FORT WORTH, Texas - All the pre-game festivities came to an end on Wednesday afternoon, and the Black Knights' football team is ready to face SMU in the 2010 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Kickoff at Gerald J. Ford Stadium is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. ET. Thursday's game will be broadcast live by ESPN.
The day began at 9 a.m. for captains Josh McNary, Stephen Anderson and Josh Mealy, along with head coach Rich Ellerson, as the four attended the official Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl press conference at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth. After a "State of the Bowl" update from Executive Director Brant Ringler, both Ellerson and SMU head coach June Jones answered questions from the assembled media. Following the coaches' session, the three Army players and three Mustang players were available for queries.
The rest of the Army travel party met their comrades at the hotel in time for the annual Armed Forces Bowl Kickoff Luncheon. The program featured short remarks from each coach, Ringler and Bell Helicopter CEO John Garrison. Each coach was given a commemorative red, white and blue Armed Forces Bowl jersey to display in their office. The keynote speaker at the event was former Tulsa quarterback and Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Drew Pearson.
A new trophy for the winner of Thursday's game was also unveiled. Produced by MTM Recognition, the 2010 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl trophy features metal used in combat forged into the structure. The squadron of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Hood supplied the second tank round fired by the regiment after its arrival in Iraq for their third deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The trophy also has pices from a U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa Warrior which was manufactured by Bell Helicopter and served overseas in a reconnaissance role in support of ground troops. The trophy also has the seals of all five branches of the military engraved on the back.
After the luncheon, the Army team made its way back to the hotel to check out of its home in Fort Worth. The team boarded the buses and took the 45-minute ride to Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas to get their first glimpse of the game venue. The group took a team photo in the bleachers before completing its usual Friday "Sideline Drill," which is normally done at the team hotel. The team then hopped back on the buses and headed for their hotel in Dallas where they will stay on the eve of the game.
"Our guys have had a wonderful experience," Ellerson said on Wednesday. "We didn't have any institutional memory in terms of how to handle our Bowl preparation given the rigors of academy life, especially as we went into our finals, then being respectful of our guys' leave, and making sure we could be as ready as we possibly could be to play on Thursday. I think we nailed it. I was impressed as our guys practiced after we kept them for their TEEs and got them back for a Tuesday practice (on Sunday). They hadn't forgotten much over a week. I feel we're in a great place mentally and physically and know what to do.
"Hindsight is 20/20, but if I had to do it all over again, I like the schedule we chose for ourselves and I like the way it's worked out. I think we've given ourselves a chance to play well."