshrinement at the College Football HOF in South Bend, Indiana this past weekend. That's a picture of Aikman hanging out on his float at the Enshrinement Parade. In case you missed it probably the biggest story from all the festivities (at least for our purposes here on BN) was Aikman's comments about standards for success for a UCLA quarterback (beat U$C & get into the Rose Bowl) in Westwood.
While Aikman's legacy at UCLA by his own account was "incomplete" he still achieved immortality at the next level and given the way he has been making an effort to stay in touch with his alma mater, that "incomplete" resume is not going to stay in the way of him being remembered as a football legend from UCLA.
Moving on to the present, kids like Reginald Stokes - another out of state Bruin football player like Aikman - are now working hard to reestablish UCLA football program in Westwood. Why I am talking about Stokes? Because he sat down for a pretty cool interview with the official site. Stokes who is a redshirt Junior from football player from Montgomery, AL, had somewhat of a breakout season in 2008, seeing action in 11 games and making five starts. He shined in his first career start against Oregon, when he was credited with five tackles and also blocked a field goal attempt. More on the interview after the jump.
Stokes specifically talked about his huge breakout performance against Oregon and what the last regular season game means to the UCLA program (also referenced by Aikman this past weekend)
Q: Last season, you had a breakthrough game against Oregon. How did it feel to have such success in your first start?
A: It felt great to have my first start in college football against a good team like Oregon. Throughout the week at practice I just wanted to make sure I knew the game plan for the week and concentrate on my responsibilities. I also wanted my teammates to feel comfortable with me being out on the field with them for a full game instead of having to come in as a substitute. I got great advice from a former teammate, defensive end Justin Hickman, who told me what he did and how to get ready for a game. He also told me what I needed to work on. I also talked to fellow teammate and roommate Alterraun Verner, who also gave me some helpful tips on how to prepare for a game. Blocking the field goal was a big relief after having missed an assignment on the previous series that gave Oregon a big play. I knew I had to do something big to make up for it.
Q: You earned a starting position against USC this past season. Talk about the deep rivalry between UCLA and USC and how it felt to be out on the field for that game.
A: Well, me being from Alabama, I didn't really know much about the rivalry until my freshman year when I experienced it firsthand. Seeing the fire and intensity in my teammates' and coaches' eyes the week of the game really showed me what the rivalry was all about. It made me want to be that much better so I could help UCLA win that game in the years to come. Even before entering this game, I knew it was going to be a war from all of the publicity. What made me play harder was knowing that I was out there with friends who were raised watching this rivalry, and I wanted to help them feel the same way the previous Bruins felt after winning the game a couple of years before. When running on the field, you can feel the passion and the pride that take place during this game. The crowd has so much energy that you can feed off. But once the game starts, I really don't notice the crowd because I will be in that mindset that nothing around me matters but the calls and signals that I have to know for that particular play.
You can read rest of the interview here.
Stokes talked about his game day rituals which includes riding the same bus with Darius Savage, Terrence T.A Austin, Al Verner, Christian Ramirez and Tobi Umodu, who he came into UCLA with. Well speaking of coming into UCLA Tobi had some interesting takes in his weekly editon of "Keeping it Bruin." Tobi wrote about unique expereinces UCLA athletes go through as freshmen when they arrive in Westwood:
WESTWOOD—Freshman year of college is always a bittersweet time for any student because they have to leave everything they know behind, but on the other hand they are excited about all the new experiences they will encounter.
For athletes it’s a bit of the same except they not only have to deal with the pressure of coming from a high school to a college academic field, they must deal with a transition in the athletic field also.
In high school every athlete was the biggest thing on campus. Everyone knew their name, the teachers gave them breaks in class, and the future wasn’t in question because a scholarship already let people know your destination. Coming into college a lot of athletes experience uncertainty for the first time and start to worry about whether things will pan out just like they did in high school.
"My freshman year was definitely a learning experience. Athletically I had to adjust to new coaches, a new training environment, decreased training hours, and a new team oriented aspect of competing. Academically I entered college after having taken a year of school off to focus on my athletic goals. Classes were definitely challenging and provided a much different learning environment," said junior gymnast Marcy Burnholtz.
Now as interesting as Tobi's take is, I wonder how the experience for students who often come into UCLA, somehow end up rooming with super star athletes from high school. I know most of times football, basketball players usually end up rooming together, however, there are times students have to room with student-athletes. While I was at UCLA few of couple of my friends ended up staying with football players up in Saxon suites and it worked out ok for them because the guys they were staying with were really cool.
Still there are interesting stories around the country when regular students have to room with huge student atheletes. For example, read through the series of posts entitled "Livin Large" on the blog Basketbawful. They are a hilarious series of posts (you need to start at Part I) of some kid from Purdue who somehow ended up rooming with a seven foot dude from the Boilerplayers basketball team. The experienes are so awkward, yet ridiculously funny.
For some reason, the story made me think of Johnathan Ogden, while he would come into Puzzles for dinners (yes Puzzles was our makeshift cafetaria when Sunset Village first opened in Fall of 1991). FWIW Ogden was always incredibly gracious and would usually come in with Sharmon Shah, who eventually changed his name to Karim Abdul-Jabbar. Karim was a great kid too. Good memories.
Speaking of good memories, let's end the walk with another video from New Orleans Hornets featuring DC and their other rookie Marcus Thornton:
Marcus thornton and Darren Collison Tour (via dadadrizzeee)
Apparently DC rolled his ankle in his last summer game but to date has been performing as one of the best rookies during summer ball. As we will keep mentioning over and over, we never get tired of watching and reading about one of our all time favorite UCLA Bruins (not just Ben Ball warriors) here on Bruins Nation.