“The thing about football…the IMPORTANT thing about football…is that it is not just about football” – Terry Pratchett
My name is Tyler Urbanski, referred to as “Big Bear” and I am one of the newest members to the Walk-On Redshirts. The quote above defines my love for football perfectly, the fact that it is not JUST about football. Family, Tradition, Brotherhood, and Passion are just a few of the reasons I love this game. These words are the best way to describe my memories as it pertains to football, the good ones and the not so good.
Growing up as a kid in the suburbs of Toledo, Ohio Rocket football ran through the blood of my entire family. Always known as a minor-league town, the Rockets were the only football I knew for quite some time. While growing up, my fondest memories were those of Saturday tailgates in the parking lots of Toledo’s Glass Bowl, destroying a few hot dogs and throwing the football around before we entered into the consistently sold out stadium housing the 20,000 faithful. Even during away games our family would load up the RV, drive to whichever school the Rockets were playing and cheer on the team. It felt like we visited every Mid-American Conference campus over the span of three seasons.
The best games I watched the Rockets play came with Bruce Gradkowski under center. The team had a different feel with Gradkowski at the helm from 2002-2005 where he held a 35-16 record, a key victory coming against #9 Pittsburgh in 2003. Overall, Gradkowski’s rockets had two MAC Title game appearance, and one title victory in 2004 coming against Ben Roethlisberger and the Miami (OH) RedHawks. Even down one score in 2OT versus rival Bowling Green in 2005, Gradkowski would come in clutch finding the TE fading into the back corner of the end zone.
JOINING THE ENEMY
OH BOY…WHERE DO I BEGIN HERE?
Choosing to become a Bowling Green Falcon for my college years certainly had a weird feeling to it. After being a Rocket my entire youth, was I just going to betray them and join their biggest rival straight down I-75? A lot of choices went into this decision, but all football aside, this was the best decision for myself and my future! Bowling Green provided me with a highly-ranked Business program and substantial scholarship money that have propelled me to become the man I am today. For that, I am entirely grateful.
Bowling Green football was far from a MAC dynamo at the time I arrived on campus in 2011. The falcons had recently been taken over by a new head coach by Dave Clawson, a man known personally by my family and with plans to get the program back on track. I remember standing in the student section for home games. Students would sing songs about how bad the current quarterback was. An inept defense wouldn’t close out games against several key opponents. Those stands would empty by the end of the 3rd quarter, this team…was bad.
Things changed drastically for Bowling Green football in my time there. The Falcons improved from 5-7 in 2011 to 10-4 in 2013. The Falcons won a very decisive MAC title in 2013 against the undefeated Northern Illinois Huskies led by Quarterback Jack Lynch, a team one year removed from their Orange Bowl appearance against Florida State. Following the 2013 season, Dave Clawson moved on from Bowling Green and accepted a job at Wake Forest, where he still coaches today. His successor Dino Babers took the reigns in 2014 and led the Falcons to yet another MAC title victory over the Huskies in 2015. It was a total thrill to cheer on the Falcons to victory during both of those title runs, and being in the crowd when they raised the championship trophies in Detroit. MAC football is a brand that, in my opinion, is heavily underrated and continues to put quality NFL athletes into the league year after year.
IT NEVER RAINS IN AUTZEN STADIUM
Is it the high-octane up-tempo offense? Is it all the shiny helmets and uniforms the Ducks wear week in and week out? NO. It’s family. I have always had relatives that lived on the west coast, and in the early 2000s they relocated up north to a place called Eugene, Oregon. At 13 years old I had the opportunity to travel out west to Oregon for a visit, and it is clear to see why many fall in love with the Pacific Northwest. That was the first time I had heard of the university located in Eugene, and the football team called the Ducks. I’ll admt…the first time I was told about them I had mistaken them for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Every year for Christmas, I looked forward to the Oregon Ducks shirts my cousin would send me, and used the team as an opportunity to remain close with them from so far away.
There are many Duck memories that come to mind in my lifetime. I remember the days of Dennis Dixon perfecting the statue of liberty play, faking out the Michigan defense and finishing off a rout against the Wolverines in the big house of Ann Arbor. I remember watching the ESPN update after LeGarrette Blount threw a right hook into the left cheek of a Boise State defender. Blount lost his job from that incident, paving way for the true freshman by the name of LaMichael James to step up and lead. Little did we know, LaMichael James would later break Oregon rushing records and become a finalist for the Heisman trophy.
Not all my memories of the Ducks are good ones. I remember the national title game against Auburn in 2011, where a controversial tackle of Michael Dyer was ruled a live ball and set up the Tigers for the game-winning field goal. I remember the first national championship of the College Football Playoffs, where Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota and company could not keep pace with Ezekiel Elliott and the powerhouse Buckeyes. Losses like those are what make being a Duck fan on the east coast such a challenge. Through the good and the bad, it’s the purpose and meaning of our fandom that make college football so special. As the quote read at the beginning of this article, the important thing about football is that it is not just about football.
I look forward to being a part of the Walk-on Redshirts team, and to share my take on college football with all of you.