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Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl Names App State’s Hughes and Miami’s Rogers Community Service Soldiers

December 13, 2023 | Barry Powers

Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl Names App State’s Hughes and Miami’s Rogers Community Service Soldiers

ORLANDO, Fla. ( – As a part of the Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl, executive director Alan Gooch awarded App State’s Michael Hughes and Miami’s Camden Rodgers with Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl Community Service Soldier Medallions. The bowl recognized these soldiers Wednesday at the Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl Press Conference at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort Convention Center.

The Owens Corning March 2 Cure is a pregame block party starting at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Burger U. The event will be highlighted by a cancer tribute march featuring the team bands, dignitaries, cancer survivors, cancer supporters and the Orlando community walking together to FBC Mortgage Stadium.

The ninth-annual Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl kicks off Saturday at 3:00 p.m. on ABC and ESPN+. Fans can listen to the contest on the Bowl Season Radio Network.

Tickets start at $35 and are currently on sale at


Partial transcription of Wednesday’s press conference: App State Head Coach Shawn Clark, junior QB Joey Aguilar, junior PK Michael Hughes, sophomore CB Ethan Johnson, Miami Head coach Chuck Martin, redshirt sophomore RB Rashad Amos, junior CB Ty Wise and redshirt sophomore LB Camden Rogers


App State Head Coach Shawn Clark

Opening Statement:

“We are excited to be in beautiful Orlando, Florida, to play in the 2023 Cure Bowl. It is a great event and a bowl game that we have been trying to get to for the last five or six years. Our players are very excited about it. Our fans are very excited about it and will travel well. This is something that we are looking forward to.

“On behalf of Chancellor [Sheri] Everts and Director of Athletics [Doug] Gillen, we want to say thank you, especially everyone involved in the Cure Bowl. You have made this special and very welcoming. This is a great event for a great cause. We are very proud to be in the 2023 Cure Bowl.

“Our season…We finished up 8-4. It was a tough conference, one of the premiere conferences in all of college football, the Sun Belt. We ended up finishing as East Champions and played in the championship game. It started off rough in some ways. We were 3-4 in October and lost those games by a combined 19 points. We have been a very resilient group that went on a five-game run. We put our seniors out the right with a win over Coastal Carolina.

“We are playing a really good MAC team. I am very familiar with Miami. I coached in the MAC for three years. I know what kind of program they have. I have a lot of respect for Coach Martin and how he runs his program. Anytime that you play another champion from another conference – that is what bowl games are all about. This is going to be one of the best bowl games in all of college football. We are very proud to represent the Sun Belt and Appalachian State.”


On the meaning of cancer to the App State program and wearing a special pink ribbon decal on the helmet:

“The disease does not discriminate. We have faced it in our program. In 2020, our assistant head coach and tight ends coach Justin Watts’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. We lived that with her. He is one of my best friends on staff. They are like family to us. We were there from the start to the finish. It’s great news that she is in remission and doing very well.

“My brother-in-law passed away from brain cancer two years ago. It hits every home. We are proud to play in the bowl game and be a positive impact on people impacted by this.”


On being balanced on offense going up against a tough Miami defense:

“We try to be a very balanced offense that is based on rhythm and tempo. We try to say off-balance and keep the defense guessing. They are one of the tops in the country on the defensive side of the football. When watching the tape, they don’t beat themselves. They do things the right way. It is going to be a challenge and we understand that.

“It is going to be a great challenge, one that our players look forward to when going up against one of the very best. This bowl game, this year from a national standpoint, could be one of the best bowl games in all of college football.”


On playing in the Cure Bowl on Saturday:

“Our kids are very excited. Anytime that you go into postseason play and have the opportunity to put your program on the national stage on ABC at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. This is the first time in the history of our program that we have been on ABC. It is something that we don’t take lightly.

“I try to keep the main thing, the main thing and that is to win. There are a lot of expectations in our program. Our expectations are to be champions and we fell short. We may not be conference champions this year, but we still have the opportunity to be bowl champions. Anytime that you can end your season as a champion it really jumpstarts your next season in a positive manner.”


