ORLANDO, Fla. (CureBowl.com) – As a part of the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl, executive director Alan Gooch awarded Coastal Carolina’s C.J. Brewer and NIU’s Nick Rattin with Cure Bowl Community Service Soldier Medallions. These soldiers were recognized on Wednesday at the Tailgreeter Cure Bowl Press Conference at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort Convention Center.
Festivities on Friday kickoff at 2:00 p.m. with the March 2 Cure at historic Church Street Station. A block party at local bars and restaurants and activities for college football fans and families will be ongoing. The party gathers at the Historic Orlando Train Depot for a short program at 4:30 p.m. that includes dignitaries from the Orlando community. Then, the party marches to the gates of Exploria Stadium in a cloud of pink smoke, featuring both team’s bands, cancer survivors, cancer supporters and college football fans.
The seventh-annual Tailgreeter Cure Bowl kicks off on Friday at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN. Fans can listen to the contest on the BowlSeasonRadio network.
Partial transcription of Wednesday’s press conference: NIU Head Coach Thomas Hammock, NIU sophomore linebacker Nick Rattin, NIU freshman defensive tackler James Ester, NIU junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi, Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina senior defensive tackle C.J. Brewer, Coastal Carolina senior linebacker Teddy Gallagher, Coastal Carolina junior linebacker Silas Kelly and Coastal Carolina senior offensive lineman Trey Carter.
NIU Head Coach Thomas Hammock
“We are certainly excited to be here. I have never been a part of a bad bowl experience. This experience ranks right up there with some of the bowls that I have been to. Just the hospitality, the environment, weather, location and opponent, all of those things are top notch.
“If we can figure out a way to get the cancer survivor (Elaine Duran) from last night to speak to our team before the game, then I think we can definitely increase our chances of winning. She said that not only was she a survivor. She was a thriver. I think all of those things that she embodied and talked about – we try to embody as a football team.
“What a great opponent in Coastal Carolina. They are a quality team and have our full attention. We have had a great week of preparation and look forward to playing on Friday.”
On the using the experience from last season to build into this one:
“We played our last game against Eastern Michigan, then you start to reflect and evaluate your season. Obviously, we went 0-6. On the bus ride home, the only thing that I could think about is how hard it is to get over that hump. Those were the thoughts that entered my mind. There becomes internal pressure. There becomes external pressure. Now you are 0-6, how do you avoid being 0-7 after Georgia Tech? How do you avoid being 0-8 against Wyoming? How do you avoid being 0-9 against Eastern Michigan. How do we break this cycle? So in my mind, I thought about taking the reverse perspective and tell our guys that we are the best team in the MAC until proven otherwise. I think that should give you confidence and cohesive pressure. You only have to do the things that we ask you to do and you will be successful. That is what we came up with. It gave us a chance to go in with confidence and the type of edge that we needed. I remember the first Tuesday before Georgia Tech after we went through training camp – I talked to our players about having an edge that you don’t even realize. All we needed was little bit of momentum to kick tart all the things that I saw in training camp. I thought that we had a chance to be good now.”
On being at the Cure Bowl and playing for the cause:
“I think that it is a big thing. Obviously, everyone has either personally or knows some that has dealt with cancer in some form or fashion. Any time that you can bring awareness to something of this magnitude. Just hearing the lady (Elaine Duran) speak yesterday, that really touched me in a positive way. If we can raise more awareness and bring in more money through this game, then hopefully, we can continue our research efforts.”
On playing Coastal Carolina’s offense:
“Coastal has a great offense. They can beat you in a variety of ways. They are extremely good at running the football. They are extremely good at throwing the football. It will be a tremendous challenge. As a competitor, you want to play against the best. This is one of the better teams that we have played all season. They have had our full attention for the last 10 days and we have to make sure that we have great eye discipline, are gap sound and have to tackle. When you go to a bowl game, the guys might think it is about the experience, but we want to win the game. Then, we will have some time off after the bowl game. We are going to do everything possible to try to score one more point then them.”
