January 1, 2013

OU players loving their new home at Cotton Bowl

ARLINGTON, Texas -- As many of you are ringing in the New Year at a local pub, restaurant, Bricktown or at home in front of the TV, most of the Oklahoma football team is welcoming 2013 in a magical place for bowl game participants - the hospitality room.

The hospitality room isn't a fancy club in Dallas, it's the room OU players have designated at the Gaylord Texan hotel just for their entertainment. It's basically a conference room turned into a lounge of food, games, televisions, stereos and all out entertainment.

And apparently, the Cotton Bowl does hospitality as well as anyone ever has.

"This is the top of the line. This is the best bowl experience I've had so far and we're only a couple of days in," said Oklahoma offensive center Gabe Ikard. "They still have a bunch of fun stuff planned for us. Where we're staying, it's pretty cool. We're practicing at Cowboys Stadium."

So what exactly comprises a Cotton Bowl hospitality room in the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas?

"We've got toy helicopters, cars, pool tables, a basketball goal, any kind of chip you want," explained Ikard. "Several coolers of all kinds of drinks, we've got some popsicles - they just put those in yesterday."

The hospitality room is so impressive, it even gets one of the Sooners' most mature players, senior wide receiver Justin Brown, excited.

"You've got chips and Snickers and Skittles and it's every kids dream in there," Brown said. "You've got everything. You've got all types of different games. You've got a basketball court, you've got a big stereo system to play music. From the food to the chips, it's everything."

Don't think the players are just hanging out eating Snickers all day long. It's not like there's a lot of free time for them to lounge around all day long.

For a lot of players, they'll forego the remote control helicopters and ice cream for a bed.

"I brought my playstation stuff so if I want to play games in my room I will. We've been so busy being here for two days now I'd rather just take a nap," said wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Maybe Stills is playing a bit coy though. For as busy as he's been, he's mentioned plenty of hospitality room activities since arriving for the Cotton Bowl.

"We've got guys in there playing knockout with the basketball hoop," he said. "I was playing Pac-Man last night and my dad and I used to get down on Pac-Man. Everything is in there. It's so much fun and it's everything I think any kid would need."

It's been such a new experience for players, they don't exactly know what to make of everything. What happens if they break something? Like the remote control toys?

That was a fear of both Ikard and Stills after enjoying some time in the Cotton Bowl's super lounge.

"I did drive around the little Corvette they have and I kind of crashed it into one of the chairs so I put it away," said Stills.

"I flew (the helicopter) once and it crashed and I was like, 'I'm not letting them charge this to my bursar's bill. I'm outta here,' explained Ikard.

But Stills soon found out, that was nothing to worry about. The Cotton Bowl staff put their mind at ease.

"They were like, 'well, if you break it just let us know and we'll get you a new one.' The people are great and they're so happy to have us and we're so happy to be here," said Stills.

If your New Year wasn't everything it was supposed to be, take heart. Your favorite Sooners were enjoying the time of their lives in the Cotton Bowl hospitality room as they rang in the New Year.

That's just how much fun they're having as they find a little down time between practices and activities here at the Cotton Bowl.


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