I got to go to the Capital One Bowl and it was the coolest experience of my life

Attending this press conference may have been my favorite part of the day.

Attending this press conference may have been my favorite part of the day.

When I got the email a few weeks ago that told me my credential application had been approved for the Capital One Bowl, to say I was really, really excited would be an understatement.

With each day leading up to my trip to Orlando, I got more and more excited, and not just because it’s been nice to escape the frozen tundra of Illinois for a few days.

When I got here yesterday and picked up my credential and media guides and everything, the reality set in. I was getting to cover my favorite team in a big game (including the final appearances of players like Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney), and I was getting to do it from the press box, with access to players and coaches following the game. Unsurprisingly, I had incredible difficulty falling asleep last night.

I woke up this morning, put on my clothes, triple-checked to make sure I had my credential (and I won’t lie, I felt incredibly official and cool with the laminated pass around my neck) and everything else I needed, and set off for the shuttle that would take us to the stadium. After spending an HOUR on the bus, we finally made it to the Citrus Bowl, and I was eagerly anticipating reaching the press box.

My mom had teased me before I left, saying I was probably going to end up in the back corner, unable to see things clearly. Instead, I had a front row seat, putting me as close to the action as you can be when you’re way up in the sky.

I was a little worried about being able to control my fan impulses in the box – we were reminded that cheering was not allowed and anyone who broke that rule would be asked to leave – but it actually wasn’t nearly as hard as I feared. I did have to stop myself from clapping along to the fight song, though.

PINKIES UP

PINKIES UP

I would’ve had a great experience even if the Gamecocks hadn’t won, but their win did make it that much sweeter, especially because I was seated right behind the Wisconsin section, and had a prime viewing spot to see their fans begin a mass exodus with about five minutes left in the game.

After the game, I happened to meet some fellow writers and bloggers who I only had met through Twitter, which was really nice. As we walked to the post-game pressers, I eagerly anticipated getting to see the players and coaches up close. I was not disappointed.

After listening to Badgers coach Gary Andersen and linebacker Chris Borland, it was time for Steve Spurrier, Connor Shaw, and Bruce Ellington. The HBC was in a particularly good mood, and I’m so glad I got to see it in person. I also got to see him drink his celebratory Sprite with his pinkie in the air, which was fabulous.

I hope that I get the opportunity in the future to cover many more games, whether they feature the Gamecocks or not. But even if this was my one shot, I’m so, so thankful that I got to have this experience. It was a great way to start 2014 and a day that I’ll certainly never forget.

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