Buckeye Cruise for Cancer: Day 1 in the Books
By Brandon Castel
After a rough day of travel on Wednesday we final arrived in Tampa around 8 p.m. Fortunately my uncle works as an air traffic controller at the Tampa International Airport, so he scooped us up and we went for a delicious meal at Whiskey Joe’s on the water.
We boarded the cruise around noon on Thursday, and if the giant boat didn’t give it away, I immediately noticed patches of scarlet and gray swarming in on the Jewel of the Seas from all angles.
Some familiar faces too. J.J. Sullinger and Demetrious Stanley were among the first to arrive, followed shortly by Ryan Miller, Anthony Schlegel and Raymont Harris. In line, we ended up next to Urban Meyer’s daughters, which seemed like it had to be some type of mistake. The athletes were given priority entry, but apparently being the offspring of the most important guy on the boat didn’t afford Nicki and Gigi with any extra privileges, at least on their way onto the boat.
Also next to us in line was a woman who apparently graduate from the University of…Michigan. Yep, that’s right. She was living her nightmare, surrounded by thousands of rabid Buckeye fans, including her husband.
This is worth mentioning because she was complaining about the fact people were continuously giving her the “O-H” cheer because her luggage said she was down from Ohio.
Another person we met in Newark was Christina, a former OSU cheerleader who was headed to the cruise as a guest performer. The last time we saw her, she was boarding the 2 p.m. flight in Newark, but we would see here again soon.
One of the first events on the cruise, as it set sail from Tampa on a five-day, four-night journey into the Caribbean, was a poolside pep rally on the main deck of the boat. It featured Brutus, the OSU Alumni Band and the cheerleaders, including our new friend Christina.
It also featured a nice performance from Shelly Graf, the first female drum major in Ohio State history. The players were on board, many of them gathered around the pool on the top deck for the OSU pep rally which included the OSU Fight Song, Buckeye Swag and plenty of ‘We Don’t Give a Damn,’ you know, for that school up north.
Still no sighting of Urban Meyer, but the stage was set. The drinks were flowing and The Free Rider Band got the Buckeye Cruise started right with a little Lonely Boy from Ohio’s own, The Black Keys.
With Scarlet Fever already in the air, fans made their way to the Coral Theater on Thursday evening for a Buckeye Spectacular event. The most spectacular part of the night might have been when Urban Meyer and his family – Shelley and the two girls – came up out of the floor on the front stage.
There was smoke billowing out from behind the curtains and strobe lights lit up the stage as the Meyer’s emerged already in the formation of an O-H-I-O. Shelley spoke at the 7:15 version of the event and Urban capped off a fantastic opening night aboard the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer.
“I feel like Apollo Creed getting ready to fight Rocky,” he said with a sly smile, wearing his No. 1 Ohio State jersey with the name Meyer printed in white letters across the back.
Archie Griffin, that guy who won a pair of Heisman Trophies a few years back, also spoke to the crowd, which was full of former players, sponsors and big-time donors. We were fortunate enough to be a part of the group honored on stage for our contributions to this years trip, but that’s not what people came to see.
They wanted more Urban, more Archie, more Eddie; so that’s what they got.
One by one, the Ohio State players were called down to the stage on Thursday evening. It was especially memorable because they were all wearing Ohio State football jerseys with their name and number from their playing days in Columbus.
The group included not only Archie Griffin and Eddie George, but also other legends like Tom Cousineau and Hopalong Cassady. J.J. Sullinger and Scoonie Penn were the lone hoopsters on the trip, but there was plenty of star power to go around.
Buckeye greats A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel joined Cousineau in representing a long line of fantastic Buckeye linebackers on the cruise. The defensive backfield was not to be outdone, however, with the likes of Mike Doss, Malcolm Jenkins and Kurt Coleman.
Jake Ballard and Jim Cordle were there from the Super Bowl champion New York Giants – though Ballard is now with the Patriots – while Dane Sanzenbacher and Michael Brewster represented a newer brand of OSU football.
The quarterbacks were there too: Kirk Herbstreit, Justin Zwick and Todd Boeckman, but no group had more star power than the running backs: Archie, Eddie, Raymont Harris, Robert Smith and Cassady.
The best moment of the night went to Kroger, who presented a check for nearly $514,000 to The James Cancer Hospital in honor of Maddie and Noah Spielman, the children of former OSU linebacker Chris Spielman.
After all, it was Stefanie who really made this possible with her courage and determination. That was not lost in all the excitement of opening night.
Previous Blog Entry - Getting to Tampa
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