By Brent Blum, CycloneFanatic.com Contributor
It is finally here. After 245 days of waiting, Cyclone football returns. Thursday is a Cyclone family reunion, 50,000 strong.
There aren’t many experiences that can match the first trip to Jack Trice Stadium each fall.
For me, the butterflies get amped as I approach the Highway 30 exit on I-35 with the "Cyclone Nation" billboard in the distance. The stroll down University Avenue puts things over the top. It may be the only time I’m happy to be in traffic. With the windows rolled down, you can see students hauling coolers to their place of pasture. Plastic flip-cups included. The familiar aroma of brats and burgers fills the air. And an aural mix of everything from Montgomery Gentry to Lil Wayne blasts from the student lots. Cardinal and gold is everywhere.
And once you make that final curve on University Avenue, there appears Jack Trice Stadium primed and ready to host the biggest party of 2010.
It feels like a scene in "Field of Dreams"–all that is missing is James Earl Jones bellowing, "This is college football Ray. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again, but football has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and could be again."
The hours preceding opening kick are some of the most enjoyable of the year. The anticipation builds with each minute. Friends, new and old, gather to discuss the expectations for the year while throwing bags in lot D4:
"I can’t wait to see a healthy Money Reynolds this year. Oh and Shontrelle Johnson, rumor is he’s legit."
"I heard Arnaud has looked awesome in camp. Maybe he finally has a breakout year."
"Yea, but that defensive line scares the heck out of me. Northern Illinois may run all over us."
"It’s cool man, we’ve got "Dutch and the Knott Hole Gang." (note–I’m going with this nickname for the defense by the way. Feel free to hop aboard.)
And then inevitably everyone’s drunk friend will chime in: "Win or lose, we still booze!" Thanks for that, bub.
Everyone is in a great mood. The energy is palpable. And the band starts to play in the background.
During this time, it’s very acceptable to go through several pit stops of emotions. The spectrum ranges from deranged excitement to stomach-churning nervousness and everything in-between.
The sirens fire as the team bus arrives. The PA system emanates from Jack Trice. The buzz gets louder.
"I really hope Leonard Johnson is ready to take that next step."
"Are Darks and Sedrick finally healthy enough to make a splash?"
"I think this is the game someone finally takes a kick-off to the house. It’s been 16 years. I’m thinking it’s Lenz."
"Anybody know the name of our punter?"
And when that time comes, the pilgrimage from the lots to the Jack commences. Adults get that one last ounce of liquid courage, while the youngsters weave thru the moving crowd like they are Alexander Robinson.
Final preparations are being made in the locker room. The smoke readies for the grand entrance.
For the next 12 weeks Cyclone football is back.
The journey starts now.
I leave you with the speech Paul Rhoads gave his squad following the Cyclones victory over Minnesota 245 days ago. Let’s get this party started. See you all at the Jack.
"Day after day and situation after situation, you do things the right way. If you do things the right way in life, are you going to be successful?
I’m not just a football coach. I’m not just here to win games and neither is everyone else around you.
I could not be prouder of who you are and who we are becoming. Together. You do things right in the classroom, you do things right off the field and you do things right on the field.
That’s what makes us Cyclones, that’s what our culture is all about.
I’m damn proud of you, now let’s sing a little song!