A Starr in the Sunshine State

    Go Hoosiers! It's back to work for Austin Starr after a week in the Sunshine State.
    Go Hoosiers!
    It's back to work for Austin Starr after a week in the Sunshine State.
    Go Hoosiers!

    Dec. 9, 2007

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    Junior kicker Austin Starr was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, presented to the nation's top place-kicker. As a finalist, Starr earned a week in the Florida sun. After spending three days in West Palm Beach, Starr headed to Orlando for the The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards before heading back to Bloomington to prepare for the Insight Bowl.

    During his journey in the Sunshine State, Starr checked in with to update Hoosier fans. Here is Starr's final installment, recapping his time in Orlando:

    The bus left at 10 a.m. from the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott, as a few members of the Lou Groza Committee along with the finalists and my parents headed for Orlando. I hadn't been to Orlando in six years and was excited about revisiting some great memories.

    When we stopped at the Disney Boardwalk, ESPN managers and event planners were everywhere and security seemed to be around every corner. My parents couldn't get reservations at the Boardwalk in time so they had to settle for a hotel down the road. Thankfully they were close enough. Checking into the hotel with my personal security guards and going through the itinerary with the event coordinators made me feel pretty important. Every time I would leave my room, security would be outside my door in the hallway to escort me to any destination and back. They did a great job to ensure that not only myself, but the rest of the college football award finalists would not be bothered with outside distractions.

    That night we all went to the ESPN Club on the Boardwalk. The players were escorted underground from the hotel to the club. As we all introduced ourselves to each other during the walk it was surreal to me that I was walking with college football's best players. At the ESPN Club we had our own private section, which was a huge room full of televisions, apparel to sign, buffet food, numerous tables and ESPN media. Chris Fowler kicked off the dinner by welcoming us and explaining the procedure for the next 24 hours. Kirk Herbstreit was a nice guy to meet. He had some positive things to say about our program. After the dinner we enjoyed the rest of the night by checking out other sites and scenes at the Boardwalk. There weren't very many people our age at Disney World and some Disney employees said the first week in December has the lowest attendance every year. This was good news because that meant no long lines for rides at MGM Studios the next morning.



    I slept in until 7:30 a.m. this morning. Judd Groza, the late Lou Groza's son, called me and said to meet him in the lobby at 8:30 a.m. sharp to go to MGM Studios. I had not gotten a lot of sleep over the past few days, but this was an experience of a lifetime and I could sleep later. We met up with Arizona State kicker Tom Weber at the dock to boat over to MGM. The first ride we went on was the Tower of Terror and we walked right onto it as there were no long lines. Dad and mom were at the park as well and met up with us for a quick photo session outside the tower. The second, and in my opinion, best ride of the day was the Aerosmith Rock `N' Roller Coaster. This ride goes from 0-60 m.p.h. in less than three seconds, as Aerosmith's greatest hits blast into your eardrum through multiple twists, turns and flips. We made our way to the back of the park and visited the MGM Studios Backlot Tour, Muppet Vision 3-D, Star Tours and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure. I vividly remember the Muppet Vision and Star Tours, but it was the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set that made me want to go down every slide and climb every hill. There is a picture our family has of me at age four going down the huge roll of Kodak film (it was a slide). I tried to duplicate that shot 17 years later. I'm glad we went to that attraction in the morning while there weren't so many parents and kids because I would have looked out of place.

    After eating at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, it was time to see the Indiana Jones Stunt Show and then the Lights, Motors, Action Stunt Show. The Indiana Jones show was just as I remembered it and was great, but it was the car and motorcycle stunt show that might have been one of the coolest things I've ever seen. It's a new attraction that involves ramp jumps through fire, car/motorcycle chases and a lot of burnt rubber. They go through a new set of tires for each car after every show! We were all exhausted at that point and wanted to get back to relax before the big night.

    After taking a much needed two-hour nap, I put on my favorite suit and was escorted to the Atlantic Dance Hall for the College Football Award Show. I had to give my parents their VIP tickets They were waiting right outside the hall and right then I saw Coach Lynch. I was so happy he was able to come down to Florida and be a part of the award show. Walking the red carpet was an experience for me as I have never done that before. Nobody knew who I was, so that made my entrance into the hall a little bit easier without screaming fans wanting autographs or reporters wanting interviews. I didn't want to keep my parents and Coach Lynch waiting anyway.

    The setting as we walked inside was incredible. I'll have pictures up on next week. I told Coach Lynch as we walked past the stage that I would have never imagined to see the College Football Award Show in person let alone be in it. I met Lee Corso for the first time and he is something else. I liked how incredibly animated he was and he had some great things to say about IU Football. Right when the award ceremony started, I looked at dad and said, "This is awesome!" I'd never been so pumped in my life (except after the Purdue game). I could feel my heart in my throat as the Lou Groza Award finalist highlight video was being played and the speech about the award was being given. The suspense was killing me. After Tom's name was announced my head dropped, as many of you saw. Of course it was disappointing, but I quickly regained composure and congratulated him with applause. He had a great season. As the rest of the show unfolded I kept searching for the right emotion to feel and the right attitude to conduct when it would all be over. I made sure to memorize and burn the image/emotion of what had happened into my head because it most definitely will serve as powerful motivation to be even better.

    I always tell myself and others that everything happens for a reason. It was our destiny to win our last game against Purdue and fulfill Coach Hep's goal to Play 13. On Dec. 6, at the College Football Award Show, I was not supposed to win the Lou Groza Award. As much as I had envisioned being up on that stage and having my name called, it was just a dream. The incredible season accomplished by Indiana University Football was not a dream. It was a reality that nobody can take away from me or any Hoosier. Awards are great but it's the memories I've made and the friendships I've developed that outrank any piece of hardware. I'm proud to be a Hoosier and it was an honor to represent our program and university during my time in Florida.

    Coach Lynch, Coach Ricumstrict and my parents all took pictures after the show on stage. My parents and I went to eat afterward and we talked about the week and what a great experience it was to spend it together. I really am fortunate in many ways. Having my parents with me Sunday through Friday was a blessing and I appreciate the sacrifices they have made.

    Wake-up was at 5 a.m. and I checked out and was taken to the airport. We met my parents there and departed the Orlando airport around 8 a.m. We got back to Indy and I was in Bloomington by 2 p.m. We had a team meeting at 4 p.m. and practice after that. It was great to be with the team again and see the guys who have helped me with my success this season. Of course, many were disappointed about me not getting the Lou Groza Award, but what matters is that we are practicing in December as a team for a bowl game. I couldn't tell the seniors enough how happy I am that they are still a big part of this team and we get to play one more game together in Arizona. This week was one of the best weeks of my life. The people I met and the places I visited is enough motivation to become a better player each day. I realize that awards are not everything and I would sacrifice personal success for my team to achieve greatness any day.

    I want to thank you readers and fans for following my Lou Groza Journal. It has been great sharing my experiences and I'm glad you have enjoyed my writing. It's a great day to be a Hoosier!


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