On the strengths of QB Joey Aguilar:

“We are very proud of Joey. He was not a starter when he came into the season. He was in a true battle and Ryan Burger won the job. Through injury, Joey came in and his first play in college football was a 60-yard touchdown pass. Joey has really learned how to manage the game. It is something that he still works on. He has a very strong arm. He can throw from the hash to sidelines and also put touch on the deep ball. Every possession ends with a kick, if you punt or have an extra point – that is a good thing. He has learned that check downs to the backs are first downs. If it is not there, then live another down. If you ask him if the game is slowing down for him, he has great players around him and throws to seven or eight different receivers a game and is taking what the defense gives him. That is probably his biggest growth this year, looking at his reads and if it’s not there, then throw it to the back or out of bounds.”


On the opportunities presented in these postseason bowl games:

“I agree with Coach Martin. We should have all these bowl games. It is great for postseason play. It is a reward for our players. This would be our 15th-straight week of playing football without a break. We did not have a bye week. We had a Thursday game and had a little time on the back side of things. This is a reward for our players, program and fans. We should be playing in these types of bowl games, especially the Cure Bowl, which has so much meaning to it to bring awareness to cancer and help cancer research. We are blessed and thankful to be picked to be in Orlando this year.”


App State Junior PK Michael Hughes

On playing in the Cure Bowl:

“For me, this game means more, because it benefits cancer research. It is a great experience. I love Orlando. I come down here quite often to train. I enjoy Orlando in going to CityWalk and Universal, enjoying the rides and stuff with friends. It is just a great experience for our program to be down here.”


On the resiliency of this team to win five in a row:

“I believe in that as well [referring to Joey’s answer]. On special teams, I get to sit back and watch both sides of the ball. I think throughout the first seven weeks of the season. There were some good things, but at times, it felt like the trust factor wasn’t there. Putting your head down and going to work every day that is what we preach upon. We went back to work on that Monday and kept digging, started to trust each other more. We went harder at practices and that’s what started the five-game win streak.”


On using his platform to give back:

“I use my platform to give back to a woman, a young mother, back home in Charleston, W.Va. She was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I helped raise $5,700 dollars through ChampsRaise for her family – for medical bills, expenses and travel. Pretty much for anything that she needed to help her family. Being able to do that and seeing her in remission now…Midway through the season, she called me and it was one of the best phone calls I had in my life. It was very rewarding to believe in god and prayer and come out on the right side of this awful disease.”


On using his NIL for Good:

“I have always had this thing in me to help other people. I felt like using my platform to do that was the best route that I could take. In high school, I did kick it for cancer, where every point that I scored someone could donate X amount of dollars towards that point for children’s cancer research.”


App State Junior QB Joey Aguilar

On playing in the Cure Bowl:

“It is a good experience, but it is also about playing for something different that’s more than football. This is a big cause around the world. I look forward to going out there and putting on a show for people to watch to bring awareness.”


On the resiliency of this team to win five in a row:

“We have more trust in each other. You are out there playing with someone next to you, knowing that they are going to do all they can to protect you and vice versa. We came together more as a family, because that is what we are all about. We put more trust in believing each other and decided that there are two ways this season can go. We definitely did not want it to go down, so we brought more intensity and competition at practice. ”


On what sparks this offense:

“The center of the offense is one another, honestly. I am going out there throwing a pass and trusting my receivers to make plays. I am going out there dropping back and trusting that my offensive lineman are making plays. Vise-vera, the o-linemen are trusting that I am going to make the right reads. The receivers are trusting that they are going to get the ball.”


App State Sophomore CB Ethan Johnson

On playing in the Cure Bowl:

“It is a great opportunity. I am very thankful as a program and team to be at the Cure Bowl. This is my first bowl game, so it is pretty special. I want to take everything in and thank everyone for their hard work in putting this on.”


On the resiliency of this team to win five in a row:

“We got closer. It felt like that we were doing a lot of things right, but the results were not there. We had to go back to the drawing board and fix a few things.”


Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin

Opening Statement:

“We are ecstatic to be here in Orlando. I always make the joke that I would go any bowl game anywhere. If there is one in Alaska I would be happy to go there. But, I make the joke when the ask, “Where do you want to go?” I say, “Warm. Anywhere warm is nice. And this has been very nice. I’ve already been to the [Universal Studios] park with my family, and it’s a nice day out.”

