The Virginia Tech football team arrived in El Paso Thursday evening for the 80th Hyundai Sun Bowl and bowl officials wasted little time showering the team with the hospitality the event has become known for.
The players and coaches left Blacksburg at 11 a.m. while the support staff left at noon, both headed for Greensboro. There, the two groups took separate charter planes for the direct flights to El Paso. The route was in direct contrast to how the 1946 team traveled to El Paso for the 1947 Sun Bowl. That team flew out of Roanoke, landed in Knoxville to re-fuel, then again in Memphis and again in Ft. Worth and finally in Big Spring, Texas. From there, the team bussed to El Paso due to a snow storm that wouldn’t permit flights into El Paso.
The first group arrived a little after 4:30 p.m. local time while the second plane arrived an hour later, setting their watches back two hours to account for the mountain time zone. The only busses the team took were the ones from the airport to the team hotel, about a two-minute drive.
Inside the airport, dancers, a Mariachi band, singers and bowl dignitaries welcomed the Hokies upon their arrival and head coach Frank Beamer put on a sombrero and showed off his dance moves.
“This is the best bowl welcome we’ve ever had,” Beamer said. He would know as this is his 21st straight bowl.
Tech, as always, sent an advance travel team to El Paso to unpack gear and get everything ready at the hotel and practice site so that when the team arrived, hotel keys were ready, meeting rooms were set up and the staff could hit the ground running. The team had a brief team meeting to go over rules for the week, which included a speech from Sun Bowl director Bernie Olivas. His message was brief and simple, but can be summed up with “El Paso is a great town and don’t go to Juarez.”
Shortly thereafter, the entire travel party headed west to Sunland Park, N.M. (El Paso is literally right on the border of New Mexico) for a barbecue hosted by the El Paso Sheriff’s Department. A band provided live music and a holiday-style dinner that included brisket, sausage and chicken was served as both teams for a real Southwest welcome. The highlight of the night came as players from both teams had a competition to determine the best talent. For Tech, Antone Exum gave the audience a little freestyle rap while Demitri Knowles tickled the ivories on the keyboard.
The party got back to the hotel around 9:30 p.m. and after a long day of travel and gaining two hours, most went right to bed or explored the hotel. The team will hold its first practice on Friday morning at the Socorro Activities Complex. Members of the offense will meet with the media beforehand afterwards, both teams will get to go to Ft. Bliss to spend some time with the troops.
Check back each day for updates from El Paso here on hokiesports.com.
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