By Jeremy Harness
PASADENA – Now this is what I signed up for.
On Wednesday afternoon, I witnessed the Rose Bowl Game for the first time, and I will say this: It was much more than I expected it to be for many reasons. After Montsy, Angelita and I stayed up eating take-out pizza until 2:30 am the night before, New Year’s Day started a tad earlier than the previous day.
After quickly wolfing down a few eggs and some bacon at the hotel, I board the 9 am shuttle to the Rose Bowl stadium, a shuttle which is led by a police escort. This certainly made me feel like a celebrity, as if I didn’t feel like one since the moment I checked into the hotel here in SoCal.
After cranking out a pre-game breakdown piece for this site, it was time for me and my newfound partner in crime, ESPN Radio 100.9 FM’s Chance McBride, to take care of some unfinished business. Since both of us now had the needed game-day credentials and had allotted ourselves enough time to take in the atmosphere, we could now get on the field and snap some pictures.
For instances such as this, thank goodness for modern technology, particularly Facebook and Instagram. In a related note, I’ll be hard-pressed to find a period of time that I have used social media as frequently as these past four days.
At the end of the game, which Michigan State came out on top by a 24-20 score, the most encouraging thing that I saw was when the Stanford band played in the corner of the end zone. Yes, there were a good deal of otherwise-downtrodden Cardinal fans, but there were also a few Michigan State fans who were enjoying the band’s performance.
Not that watching this fierce matchup in my first-ever Rose Bowl wasn’t great, but the fun was about to pick up. After my post-game work was done, Chance mentioned that he needed to get out of the press box and grab some fresh air, and I saw an opportunity of a lifetime, even more so than watching the Rose Bowl in person.
See, ever since I was a kid growing up playing football up until the present day, I’ve had dreams of returning a kickoff or an interception down the sideline into the end zone. Since I had seen other folks running around on the field after it had cleared out following the post-game celebration by Michigan State, this was a chance that I simply could not walk – in this case, run – away from.
All that was needed was the permission from the security still remaining on the field level to go back onto the field, which was granted.
Lights. Camera. Action.
Standing two yards deep in my own end zone, using my cell phone and my wallet as a makeshift football, I gently toss them in the air simultaneously as in to field a kickoff. I make one cut to the right toward the middle of the field at around the 10-yard line before dashing back to the left toward the sideline at the 30 and then straighten out as I near the left sideline at midfield.
This is where I start to run away from the coverage guys, so I kick it into high gear with the end zone – and sure glory – in plain sight, and only slow down as I get inside the 10. As I get to about the 2-yard line, I somersault over the goal line and into the end zone, a la 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s game-winning, playoff berth-clinching pick-six against Atlanta two weeks ago.
Before I have a chance to celebrate, however, an official in the form of a TV reporter working on his own post-game report, had a ruling on the field.
“You stepped out right here,” he said, pointing to the opposing 41-yard line. This meant that a re-do was effectively in order.
Fielding my second imaginary kickoff two yards deep in the end zone, I make the same cuts that I made on the first one but make absolutely sure that I stay inbounds this time – which was ruled that I did – and then make the same dive into the end zone before getting up and slapping hands with imaginary fans in the back of the end zone.
Mission accomplished. That is, until I hear something approximately 50 yards away.
“Do it again!”
Big-time athletes don’t check out when they’re tired – my legs were definitely feeling the weight, most likely due to the fact that I hadn’t worked out since Christmas Eve and had not even stretched before my own kickoff – and I wasn’t about to, either.
So I make the identical pattern for my third return – hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? – and upon my somersault into the end zone, I decide to stay put in that end zone, flat on my back and not in a huge hurry to get back up. Now, my destination has been reached, and all parties present for this journey were satisfied.
Meanwhile, Chance was taking a panoramic picture in the middle of the field with his fancy smart phone – which is now on my wish list for that very purpose – and just so happened to take a picture of Jeremy Harness, the kick returner.
No worries, though, as neither I nor Stanford head coach David Shaw have any immediate plans of my replacing Ty Montgomery on kickoff returns.
I thought this was the best possible ending to this Rose Bowl night, but I was wrong. Chance had found a leftover rose from the long-vacated interview room, which still had several such roses that were otherwise going to be thrown out. With that in mind, I grabbed three of them for Montsy, Bertha and Angelita.
As I returned to the hotel with flowers in hand, each of them were greatly appreciative and made this the perfect finish to this night as well as this journey.