College football bowl season is in full swing, and tonight's Champs Sports Bowl is the first of two bowl games hosted at the Florida Citrus Bowl near downtown Orlando – the other being the Capital One Bowl on Monday, January 2.
Tonight's sellout match-up pits the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame against the Florida State Seminoles, and the gameday hype reaches beyond just tonight's 5:30 p.m. game time. This week sees a slew of fan-related events surrounding the game, including block parties hosted by the Seminole Club of Greater Orlando on Wall Street Plaza in downtown Orlando, today's Parade of Bands in Winter Park and yesterday's Champs Sports Bowl Pep Rally at Pointe Orlando.
I had the opportunity to attend Florida Citrus Sports' Champs Sports Bowl Kickoff Luncheon yesterday at the Hilton Orlando. The luncheon featured coaches and players from both Notre Dame and Florida State who were warmly welcomed by a packed ballroom of fans. Emcee Holly Rowe from ESPN (watch as she'll be reporting from the sidelines at tonight's game) narrated the program and interviewed coaches Jimbo Fisher (FSU) and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) on their keys to the game.
Two players from either team were seated at tables with fans for a three-course lunch. My table enjoyed lunch with freshman quarterback (and son of FSU's offensive line coach Rick Trickett) Clint Trickett and freshman tight end Will Tye. The pair stayed busy signing autographs and were nice enough to answer trite questions about things like pregame rituals and if they've ever been to Disney World. (The answer is yes.)
The highlight of the luncheon was when FSU junior running back Lonnie Pryor and junior kicker Dustin Hopkins took the stage for a live rendition of Justin Bieber's "Baby," with music played by dueling piano musicians from Orlando's Howl at the Moon.
Below, I've included a collection of snapshots from the event.