As players are made available at the media room at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, I will be grabbing quotes from some key players regarding their travel, favorite stadiums, most memorable moments, and NFL stadiums they are most looking forward to playing in. Check back for additional quotes as quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are made available on Friday.
Tennessee TE Luke Stocker
What was your most memorable moment as a college football player?
LS: It is hard to say because there are so many of them. There are two times that stick out huge in my memory. The first would be first touchdown at UT, which was against Alabama at Alabama in 2007. It ended up putting us up 14-10 at the half and we ended up losing that game but it was still a huge moment in my career getting my first touchdown and contributing as a freshman. Later on that year we went to four overtimes versus Kentucky and ended up beating them, which put is in the SEC Championship Game. That feeling of accomplishing winning the East and getting to go to the Championship Game was a great feeling.
What was the most hostile environment that you every played in?
LS: Alabama takes the cheese for that one. Especially in 2009 when we got down and they blocked a field goal to hold on and win the game. I made the catch to put us in field goal range, and you could hear a pin drop in that stadium, and it wasn’t two minutes later when they blocked the field goal and that place just absolutely erupted. Alabama doesn’t like Tennessee and their fans are so passionate down there and that is why it is the way it is down there.
What makes the SEC the best conference?
LS: I think it is the fans. SEC football is the premiere league. All of the top players wasn’t to play in the SEC and the majority of the top recruits go to the SEC, so you get these teams down there that are all loaded with talent from the top recruits in the country. They want to play in environments like Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn; their fans are so passionate about football and that is what makes it so great.
What NFL stadium are you most looking forward to playing in when you get the opportunity?
LS: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, and not just because they just won the Super Bowl. All of the history that is there and Coach Lombardi and all of the trophies under him. Obviously Green Bay has a tremendous amount of history in the NFL and a tremendous legacy, so getting to play in Lambeau Field would be very special to me.
Villanova T Ben Ijalana
You have played road games at West Virginia, Penn and Lehigh to name a few. What was the most hostile road environment you ever played in?
BI: Delaware. They hate us and they are right over you. It is sick. It is one of the better stadiums in FCS football.
Is there a stadium other than Delaware that you were in awe of when you played there?
BI: Appalachian State. The Rock. As far as playing there during the Armanti Edwards years. I spoke to a former player and he was telling me that the playoff game that we had wasn’t even App State at full capacity. It was just sick.
Florida OL Maurice Hurt
What was your most memorable moment playing at The Swamp?
MH: My most memorable moment playing at The Swamp was probably the first time I ran out of the tunnel. There is nothing like it. Coming from high school into The Swamp with 90,000 people in there and the fans are going crazy – not to slight the National Championship or anything like that – but when you enter The Swamp, whether you are playing or not is an amazing experience. It is humbling and it is everything you could ever dream of. That was probably my most memorable time. Just running out of the tunnel for the first time at The Swamp.
Did you feel a similar rush going into any road stadiums? What was the most hostile stadium you played in?
MH: We play in the SEC so there are a lot of hostile stadiums. The first time we played at Rocky Top, we played at Death Valley at LSU, oh man. I’ll remember those experiences for the rest of my life. Being in those hostile environments, playing the game you love, facing that adversity with all of the fans going crazy. There is nothing like it.
What did you love most about Gainesville?
MH: Just being a part of the Gator Nation and trying to represent it well. That whole lifestyle of being a football player in Gainesville; the fans love you and little kids want to get your autograph and things of that nature. They don’t even care if you were on the field, they just want you to sign something. They know who you are. The fans in Gator Nation were great, so that was the best thing about being a Gator.
Michigan State TE Charlie Gantt
What was the most hostile road environment that you remember playing in during your days at Michigan State?
CG: It has got to be Iowa. The fans are crazy. When they get going, if they get momentum; their stands are right next to your bench and their fans are just so loud. They are on top of the other team and they hit you hard, and before you know it you are down a lot. This year we got our butts handed to us. It is a hostile environment and if you don’t come ready to play you are going to get your butt beat.
You felt that more than playing at Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State?
CG: Michigan is Michigan. It is hostile there but we still have about 30,000 fans there. There are 100,000 seats but you still have some of your fans there. At Iowa, it is pure Hawkeyes fans.
If there is one NFL stadium you are most looking forward to playing in when you get the opportunity, which stadium would that be?
CG: I’d have to say Ford Field. It would be cool because my whole family is in Michigan and I’d be playing at home. That is my team; they were OK this year but it has been tough the last couple of years. But that is my team and if would be great to play in that city as an NFL player.