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!

D-III goes worldwide: We really are in Ireland!

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

Today started with a wake-up call at 6:45 a.m. (Dublin time) and then breakfast shortly thereafter. Pretty similar to an American breakfast, except here the bacon is more like pounded ham. An interesting, but pretty good, difference. Once we finished, we loaded the bus around 8:15 and traveled to the University College Dublin for today’s practice. This one was especially cool because there were four other teams on four other fields right next to us at the same time, something that we’re not accustomed to. After practice, we showered and walked the campus of UDC where the Vice President gave us a brief talk about the school and the graduate programs that they offer around 12:00 p.m. Lunch came next, which introduced us to Irish chocolate. It was unbelievably good and pretty funny to see a bunch of college football players acting like kids trying different types of candy bars and going crazy over them. Strength and conditioning coaches everywhere would have cringed at the display. I’m pretty sure I ate as much or more candy than I did for lunch.

When finished around 1:00, we walked back across campus and bused to Donnybrook Stadium, the rugby pitch that will serve as our stadium Friday night. At that point, everything surrounding this whole trip sunk in – we really were in Ireland to open up our 2012 season as part of this amazing event. I was so excited to finally take the field for the first time and took something like fifty pictures of it from all different angles and locations. The field was nice – stadium seating on St. Norbert’s sideline with standing room only seating behind ours, and grass that was in pretty good condition. It won’t be much of a change for us from our turf back home, which certainly helps when you’re the away team. From there we bused to Trinity College, the premier school in Dublin and maybe all of Ireland. The campus was gorgeous and awesome to see first-hand, especially since it housed the Book of Kells and the library that was featured in the most recent “Star Wars” movies. Unfortunately, everything that we saw on the tour we will have to recall from memory as taking pictures wasn’t allowed.

Shortly after finishing the tour and checking out the book store, we walked from Trinity to a street in downtown Dublin for the parade to kickoff GIFT 2012 at 3:00. All twelve teams and their respective bands and cheerleaders marched in it and it caused the majority of streets in the area we were in to be completely closed down. At first, I was a little skeptical of how the parade would be received since American football is nowhere near as popular here as rugby or Gaelic football. However, once it started I was amazed at the turnout and reception — it was packed! Parents, alums, and Dubliners alike lined the sidewalks to capture all the action and show their support. I did as best I could to both soak in the moment and make sure that I took enough pictures to remember it. I think it’s safe to say we left the parade with a slight edge in the eyes of the Irish thanks to the little vinyl footballs the school provided us to throw out during it. Never underestimate how crazy people will go for promotional items. The parade wrapped up back at Trinity College with a rally. All teams sent a player representative with the head coach up to the stage to be honored while delegates and organizers talked about the event. It was unbelievable to have everyone in one spot, especially since we were able to mix in with the other teams and get to know some of their guys.

Once the rally ended, we bused back to our hotel for dinner at 8:00 and then straight to a team meeting at 9, which to say was inspiring would be an insult. Coach Scafe got us so fired up we were ready to go out and play the game on the 18th fairway right then. St. Norbert’s has been all we’ve been thinking about since our season ended last year and excited can’t begin to describe our team’s sentiments about the game tomorrow. It’s going to be hard sleeping tonight, that is for sure. 7:30 p.m. tomorrow can’t come soon enough.

More on the John Carroll-St. Norbert game in Dublin:

Kilburn’s entry from John Carroll’s travel day and first day there.

Blue Streaks | Green Knights | Kilburn’s bio | JCU in Kickoff ‘ 12 | G.I.F.T. | Broadcast | Game notes

St. Norbert senior DB Josh Vanden Heuvel’s video blog with WLUK-TV in Green Bay

D-III goes worldwide: John Carroll arrives in Ireland

John Carroll at a rally at Trinity College in Dublin, IrelandMy name is Jarrod Kilburn, and I’m a junior quarterback at John Carroll University. In January 2011, it was announced that we were selected to face St. Norbert College in Dublin, Ireland as part of the Global International Football Tournament (GIFT) 2012, which also includes five high school football games featuring both U.S. and Canadian teams over the course of three days. GIFT 2012 is meant to showcase the growing game of American football in Ireland and leads up to the annual Notre Dame-Naval Academy game, with this edition being played in Dublin under the name of the Emerald Isle Classic. Our coaches and administration worked tirelessly to allow us to have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m ecstatic to cover it for avid Division III football fans across the country.

Here’s Jarrod’s first entry:

The trip started with a team breakfast at 8 a.m. (eastern), double-checking the equipment bags over at Shula Stadium, and to load the buses. Luckily they were there on time and we were loaded and off to Cleveland-Hopkins International before 10. Surprisingly, for bringing almost 80 large human beings with 2 to 3 bags each, we breezed through security in under an hour. I was at our gate before 11, leaving me plenty of time to panic before we took off at 1:35 p.m. for JFK International in New York. There are few things that I hate more than flying and I can almost guarantee that I will be the most uneasy rider on flight 3582, even worse than any first-time flyers.

I never realized how close New York and Cleveland were before that flight. Hard to believe it was only a little over an hour to get there. While it was short, it was definitely an uncomfortable flight – planes that small are not meant for a college football team. Too many people in a too small space, but it still beat driving. Once we got settled, we split off and grabbed lunch and hung around the airport until we boarded out flight for Dublin at 8:30 – five and a half hours after we arrived in New York. I was beyond thrilled to see recharge stations every few feet because my laptop and iPod were not going to make the whole flight overseas without dying on me. I gotta say, Tom Petty had it right – waiting really is the hardest part. I wish we could board right now, partly out of getting the flight over with, but mostly because this whole thing will finally seem real. It’s crazy to think that I was at the presser for this game in January ’11 as a freshman with it one and a half years away and now it’s only a few days from actually happening. It’s difficult to put excitement into words at this point!

I still am having trouble believing that I’m actually in Dublin. I keep waiting for someone to say that this whole thing is a joke and that we’re in Dublin, Ohio. It really is that surreal. The flight over was not bad considering we all pretty much slept the whole way over and was extremely smooth. After passing through customs and claiming our bags, we split up into offensive and defensive buses and were taken on a tour of the area. The highlights of the tour were seeing the castles formerly under the control of the Talbots and the Taylors and hearing a little bit about their histories, as well as having lunch in Dublin and seeing the city for ourselves. Once we finished there, we bused to our hotel a few miles outside the city. The hotel is unreal – beyond big and built on a golf course. It literally is picture perfect, and that isn’t even doing it full justice. After getting checked in, though, it was back to business as we boarded our buses again to a nearby field for practice. Following that, we showered up, grabbed a great Irish dinner, and then had a quick team meeting before breaking up for the night. I have to say though; the time change was a bit bizarre, as at some point during the flight over the Atlantic we all of a sudden lost five full hours. At first, it was a non-issue since we were all so excited to finally be in Dublin, but it definitely hit us pretty hard once we left the airport. I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired in my life, to be honest, as I’ve slept maybe three out of the past thirty-two hours. By far, one of the longest but best days I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings and continue our preparations for St. Norbert’s Friday night. Onward on!

More on the John Carroll-St. Norbert game in Dublin:

Blue Streaks | Green Knights | Kilburn’s bio | JCU in Kickoff ‘ 12 | G.I.F.T. | Broadcast | Game notes

St. Norbert senior DB Josh Vanden Heuvel’s video blog with WLUK-TV in Green Bay