Optimism reigns at UB Football Kickoff Luncheon
The event, held Wednesday at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga, featured guest speaker Bill Polian, the former Buffalo Bills general manager who was also the architect of the Indianapolis Colts team which won Super Bowl XLI.
Polian, now an analyst for ESPN, had plenty of encouraging words to say and Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn percolated with his ever-present enthusiasm and positivity, But it was senior defensive lineman Steven Means who perhaps had the most audacious thing to say.
“I come to you with a vision that this 2012 UB Bulls football team will win the MAC Championship and whatever bowl game that we decide to partake in,” Means declared. “This year will not be another year of excuses and almost getting it done. We will succeed this year.”
Quinn, while not being so bold, did state that he would enter preseason practices, which begin Monday, with a new motto.
“UB is Unfinished Business,” Quinn told a group of reporters prior to the luncheon and again to the crowd. “We looked back at last year and we need to finish games and be more consistent. We will match up with everybody that we play this year.”
The Bulls begin their schedule with a daunting challenge, traveling south to play the Georgia Bulldogs on September 1. They will also play two Big East opponents, visiting Connecticut on September 29 before hosting Pitt on October 20 in the first of four straight home games. At last week’s Mid-American Conference media day, the Bulls were picked to finish fifth in the East Division, ahead of only Akron and UMass.
“I don’t pay too close attention to what other people think of our football team,” Quinn said in his media scrum. “We’re constantly motivated. We look back at last year and saw how close we were. We played the two best teams in the conference in (division winners) Ohio and Northern Illinois and saw how close we were to those teams (one-point win and one-point loss, respectively). (We’re) able to bring back 17 out of 22 starters, guys who have had significant game experience.”
Chief among those are a pair of highly-touted juniors: running back Branden Oliver and linebacker Khalil Mack. Oliver has been named to the watch list for three awards (the Maxwell, Doak Walker, and Walter Camp), while Mack is on watch lists for two (the Bronko Nagurski and Lombardi).
Quinn also admitted to the audience that he would be a very rich man if he received a nickel for every time he’s been asked about the quarterback. For the record, there are two QBs with game experience – senior Jerry Davis and junior Alex Zordich – as well as two redshirt freshmen in Tony Daniels and Williamsville South product Joe Licata.
Polian, in his keynote speech, regaled the attendees with stories from his days with the Bills, including anecdotes on his infamous “get out of town” statement and sitting in on a team meeting in which coach Marv Levy told his players how Adolf Hitler had trouble “winning a road game” in Russia.
He also paid tribute to the western New York area, stating, “Buffalo is a football town. (Not) college or pro, it’s a football town. If you’ve ever been to Williamsville vs. Clarence, or Orchard Park vs. whomever, or St. Joseph’s vs. St. Francis., you know it’s a football town. This is football country. Buffalo doesn’t take a back seat to anybody when it comes to football enthusiasm.”
Polian, who signed no fewer than six former Bulls during his tenure with the Colts, closed his 32-minute address with a story of a couple who asked him to pose for a picture and sign an autograph after Jim Kelly’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I asked them, ‘What do you want my autograph and picture for? Jim’s the one in the Hall of Fame.’” Polian said. “They told me, ‘You’re all part of it, and you gave us the happiest times of our lives.’ That’s what football means to this town. Football, when it’s successful and done the right way, which is what the (UB) administration and coach are doing, gives you those memories and those moments. You’ll carry it with you the rest of your lives.”
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