“We’re really proud of the season we have had. Our kids and coaches have been amazing. Fought through a lot of different stuff. We had a goal to get to win the league and get to a bowl like this, and we accomplished it. Pretty fitting for our unit to get to this bowl, the Cure Bowl. Every college football team is tied in with the community and something to do with cancer.

“We all have the personal. We all are attached to cancer. It is not political, it is not socio-economical, it is not racial. Cancer does not care. It is one of the few things that actually brings us together. It is sad but it does. It is near and dear to all of us in life. We always tell our kids, if you have not been affected yet, you will be. If you have not been, thank goodness, you are a very lucky person. We have adopted some kids that have leukemia. It has been great for those kids and those families. I know it has been even better for our kids and our families to have that experience, to have that reality and have that appreciation and opportunity to be around those kids on a yearly basis. So, coming here and being part of a bowl that is tied in [to cancer], it is really, really cool.”


On defense winning championships:

“Yeah, defense does win championships. Offense is what the whole world loves. Offense is sexy. Everybody is like, “Oh, that was an ugly game.” That was a Picasso to me. Run the ball, play defense, play special teams.

“We felt going into the year we had a really special group. We have been good on defense and special teams for a long time. We really felt like the offense was gaining and catching up. We added some special pieces in the off-season and we felt like we could run it, and we could throw it. Early in the year, we were scoring in the 30s, scoring in the 40s, and still playing really good defense. Probably our most complete team. Then, you lose your starting quarterback, who was a great, great player. We were fortunate that we had AV [Aveon Smith], who played nine games last year. We knew what he was capable of doing, but [he is] a different style of player.

“We knew we were really good on defense. We have not taken a lot of risks down the stretch late in the season. We have kind of plodded along. We have run the ball. Leaned on Rashad [Amos] a bunch, leaned on AV’s legs a bunch, and taken our shots in the passing game when opportunities arose. Rely on what you are good at. We just plod along with what we are good at.”


On making mid-seasons adjustments and changing the style of play but winning:

“We have only been here 12 hours and people have already figured out my team. They are college kids. We all make mistakes. I have already been complimented five times about my kids [players]. How great they are, how respectful they are . . . We have really special kids. We are all selfish human beings, but we have kids who really care about each other and fight for each other.”


On what his team’s style is:

“It has not been what people like to see. They are just good. They are really good football players. They stick together, and we do not make mistakes. We are good at the things that are important. We won the turnover battle, we won the MAC Championship game. We won the field position battle. We don’t give up big plays. And we make big plays out of nothing”


On defending App State QB Joey Aguilar:

“He can run, he can throw. They are a complete offense. They are much like Toledo. They can hurt you on every play. You have got to be right on every play. If you do not, they will make a big play. You can be playing great defense and then you take your foot off the gas off if you are a step out of position, they will make you pay. Their quarterback has put up numbers that very few quarterbacks in the country have put up. If you play good [on defense] they can hang 30 [points] on you. You have to play great to keep the score where you would like it, to give you a chance to win.”


On the importance of bowl games to the players:

“We did not all grow up in situations where you get to take vacations where you want to go. For some kids, it is their first ever vacation. It really is. They are not meaningless. You do not know how special they are. Then, here you are raising money to cure cancer on top of it? This is the first kind of experience like this in a lot of these kids’ lives. And it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”


On the transfer portal affecting bowl preparation:

“Timing is not awesome. It is what it is. But, that is our job. Just keep rolling. The timing with an early bowl isn’t as good as with a late bowl.”


On having a Lou Groza winner as the country’s top kicker:

“It is mind-boggling. A national award winner in the MAC is pretty big. It is almost that you did not think it was doable. Even when he got nominated it was like that is kind of amazing. Then, he got in the finals and won it. He missed a kick last week, and I was stunned. He never misses. I have not seen the kid miss a kick in two years. Unbelievably deserving. Pretty great for the whole university, not to mention the football program.”


Miami Redshirt Sophomore RB Rashad Amos

On what the Cure Bowl means and which ribbon is on your helmet:

“This is a reward for all the hard work we did. We are really grateful to be here. Not everybody gets to be in a bowl game. I have friends that are not getting to play in a bowl. I am just grateful for it. As far as the Cure Bowl, it is the story of my mom this year. I was really grateful for her to be able to have the comfort of being a cancer survivor. I was grateful for that, and it’s a coincidence that we were able to come here to the cure bowl.”


