NASSAU, Bahamas — FIU and Toledo both arrived to the Atlantis Paradise Island resort on Monday afternoon to kick off year five of the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.
The Panthers and the Rockets both entered the week with great enthusiasm for Friday’s bowl game.
“We’re unbelievably happy about being in the Bahamas and experiencing this. Our kids were geeked up when they found out we were coming and they were even more geeked up this morning when we got on the plane,” said FIU head coach Butch Davis, who is leading the Panthers to their second-straight bowl appearance and fourth in school history. “I can’t imagine a better place than Atlantis to come.”
Under third-year head coach Jason Candle, Toledo is set to play in its fifth-straight bowl game and 11th bowl overall.
“You can probably imagine the excitement. You always want your bowl trip to be somewhere really warm and somewhere really nice. This one is obviously the top of the mountain when it comes to that,” said Candle. “I hope our guys enjoy the week. It’s a good chance to balance a little bit of fun, and we want to send our senior class off the right way with a win. We want their last time in the midnight blue and gold to be a memorable one.”
The opportunity to play the final game of the season in a different country has also had a significantly positive impact on many players.
“This is actually my first time even out of the country,” said FIU redshirt senior defensive lineman Anthony Johnson. “I’m just extremely excited to see the different views and everything. We all want to experience different things that we aren’t able to do back at home. Everybody’s excited. Everybody on my bus was up, laughing, and having a good time.”
Toledo senior wide receiver Cody Thompson echoed Johnson’s zeal.
“The excitement started way before we pulled in, when we found out we were coming down here,” said Thompson. “A lot of guys haven’t ever been out of the country – my last time was when I was young. Going to the Bahamas is something everyone talks about and dreams about, so I’m really excited to be here. It’s an amazing opportunity to play football outside of our home country.”
While each team is excited to be in the Bahamas, the primary focus remains Friday’s game, which is set to kick off at 12:30 pm at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
Teams Enjoy Welcome Party on Night 1
FIU and Toledo were able to enjoy Night 1 with a fantastic welcome party in the lobby of the Royal Tower at the Atlantis Hotel, complete with a Junkanoo performance, delicious food and a pinball tournament.
Following Junkanoo and dinner, four players from both FIU and Toledo competed in a pinball tournament sponsored by Stern Pinball – a local company to Elk Grove Village, Ill. Toledo senior linebacker Tyler Taafe was crowned champion of the eight-man competition, earning the Rockets one of the pinball machines.
“It was a lot of fun – an awesome way to start the week. We get to take home a pinball machine to the our player’s lounge at Toledo, so I am grateful for that opportunity,” said Taafe. “This is a really good bowl game – the best one I’ve been to in my career. The Atlantis is amazing.”
Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson was also in attendance to emcee the pinball tournament.
“The pinball contest is exactly what we wanted. Elk Grove is a manufacturing town and we wanted to highlight one of our manufacturers,” said Johnson. “Stern is the biggest maker of pinball machines in the world, and we thought it would be a great way to show off Elk Grove. It was a win for everyone – for the teams, the players, the bowl, the Atlantis and Elk Grove Village.”