Football in Paradise

If you would have told me six months prior to the start of my first year at the University of Iowa that I’d be on the video staff for the Iowa football team and that I’d spend a week of winter break in Tampa, I would have called you crazy.

I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work with and around a college football program before I even set foot on Iowa’s campus as a student. But a year and a half and two football seasons later, I feel right at home. Now I can’t imagine not working for this well-respected program.

Instead of going home after the Fall 2018 semester ended, I stayed in Iowa City to film practices as the Iowa football team prepared for its matchup against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.

On December 26th, we departed from the Eastern Iowa Airport and landed in the sunny Tampa Bay area. Once we settled in at Westin Tampa Waterside and picked up some groceries from Publix, we walked along the Tampa Riverwalk and searched for a place to eat dinner. We decided on Sparkman Wharf, which is an outdoor waterfront destination with food, music, and games. It was a cool place, but they had heat lamps on even though it was 66 degrees.

The next day we filmed the first practice of the week at the University of Tampa. For lunch, some of us ate at The Sail, which is right down the street from our hotel. (I had the first of three different Cuban sandwiches I would end up eating in Tampa.) During the afternoon, a few of us went to The Florida Aquarium, which was actually more fun than I thought it’d be. That night, we grabbed some food from Publix (where I got my second Cuban sandwich of the trip) and then headed over to Amalie Arena to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning face off against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning won 6-5 in overtime, making my first NHL game an exciting one.

On December 28th, we started the day off by filming practice at the University of Tampa again. I spent the afternoon exploring downtown Tampa and walking along the Tampa Riverwalk. I even visited the Tampa Museum of Art, which was free with a student ID. That evening, we went to Topgolf where I confirmed my suspicions: I’m terrible at golf. But that’s ok because it was still fun to watch other people play while I talked, ate food, and drank Dr Pepper.

On December 29th, we again started the day off by filming practice. A few hours after practice ended, we went to Busch Gardens. Unfortunately, it was hot, the lines were long, and we only went on one rollercoaster. However, I still considered it a great day because I found a place that sold Dippin’ Dots.

There wasn’t practice the next day, so I was able to sleep in for a bit. Instead of going to Clearwater Beach with the team, I decided to go to Raymond James Stadium to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play against the Atlanta Falcons in my first ever NFL game. I didn’t buy my ticket until 40 minutes before the game was set to start, and I didn’t get to my seat until right when the game kicked off. Both teams had already been eliminated from playoff contention, but the game was still really fun. The Falcons ended up beating the Buccaneers with a field goal as time expired.

On December 31st, we filmed one last practice at the University of Tampa and then headed over to Raymond James Stadium to take the team photo. After that, we tore down the meeting rooms at the hotel and relaxed for a few hours. Since it was New Year’s Eve, we ate at a place called Hattricks (where I got my third and final Cuban sandwich of the trip), went bowling at Splitsville, and watched the fireworks on the water right next to our hotel as the new year began.

The first day of 2019 was the day of the Outback Bowl. We arrived at Raymond James Stadium four hours early to set up our cameras and make sure everything worked properly. During the first half of the game, I watched from the field as the Hawkeyes took a 17-6 lead into halftime. During the second half, I filmed from the top of the scoreboard in the north end zone. It was stressful to film and watch Mississippi State’s final drive, but Iowa’s defense stopped the Bulldogs on 4th down, securing an Outback Bowl win for the Hawkeyes.

While the week I spent in Tampa was full of great food, new experiences, and a big win, I’m happy to be back in Iowa City. It’s nice to return to my usual routine, but I’m still really thankful to have a job in college that allows me to have experiences like this one.

Here’s to hoping I have a long and successful career in the sport industry no matter what I choose to do.


Thank you for reading! I only posted once during first semester for multiple reasons, but I’m feeling much better now. Be sure to keep an eye out for my next post. If you want to see more of my daily life as a Hawkeye, feel free to follow me on social media. Go Hawks!

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