On the activities planned for bowl week:

“I personally have never been for Universal Studios. I used to always hear about it. This is a new experience for me, But I Am also a little scared of rollercoasters, too. We will see who can get me on one.”


On how the team regrouped following an injury to quarterback Brett Gabbert:

“Playing with Brett this year I got to experience a certain level of greatness with his preparation and stuff like that. You do not always get a quarterback that can prepare like that week in, week out. When he went down, I felt really bad for him. We wanted to win every game for Brett, because we knew how much it mean to him. It is another week of me doing my job, but it was always very important that we came out with a win in the championship game for Brett. That was pretty much my goal.”


On needing to rally around two quarterbacks after Brett Gabbert was injured:

“When Henry came in, he had take over a job, it did not feel any different. Practice did not feel any different. It is just a standard we have where everybody is always prepared. Even if you are not playing at all, they were ready when they had the opportunity. I am really happy for them. They are both prepared.”


Miami Redshirt Sophomore LB Camden Rogers

On what the Cure Bowl means and which ribbon is on your helmet:

“It is a culmination of the whole year. It feels good to be here. The ribbon that I wear. It is in honor of my linebacker coach, Coach Mullin. Someone in his wife’s family is struggling with cancer. They had a tough time with it last year. The other linebackers and I wear the color of that ribbon for her family.”


On the activities planned for bowl week:

“I have never been here, either. I am also a big Harry Potter nerd. I might walk out of here with a wand today.”


On going up against prolific offenses like App Stat and finding ways to shut them down:

“All season we played some great, very dangerous offense. I think what has helped us be so successful against those is our scheme, our experience, and definitely the closeness of our group when things get tough to stay together and produce and stop those offenses. App State has a very dangerous offense, great quarterback, great offensive line, great skill position (players). It is just going to be another one of those offenses we have to stop.”


On being recognized for his work in the community:

“It is pretty easy to do the right thing when you’re surrounded by good people and you are in a good place. Oxford (Ohio) is a family environment and a small town, and it feels like we are on our own there. The Light the Night Walk is something we do every single year, and it is awesome. Everybody is affected by cancer. It is good to meet people a community of people who realize what we are fighting for, what we are fighting against, help raise some money for that. Also, small things throughout the community like going to local elementary schools, going to recess with the kids. They think we are superheroes. It is easy to do good things for good people.”


On the character of this team that has gone through a lot of adversity and stayed resilient:

“We are such a close group that the loss we had to Toledo in the regular season was tough. After the game, one of our d-ends stood up and said, ‘We are not losing another game all season. I do not care what it takes.’

“We grind all year, from January to now, and you get really close to guys on your team. We have great guys on the team, and they recruit great guys. It’s easy to so the right thing when you have, so many great guys.”


On having one of the best linebacker groups in the country:

“We have a lot of guys who embrace their roles too. I am primarily a special teams guy, and I love it. I am behind two of the best linebackers in the country. It is easy to embrace your role with such a deep (linebacker) room.”


Miami Junior CB Ty Wise

On what the Cure Bowl means and which ribbon is on your helmet:

“This bowl to me personally is kind of a culmination of our entire off-season and my career. Working so hard all year, coming to this bowl makes it worth it. My ribbon is blue for a cancer (colorectal and prostate cancers) that has affected my family.”


On the activities planned for bowl week:

“I have never been here before. I have always wanted to come to Orlando. I am honestly looking forward to seeing what the park [at Universal Studios] has in store. We got sneak peak at it yesterday – looks like a lot of fun rides. I have heard some cool things from my teammates who have been here. I am excited to go on the new rollercoaster. It is the biggest, fastest one.”


On having one of the best linebacker groups in the country:

“It’s something we pride ourselves on. The starters, we complement each other great. Even the backups, first, second, third even fourth team, there’s not much of a drop-off. Even our position coach, he is the best in the country, coach (Joe) Bowen, he gets us prepared. There are a lot of guys who can step up and compete and have absolutely no drop.”