D-III goes worldwide: Game day!

John Carroll quarterback Jarrod Kilburn is blogging the Blue Streaks’ trip to play St. Norbert in Ireland. This is his entry covering Friday’s game:

Pittsburgh Steelers owner and U.S. ambassafor to Ireland Dan Rooney conducted the ceremonial coin toss.

Finally, game day. Breakfast was at 9:30 a.m., pushed back far enough to allow us to finally beat our jet lag. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m not sleepwalking anymore. Even though we’re in Ireland, we weren’t going to let our pregame routine be disrupted as we left breakfast and went straight to mass at 10:00, just like we would do for any other game. After mass, we split up into offensive and defensive units for meetings. We watched film on St. Norbert’s third-down defense for close to an hour, then broke up into our positions to meet with our coaches. At this point, everything was like a review before a big test that you studied so hard for – we felt confident in what to expect and what to do with our assignments.

After our position meetings, we had three hours off for lunch to get off our feet and relax. It was impossible to sleep, though. The fact that two years of waiting was down to mere hours made for an unbelievable amount of excitement. All I wanted to do was get to kick off because waiting any longer was excruciating. Finally, at 3 p.m. we had our team dinner and then started to tape the guys that needed to be taped. At 4:45 we boarded the buses for Donnybrook Stadium.

From warm-ups on everything was a blur, but I did my best to soak it all in. When we got to Donnybrook around 5:30, the high school game before us between Loyola Academy (IL) and Dallas Jesuit was still going on. I thought that it was really cool to be able to catch a little bit of that because where I’m from back home, I’m not used to that level of high school football. I think my alma mater would lose by 100 to either of those teams, no joke. As that game wound down, the specialists got ready to take the adjacent practice field for warm ups, which was another surreal moment. I remember saying to one of the other quarterbacks during our warm-up that we were doing this in Ireland and we just shook our heads and laughed incredulously. Everything about the moment was perfect – the weather, sunny and cool, the atmosphere, frenetic and by far the best I’ve ever played in at any level, and the situation. We had an unbelievable opportunity to play one of the upper echelon teams in D3 on the world’s stage to open our 2012 season.

Making the event even more special was what happened just before we took Donnybrook for the conclusion of our warm-ups. Father Niehoff, the president of John Carroll, addressed us before the game, something that had never happened in my previous two years here. He told us that he and the entire school were behind us and that he was confident in our ability to win the game. To have that type of message relayed by the president of the university before one of the biggest games in school history just added to the magnitude of everything. Further adding to the moment was Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland talking to us right after Father Niehoff finished. Unfortunately, I was pretty far in the back and didn’t get a chance to hear what he said to us, but just the fact that someone that important took the time out of their very busy schedule to say a few words to us got me fired up. I’m sure the other guys felt the same way, too.

John Carroll saw pretty much everything go right after an early 3-0 deficit.

For a country where American football isn’t extremely popular, Ireland could have fooled me Friday night. Donnybrook was packed – even the standing room only seats behind our bench were jammed! The game itself could not have gone any better in any of our wildest dreams. After a little bit of a slow start where we had a fumble and some miscues that put us down 3-0, we reeled off 40 unanswered points to win. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings I felt during the game other than it was adrenaline in the purest form. Any time one of our guys made a big play, the emotion from it flowed from the field, to the sideline, and to the stands. It was absolutely electric. In all my years playing, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a more complete performance. Our offense fired on every cylinder possible and our defense was lights-out. There’s no better feeling than being in the fourth quarter of a game that’s wrapped up completely and being able to stand back and enjoy every second of it, and this one was extremely special in that aspect thanks to the Irish fans. The end of the game was filled with chants of “Let’s go JC!,’ among other less printable ones, cries for a wristband or a red hat, and the formation of the Ireland chapter of the respective fan clubs for DT Ethan Hockett and LB Paul Okeyo.

After the final whistle, it was bedlam. We spilled onto the field in a white and gold and sang the alma mater in front of the stadium seats and after that the Irish fans were let loose on the field. I actually did a Lambeau-esque leap into the stands with some Irishmen after the alma mater. I didn’t plan it or anything – the moment just consumed me and I did it! The guys loved it and we took a ton of pictures together after my game in various poses and with them in my sideline cap and helmet. Once I wrestled all my equipment from them, I sprinted to where the rest of the team was to join the celebration, which was unreal. There were a million hugs, chants, and pictures among the players and with the Irish. Everything we had worked for and talked about for the past two years was over – we did it. The celebration definitely didn’t stop after we left the field and I’m sure these feelings will carry over the rest of our trip and hopefully into the rest of our season. What a win!