As the sun rose Tuesday morning over the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas, Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion players were getting ready for their first practices on the beautiful island as they prepare for Friday’s Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET).
With highs in the 80’s and bright blue skies, the weather was perfect for the opening day of team practice.
“It was great,” Old Dominion head coach Bobby Wilder said of practice. “We went for 90 minutes. We went hard. Everything was fast. Everything was constant movement. We need to get acclimated to the 80 degrees and the 75 percent humidity and we accomplished that this morning.”
“It is beautiful here,” Eagles redshirt junior quarterback Brogan Roback said. “We are practicing in paradise. The stadium is awesome. The field is awesome. Just getting back out here in the warm weather is different. We are used to the cold weather in Michigan, so we are getting used to that and staying hydrated.”
Both Eagles coach, Chris Creighton, and Monarchs coach, Wilder, want their teams to make the most of their time on Paradise Island without forgetting the ultimate purpose of the trip. Each team will practice in the morning, followed by some meetings, allowing the players to enjoy some fun in the sun.
“The whole thing is all business,” Old Dominion senior linebacker Anthony Wilson. “We knew coming in that we were coming in to play a game and try to be 1-0 throughout the week. Coach is letting us have some free time, but at the end of the day, it’s all business.”
“It was not hard to get them focused because we’ve addressed over the course of the last three weeks that we would keep our schedule the same – we would go hard in the morning, the focus would be practice,” Wilder added.
When asked about the trip so far, Wilson was excited to share his enthusiasm for the experience.
“It has been amazing,” Wilson said. “Ever since we got off the plane the weather has been great. Seeing the water, how clear it is, that’s amazing, it’s not like Virginia Beach back in Norfolk, so it’s been amazing so far. The hotel is humongous. Last night we went around the hotel. We left through one side and came out the other and didn’t know where we were.”
Later this afternoon, players of both teams will have an opportunity to swim with the dolphins at the Atlantis’ Dolphin Cove followed by a special Beach Bash celebration and dinner. At the Bash, players will compete in games such as a Popeyes chicken eating contest, pop-a-shot and pickle ball.
The days are busy but the players are enjoying their experience so far.
“It’s been hectic,” Eastern Michigan senior lineman Andrew Wylie said. “We had a few hours to ourselves last night, which was nice. But overall it’s been hectic.”
The balancing of practice and off-the-field activities will continue Wednesday. Some players and staff from both Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion will visit the Ranfurly Homes for Children and will join USA Football staff members to put on a football clinic for local youth.