Dec. 26, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
ANAHEIM, Calif. — There are bowl games and there is the Rose Bowl. There are amusement parks and there is Disneyland.
The University of Iowa football team puts its No. 5 ranking and 12-1 record on the line against No. 6 Stanford (11-2) in the 102nd Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California. But on Saturday, both teams hit the pause button on game preparation to enjoy a day at Disney California Adventure, billed as the happiest place on earth.
Hawkeye senior defensive end Melvin Spears is from Allen, Texas, and he loves roller coasters. This is his first trip to a Disney park, although he is a veteran of Six Flags Over Texas that boasts the Titan and New Texas Giant roller coasters.
Oddly, at 6-foot-2, 268 pounds, Spears was not the largest passenger on the Radiator Springs Lightning McQueen Racers ride. That distinction went to 6-3, 290-pound junior teammate Faith Ekakitie.
UI junior cornerback Desmond King is from Detroit and a veteran of Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, with its famed Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster.
“I’m not going to get sick. I like roller coasters and I’m not afraid of heights,” said King, who, like Spears, is a Disney rookie.
King worked up an appetite after trips on Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Paradise Pier.
“I’m looking for somewhere to eat,” said Iowa’s newest consensus All-American. “I’m hoping to find a burger spot…or I’m looking for a funnel cake, I haven’t had one of those in a long time.”
King’s quest for food was briefly interrupted by Stanford head coach David Shaw.
“What’s up big man? Good to see you,” Shaw said.
Meanwhile, in front of The Little Mermaid, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, a group of Hawkeyes — including sophomore running back Derrick Mitchell, Jr. — posed for photographs with other patrons of the park.
“It’s hard not to notice when dudes are getting pancaked by Iowa offensive linemen. That is funny we ended up playing Iowa after watching so much film on those guys last year.”
Stanford offensive guard
Mitchell and his mates were on a mission to track down a burger, turkey leg, or churro. Mitchell took a rain check on Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, then placed his hand over his heart and repeatedly thumped his chest to indicate that it made him a little apprehensive.
But Mitchell admitted that in less than a week, there will be something going on in Rose Bowl Stadium that will be more exciting than any thrill ride.
“There is nothing like the Rose Bowl,” Mitchell said.
Then he wandered off, looking for a burger, turkey leg, or churro.
Outland Trophy Winner Praises Hawkeye O-Linemen
Joshua Garnett, a 6-foot-5, 321-pound offensive guard for Stanford, won the 2015 Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman, one year after it went to UI tackle Brandon Scherff, who is now with the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
Garnett saw plenty of Scherff and the Hawkeye offensive line on film last season when the Cardinal was prepping to play Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl (a 45-21 win by Stanford).
“It’s hard not to notice when dudes are getting pancaked by Iowa offensive linemen,” Garnett said. “That is funny we ended up playing Iowa after watching so much film on those guys last year.”
Garnett is from Puyallup, Washington, so he didn’t look for a college much beyond the Pacific-12 footprint. But he knows the reputation of Big Ten football…and he likes it.
“We’re trying to get that mystique that the Big Ten has with the big, strong offensive linemen,” Garnett said. “We’re trying to bring that to the west coast a little bit.”
Garnett was one of five Stanford players who joined five Hawkeyes at Disney California Adventure for the first official joint public appearance of the 2016 Rose Bowl Game teams, a tradition at Disneyland dating back to 1959. He wasn’t as interested in rides or a photo op with Mickey Mouse as he was tracking down a few of his New Year’s Day opponents.
“I’m excited to talk to those Iowa linemen you always hear about and talk to them at Disneyland,” Garnett said.