NIU R-Jr. QB Rocky Lombardi
On playing in a bowl game that raises funds for cancer research:
“This is special for me because it is the first bowl game that I have been a part of that is specifically for a cause. The opening event was pretty special and moving for a lot of our guys. We took what she [cancer survivor Elaine Duran] to heart. It is a good opportunity for to go out there and play for something that is bigger than ourselves. ”
On transferring to NIU:
“I believe what coach was preaching to me. I saw film from these guys last year and saw how hard they played. Having that is something that is hard to teach. They go out there and play hard and compete for every play and every game. I think that is all that you can ask for.
“I wanted to be at a place where I could help change a program – both on and off the field. We have a lot of young guys and impressionable young men. Having an impact on them and helping to change their lives is a big deal for me.”
On playing Coastal Carolina:
“It is pretty cool. Coastal has had a lot of press over the past couple of years. They are one of the better Group of Five schools, recently. We are going to have an opportunity to go out there and prove ourselves.”
So. LB Nick Rattin
What has it meant to have Rocky Lombardi as your quarterback?
“I have said that all year. I think that Rocky has been a great addition to our team all year. He has been someone to look up to when things get tough, which we might not have had in the past. You can see how hard he plays. I love going to battle for him.”
On playing Coastal Carolina:
“I think that it is going to be cool going up against, at least defensively, an offense that we don’t get to see in the MAC. We are looking forward to seeing different looks and getting that experience.
On his impact in the community:
“Recently, myself and Marcus Cox have a friend, his name is Caden. He deals with epilepsy. We talk with him every day. During the season it has been tough to see him, but over the summer, we went over to where he lived and visited the food trucks and spent time with his family. He has come out to all of our games and has gone up to our players. I know that he is going to be here this week. I think that he is looking forward to it.”
R-Fr. LB James Ester
On going winless to being MAC champions and playing in a bowl game:
“It is a great feeling, especially when you were a big part of being on a team that didn’t win a game. You were able to see the impact had on the team. You were also able to see the determination and want to – to come out and be MAC champs. It is an amazing feeling to be a part of this.”
On playing in a bowl game that raises funds for cancer research:
“I don’t talk about this a lot, but by best friend when I was 10-years old passed away from brain cancer. Finding a cure for cancer is a big thing for me. Also, my grandmother is a breast cancer survivor. This is a huge deal for her. I want to go out there and be able to play for them.”
Coastal Carolina Head Coach Jamey Chadwell
“On behalf of our president Michael Benson, athletic director Matt Hogue and our whole program, this is a tremendous honor for us to represent the Sun Belt Conference and play in a prestigious bowl game that is raising money for breast cancer. This is our second year in a row here, but this is the first time that we were able to experience the full bowl week. I know our players had a tremendous time last night from all the stories that I have heard. We are excited about being here. If the ball game is as good as the entertainment, then we are in for a great game.”
On the heartbreaking overtime loss in the last year’s Cure Bowl help push you going into this year:
“I think anytime that you lose. It is a motivating thing. I think that obviously we had a tremendous season there, but were unable to finish it off. This 2021 team and specifically our super seniors – what they have done for our program is tremendous with the conference championship and national recognition. To top that off, we need to win a bowl game – that would be their final legacy. I do think that there is extreme motivation to get that win and it is a challenge. We are a tremendous football team in what we have achieved. I know that they are motivated by going out and finishing off the season the right way. Try to have back-to-back 11-win season, it doesn’t happen a lot. It is their chance o cement their legacy.”
On trying to contain NIU QB Rocky Lombardi:
“It is a challenge, because they are tremendous at running the football. When you load the box up, that is when he is able to hit some play action. We are going to have to do a good job at disguising coverages. If we don’t stop the run, then it doesn’t matter what we do because they can do anything. I think that we have to do a great job on both sides of the ball. We have to give him some different looks and coverage-wise and make him slow down a bit. Or, we can get a pass rush to disrupt some things. They have a tremendous offense that will be a big challenge for us.”
