Friday, May 25
4:25 a.m. – The Gustavus Adolphus football team ascends on the Humphrey Terminal with bright eyes and bushy tails at 3:35 a.m. I thought I was getting there early at 3:45 a.m. but three quarters of the team had already arrived.
The energy level on the team seems pretty high still, I’m guessing there were no players at the Johnny Holm concert on campus last night. Elliot Herdina kept of his streak of getting beeped and searched at the security checkpoint, always a funny sight for the rest of the team.
In all the trips I have made with the football team at Gustavus over the past years, the one common occurrence in the terminal is the mad dash to find food. Surprisingly, the hogs are keeping their hunger in check at this time, while all the “skill” position players are loading up on snacks. Marty Schmitz and Alec Saunders get the best dressed award for their matching straw tourist hats, with the draw string included.
10:31 a.m. – Viva Mexico!!! Our plane touched down without a hitch in Cancun, Mexico on time. Everyone made it through customs to boot!
We were met at the airport entrance by two members of the Cancun Lagartos coaching staff, both of whom, after a few brief introductions, seemed to be ecstatic about our arrival. One of the coaches, Miguel, assured us that a lot of publicity has been given to Saturday’s Caribbean Bowl and that the city is buzzing with excitement.
11:55 a.m. – After a short bus ride to our hotel, certain members of the group were able to check in to their rooms, while the majority decided it was time to start soaking up some Mexican sun. Well, I shouldn’t say the majority because a lot chose to get a bite to eat at the buffet located directly across from the pool and overlooking the ocean.
There is little doubt that the group from Minne-SOOHH-tah was the most pale of any of the vacationers at the resort. I would like to take this time to thank my parents for blessing me with such a mix of Irish, English, and Polish blood, SPF 45 is my preferred choice the next five days. Defensive lineman Colby Peterson stated at one point, “If anyone sees my shoulders or back burning, please tell me!” Putting 20 lbs. of shoulder pads on top of sunburned skin in 85-degree heat is a nightmare that many guys are having.
2:35 p.m. – Although it isn’t a familiar sport to most of the guys, coach Haugen would probably appreciate his players’ competitive nature when a game of water polo between the U.S.A and the U.K. broke out in the pool. It was a back-and-forth affair throughout, and I’m not at liberty to make a final call on who won. I will say that Alec Saunders may have picked the wrong sport, as a few of his goals were so athletically dazzling that they instigated U.S.A chants throughout the pool area.
7:05 p.m. – For the first night of the trip, Peter Haugen wanted the team to eat together at a restaurant named La Parrilla. The group was treated to some delicious authentic Mexican food, a little different than St. Peter’s Taco John’s style Mexican.
The team had the privilege of dining with Gustavus alum and former Gustie football player Peter Nyhus. In talking briefly with Peter, there is no doubt that the man bleeds black and gold. Nyhus, a generous supporter of the Gustavus football program, attended Gustavus in the late 1950’s and participated in football throughout his time on the hill. He was a member of one of the first Gustavus football teams to play in the NAIA Playoffs, after winning the MIAC Championship in the late 1950’s. After graduating from Gustavus, Nyhus took a coaching jobs at Braham High School, Saint James High School, and Valley City State University before returning to St. Peter to be an assistant coach under the Head Coach Jocko Nelson. Current Gustie linebacker coach and former football standout Dennis Baldus ’71 was recruited by Nyhus to play for the Gusties. The team went on to win MIAC Titles in both the 1967 and 1968 during Nyhus’s tenure. Baldus remembers Nyhus being a whiz in the area of biology, and that if there were any players that were struggling with bio, they had to take part in what was called “special sessions with Pete,” until they got their grades up. “That was about all of us one year,” said Baldus.
Nyhus currently owns a condo in Cancun and visits the city roughly seven times per year. He has been traveling to Mexico for the past 23 years and can’t believe how much the city has changed, explaining to me that there is a mall in the city that would be hard to distinguish from sections of the Mall of America in Bloomington.
After generously taking care of the entire group’s dining expense, the players treated Nyhus to one of the most appreciative rounds of the Gustie Rouser ever uttered. I can’t say for certain how many Gustavus spring breakers pull out the rouser on their trip, but it probably isn’t a stretch to say that it was one of the first times the rouser was performed in Mexico.
Curfew is at midnight tonight and coach Haugen and the captains will be taking part in a press conference at Caribbean Bowl sponsor Hooters at 11:00 a.m. in the morning. Either Marty Schmitz or Turner Johnson are in the lead for most sunburned after day one.