Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome to Jabari's Corner

August 4 is circled with a big red pen on the calendars of 90 Aggie football players since that's the day they report back to campus for the start of fall camp. The countdown to the Aug. 31 opener at South Dakota is well underway but probably moving a little bit faster than new coach Ron Gould prefers.

For 15 Aggie, fall camp is nothing new since for most of them, it's their fifth time having nearly their entire days scripted from dawn to deep into the night. Pre-practice tapings, meetings, practice, meals, maybe another practice, more meetings, team activities. It's all a part of the routine they'll focus on for nearly four weeks.

The wrinkle, of course, is a new head coach. The players got a preview of him during spring practice but, as I'm sure Coach Gould would say, they haven't seen anything yet.

Those 15 players comprise the Aggies' senior class and over the next couple of weeks, you'll get a chance to learn a little about each one courtesy of Jabari Howard.

That's right, welcome to "Jabari's Corner."
Jabari Howard

Jabari is a junior cornerback for UC Davis (see what we did there? Cornerback? Jabari's Corner?) and he's sitting down with the seniors as they get set for the beginning of practice and doing a brief Q&A with each of them. What is one thing about them that no one else knows? How would they describe Coach Gould in one word? (my personal favorite question)

Jabari is a communication major from Valencia who came to our office and said he wanted to put into practice what he's studying. A little bit of brainstorming ensued and out of it came "Jabari's Corner."

It'll begin with the senior introductions - the first one will be posted at www.ucdavisaggies.com on Friday - and will also likely include blogs with Jabari's experiences during preseason camp and other interesting items as well.

His enthusiasm for his current project is great and so is his motivation.

"These are my brothers and my best friends," he said. "I want to send them out the right way and let people get to know them, support them and send them out on a high note."

Well said. 

It's almost time for football ---- here we go!

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KUNKEL A STAR AT BIG SKY KICKOFF

The annual Big Sky Kickoff - a combination of meetings and media interviews with the conference's players and coaches - took place in scenic Park City, Utah, last week. While the area is a winter's playground for skiers and snowboarders, it's an outdoor person's dream this time of year. Beautiful.

I was fortunate to travel with senior Jimmy Kunkel who had to endure my stories of "I remember when....." while I got a chance to learn about how he grew up along the base of Mt. Shasta and how Park City reminded him a lot of home. I learned how Jimmy loves kid's movies, how he once had a dog that he swears was part wolf, and that he's striving for a career where he can work with and be a mentor towards youth. He wants to provide them with the same encouragement those around him - mainly his high school football coach - passed along.

In other words, it was interesting and fun, even if was decidely uncool for Jimmy to be seen with the sports information director.

Each of the 13 schools brought a player but none of them had Jimmy Kunkel who was very popular among the assembled media, mainly because in a room filled with All-America quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and defensive players, he was the only lineman.  He and I joked about how their bios took up nearly a full page while his said" "Started all 11 games at right guard."

Such is the life of a lineman.

Jimmy represented UC Davis very well. He said one of the biggest surprises came with how easily he made friends with the other players, particularly linebacker Todd Davis of Sacramento State and defensive tackle Sullivan Grosz of Cal Poly,two guys from the Aggies' two biggest rivals.
Jimmy Kunkel and Cal Poly's
Sullivan Grosz

Jimmy said it'll be nice to battle them on hard on the field and then be able to shake their hand after the game knowing they shared a unique experience.

The players ate a few meals together and hung out with each other when not answering media questions. Most of them also played in the Big Sky Kickoff Golf Tournament at nearby Soldier's Hollow Golf Course. Jimmy's golf experience consisted of three rounds but that didn't hold him back from teeing it up, even if a five-wood became a broken victim of his swing during the day.

Idaho State quarterback Justin Arias and Southern Utah wide receiver Fatu Moala were in my foursome and were a lot of fun to play with. Justin swung for the fences off every tee and usually found the fence even if it was far off to the right. But he could crush the ball something fierce. Fatu had never picked up a club in his life but still managed to put a shot four-feet from the pin on a par-3. Athletes.


As for me, well, I was minus-5. Yep, I found five less balls than I lost.

Mike Robles is assistant athletics director and a lousy golfer.

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