Painting The Capitol Purple - Day 1

UABSPORTS.COM East Carolina arrived in Washington, D.C., Friday for the Dec. 29 Military Bowl.
East Carolina arrived in Washington, D.C., Friday for the Dec. 29 Military Bowl.

Dec. 24, 2010

 Military Bowl Day 1 Photo Gallery | Military Bowl Day 1 Video

Pirate Nation:

A merry Christmas Eve to East Carolina supporters from Greenville to Honolulu, and everywhere in between.

Welcome to Washington, D.C., the 2010 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman and Painting The Capitol Purple, the official blog of this week's trip.

It has been a long and eventful day for the Pirate football team and ECU administrative staff. The team began with an 8:00 a.m. breakfast buffet at Harvey Hall before the ride up to our nation's capital. Four busses stuffed with an uncountable number of bags stored beneath them departed from Greenville around 9:00 a.m. and arrived in Washington, D.C., at approximately 1:20 p.m.

Team Welcome Reception
As soon as the team got off the bus and into the Mayflower Renaissance, it was greeted with a very warm reception. The players walked into the Mayflower's Grand Ballroom through fans lining both sides of the hallway and cheering for the Pirates. There were purple and gold balloons hanging everywhere, along with Military Bowl signs welcoming East Carolina to Washington, D.C.

The event started with a buffet of hors d'oeuvres. Trust me when I say nobody went hungry. Mini cheeseburgers, small slices of numerous kinds of pizza, chicken fingers, French fries, pasta salad, pretzels, potato chips, tortilla chips with salsa, Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, hot cider, coffee and more were available for the players, coaches and staff.

After everybody ate their fill, six speakers gave brief remarks about the Military Bowl and its significance to the Washington area. The first three to address the crowd were Steve Beck, Executive Director of the Military Bowl, Kirby Smith, Executive Director of Sales for Marriott Global, and Erik Moses, Senior Vice President for the Washington Convention and Sports Authority. The fourth presenter was Marie Rudolph, the Co-Founder and Director of Teams and Special Events for the Military Bowl, who asked the team four trivia questions involving football and the nation's capital. Players were given Military Bowl t-shirts for correct answers.

Following Marie on the stage was Joe Reeder, who is a Military Bowl Board Member, Airborne Ranger, 82nd Airborne Division and former Under Secretary of the Army. Reeder presented East Carolina Associate Athletics Director for Administration Lee Workman with a United States flag in honor of ECU and its participation in the Wednesday game. The flag had previously flown above the U.S. Capitol.

The final speaker was Pirate first-year head coach Ruffin McNeill. Reeder asked the East Carolina players to stand up and give a "hooah" cheer for McNeill in honor of the Army. McNeill returned the favor by asking his team to sing the East Carolina fight song. McNeill then thanked the bowl for the opportunity to be invited and the chance to play in the nation's capital.

Evening Practice
After the welcome reception, the Pirates held a brief team meeting before the players went and changed for practice. At 5:00 p.m., the busses departed for Eastern High School, approximately 15 minutes away from the hotel.

The school is within walking distance of RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory, where the Pregame Tailgate Party will be held Wednesday morning. While standing on the high school field, you could see RFK looming in the background.

The Pirates had five days off prior to today's practice, so it was designed to shake off any rust that might have accumulated during the layoff. Due to having only one field to work with at Eastern, the special teams, offense and defense took turns utilizing the space.

After a stretching session began practice, special teams work followed while the offensive and defensive players went through individual skill drills. Once the punt and kickoff teams were finished, the offense and defense warmed up at the same time, each using half of the field. The offensive and defensive units closed the brief hour-and-a-half workout going against the scout teams for around 40 minutes.

The practice also served as a bit of an acclamation to the weather for the Pirates as the temperature hovered around 35 degrees with a wind chill near 25. The forecast calls for very similar weather throughout the week with the chance of snow Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Christmas Eve Service
Once the players returned to the hotel, they had a few minutes to themselves before heading out for the final time of the day, going to Foundry United Methodist Church for its Christmas Eve service.

Tomorrow the Pirates will spend Christmas in the capital city. The players will go through position meetings and practice in the morning before enjoying a festive holiday meal with all of the East Carolina administrators, staff and families on the trip. The entire group will then go on a tour of the National Mall & Memorial Parks.

Remember to check the Painting The Capitol Purple blog daily to read about all the ECU activities before the Dec. 29 kickoff against the Maryland Terrapins.