Nov. 20, 2007
Sophomore running back Bryan Payton will chat with IUHoosiers.com periodically this season and share his thoughts on the Hoosier football team. In this edition, Payton takes a look back at the memorable Old Oaken Bucket victory over Purdue and what lies ahead for the Hoosiers.
Being bowl eligible is an amazing accomplishment for this football team. After everything that we've been through it would've been easy to lose games and make excuses about how emotionally exhausted or distracted we were. The thing is, we knew that's not what Coach Hep would've done. That's not what he would want. Hep was the ultimate role model in showing us how to handle adversity. That is part of what defines us as people. Becoming bowl eligible is dedicated to him. We're finishing what he started; we're going to play 13!
The regular season has gone by so fast. It seems like just yesterday we working through team drills in 100-degree heat. One of the things my teammate and friend Terrance Turner said after the win against Purdue was, "Camp was hot!" I laughed, but what he said has stuck in my mind. When things get hard it's good to remember how hot camp was or how we felt after our eighth gasser, or how cold and dark it was when we awoke at 5:30 a.m. for winter conditioning. All of that was intended to make us successful and to ultimately earn and win a bowl game.
In a regular season of big plays, record-breaking feats and clutch plays, I've had the most fun I've ever had playing football. I also think most of my teammates would tell you the same thing. My favorite play of the season was, of course, Austin Starr's game-winning kick in the Bucket Game. But a close second was Kellen Lewis' "pass to himself" and flip into the end zone...Priceless.
From opening night against Indiana State to the amazing sellout against Purdue, there was no doubt in our minds that we would achieve our goal of "Playing 13." I may never experience a moment like what went down against Purdue. The atmosphere was amazing, "The Rock" was packed and the weather was perfect. We were more ready than ever before because the stakes were high, but not as high as our confidence level.
I guess it was fitting for the game to come down to a game-winning kick. The crowd rushed the field and we were so happy that many of us just cried. The scene in the locker room was one of jubilation and immense happiness. We couldn't contain ourselves from dancing, singing, crying, hugging each other and praying. There were so many people in the locker room, everyone wanted to be a part of the celebration, and I don't blame them. It's been a long time coming.
Fittingly, Jane Hoeppner was the person who placed the block "I" on the Bucket. It was a Kodak moment. She deserved to be involved in our celebration. She is our heart. She is everything that Coach Hep embodied. The win was dedicated to her and her family.
I will never forget that game for as long as I live. I will never forget all who played a part in this season, whether the person is a player or not. Saturday, November 17, was the day we solidified the goal Coach Hep set for us. We now wait to figure out where we are going and heck, we might as well win the bowl game!
It's all for you Coach Hep. We love you and miss you. You're in our hearts forever.
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