On his four captains and super seniors – C.J. Brewer, Trey Carter, Teddy Gallagher and Silas Kelly:
“These guys have been here a long time. They type of young people that they are and the things that they are about – that is what separate them. They are all great football players and have the opportunities to do tremendous things on and off the field to be successful. It is because of who they are and they all could have left. When I got here, they had to make a choice and made it blindly, then everyone followed their leadership. We are all in. It wasn’t anybody that was in between. They got everyone on their side. The leadership that they have displayed is why we have been so successful. Who they were and how they controlled the locker room. They are great football players, but it is going to be hard to replace their leadership. You couldn’t put a price tag on what they mean to this program and university. Everyone recognizes Coastal Carolina because of these four. They are special and not done.”
On how QB Grayson McCall has grown from last year:
“From a physical standpoint, he has improved by having an offseason inside our program due to CoVID. This year from a physical standpoint, he has gotten better and continued to mature. He is a great player, but there is a maturity level that you have to obtain, especially for a quarterback and has gotten better each week. He improved a lot on the field, but off the field is where he has continued to grow. He has made great strides as far as being a leader.”
S-Sr. LB Teddy Gallagher
On putting on the pads one last time:
“It is going to be bittersweet. There are going to be a mix of emotions. Obviously, the journey that we have been on from when I committed and now we are 21-3 in our last three years. I am very happy abou the journey that I have been on and I would not change it for the world.”
On the bond of playing as linebackers:
“We are kind of like twins. We kind of have the same brain. We are roommate. We live together. Every hotel trip, we are in the same room. It has gotten to the point where I can look at him and know exactly what he is thinking and about to say. That comes with the chemistry of playing together and being best friends.”
On playing in a bowl for a cause like cancer research:
“Cancer has effected everyone. My dad is a cancer survivor. Obviously, this means a lot to me. It is great to play for a cause. The Cure Bowl is amazing for it does for cancer research and I am very proud to be able to play in it.”
S-Sr. LB Silas Kelly
On the senior class being together for six years:
“We have had the opportunity to play a lot of football together. I think that we have been given a great opportunity to grow as football players, as men, on the field and off the field. We have bene blessed to play football with some of our best friends that we will ever have in our entire life. We have grown each year. We have great coaches and culture”
On his time at Coastal Carolina:
“Just learning how to handle adversity. We have been through so much as a team and individually in the time we have been here from injuries and playing through stuff like that. When you go through adversity, it kind of hardens you a little bit. When you are placed in a situation that you have to overcome something, then you have been through something like that before. It doesn’t seem as hard as it actually is. That is the key that I take away from my time at Coastal. It is what you make it.”
S-Sr. OL Trey Carter
On going against each other every day:
“He is a great player and my best friend. He is an NFL-caliber defensive tackle, so if you are going up against him every day, then you have not choice, but to get better as an offensive lineman. I am blessed to share the field with him over the five and a half years and am happy to get one more game.”
On being loose today at practice:
“We are just making sure that we enjoy our trip, but we are very aware about the caliber of football team that we are playing on Friday. They are very good – MAC champions. Their resume speaks for itself They are a very good football team. We are looking forward to playing them on Friday.”
S-Sr DT C.J. Brewer
On being recognized for his impact in the Coastal Carolina community:
“It is real big and I pride myself on that. We do a lot of different things. The past two weeks, we did an adopt a kid in the area Horry County for kids that are not going to get a Christmas. Each position group adopted two kids and each person used their own money like $20-30 each. Some kids want bikes and some just wanted some clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste and books. I really like doing that one. I did the program with the Tim Tebow foundation for kids with special needs. I love doing that every year and take pride in helping out.”
On having a second chance at playing in the Cure Bowl:
“Last year with CoVID, it was pretty much like an away game. We came in the night before and played the next day. This year is a lot different. It is our first bowl game, so we are really experiencing everything. We are blessed to be here and get the full bowl experience.”