Need help? Look for the yellow shirts at PJCS

By Keith Thomerson

The Green Lot is almost full of tailgaters two hours before kickoff. Traffic control is finally setting up the cones and saw horses to direct the few remaining late arrivals to the parking lots. Time to get to the seats for another University of Louisville football game.

Now where are those folks in the yellow jackets and shirts? There they are, all around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. They are employees of ESG Security & Event Services who will get us to our seats before the game and back to the car afterwards.

picture1-copyThose of us who are older and have health conditions that make getting to the stadium difficult must rely on the people in yellow shirt heroes. Many are driving golf carts, others are manning the entrances throughout the stadium.

I’m one of those people, and I take full advantage of their services. I actually consider them my heroes. Watching the games on television is not the same exciting fan experience as going to the game and staying until the very end.

If anyone has difficulty walking up the ramps to the stadium and to their seat, there is friendly help available. Once they reach the entrance gate, a call will be made to a yellow shirted escort to meet them with a wheelchair and take them to their seat.

Attend almost any major event in Southern Indiana or Louisville and you will be greeted by a friendly smiling face of an ESG employee. Without these helpful folks, some Cardinal fans would not be able to attend the games.

Evalyn Tirikos, office manager at ESG, said the company is always looking for new employees for the YUM Center and of course Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. They are often the first people fans see at event and they want visitors to be greeted by friendly faces.

Interested in a part-time job? Call Evalyn at (502) 581-0091 to schedule an interview.

Life beyond athletics for Mario Urrutia

For many University of Louisville football fans, Mario Urrutia is remembered as the 6-foot-6 wide receiver who stiff-armed his way into the end zone against Miami on a 56-yard pass play from Brian Brohm.

Screenshot 2016-08-24 10.18.17That memorable play from the 2006 season would give UofL a lead and the momentum in a 31-7 win over the visiting Hurricanes, the first win ever over Miami.

That was just one of many big plays for Urrutia who played in 34 career games for the Cardinals, recording 130 receptions for 2,271 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three seasons. He opted for the NFL draft his senior season, picked by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round. He played on the Bengals’ practice squad before getting picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he developed a career-ending case of turf toe.

Mario Urrutia with youngster at backpack giveaway event.
Mario Urrutia with youngster at backpack giveaway event.

Urrutia recalls thinking while driving home to Louisville, “What could I have done better to prepare myself for life after football,” he said. “I am not an 8 to 5 desk person so what can I do?”

Mario returned to school, receiving his college degree in communications in May from the University of Louisville. “I felt so good after graduating,” he said, noting that he had minored in marketing.

Continue reading “Life beyond athletics for Mario Urrutia”

Jake Smith switches focus from football to legal career

Jake Smith got a shot at professional football with the Cincinnati Bengals after graduating from the University of Louisville in 2015.  Fun experience but it didn’t work out and he’s back in town, having readjusted his focus.

Jake Smith back at PJCS.
Jake Smith back at PJCS.

The native of Jacksonville, Alabama has re-enrolled at UofL and is pursuing a career in the legal profession. He’s splitting his time between classes at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law and counseling student athletes at the new Thornton’s Center for Academic Excellence.

Jake was a four-year starter on UofL’s offensive line, moving from center to offensive guard during his senior year. He was also a member of the ACC’s all-academic team.

Smith spent a summer with the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL pre-season after graduation. He didn’t make the squad but the Bengals asked him to stay in shape in case a roster player became injured. Jake decided he wanted to move on with his life.

“The time I spent with the Cincinnati Bengals was a great experience,” he said. “Being with the professional players I watched from the stands and on television was a dream come true. I was proud to say I did it.”

He was somewhat disappointed, of course, but recognized that few student athletes get a chance to play football with a major college football program and even fewer ever don a professional football uniform.

Smith said without hesitation the most exciting game at UofL was the opening home game against the University of Miami in 2014. A sellout crowd of 55,438 fans was on hand and the Card March for Coach Bobby Petrino’s first game back at Louisville was a mob scene. UofL won that game, 31-13.

“Running out of the tunnel before a home game, with all the fireworks, the smoke, the fans, and the blaring music was an amazing experience,” he said. “PJCS is a great place to play.”

Jake will have his hands full pursuing a law degree and helping tutor other students for the next couple of years. But he intends to enjoy every minute of his time back at UofL. “I’m really looking forward to working with student athletes in the new academic center,” he said.

In search of the University of Louisville’s No. 1 fan

Card MazeWho is the No. 1 fan of the University of Louisville? Far be it for me to presume who should be given that distinction. There would be so many extraordinary candidates, each of them fiercely loyal to UofL athletics.

It could even be a group of fans, possibly the Red Rage Tailgate team, headed by James Durst, Josh Stinson and Dave Magee, with their converted bus serving free Bloody Marys, doughnuts, hamburgers, ribs and hot dogs to UofL fans at home and away football games.

How about Ron Thomas who drives the antique fire truck loaded with fans circling the Green Lot with sirens blaring before each home football game.

Or Ken Richardson, of the End Zone Express, who has converted a former EMS vehicle into the ultimate tailgating machine with a state-of-the-art sound system?

Continue reading “In search of the University of Louisville’s No. 1 fan”

Tackling game is changing in college football

Something to keep an eye on during spring training at the University of Louisville football complex.

Some changes are coming to one of football’s most basic elements, hopefully making the game safer for the players. There appears to be an irreversible shift toward tacklers aiming their shoulders, rugby-style, instead of their heads to bring down ball carriers.

The tackling technique begins in the weight room during the off-season, with players lifting weights under supervision three times per week. One of those exercises is the development of neck muscles, with players lifting 25-pound weights via a harness attached to their heads. This is why you see former football players with such wide necks. A strong muscular neck helps to prevent broken necks.

England's Jamie Noon tackles Ireland's Andrew Trimble

Traditionally tacklers have been taught to put their head and facemask on the ball carrier’s breastbone, wrapping their arms and hands around the ball carrier’s legs and beneath his butt, lifting upward and driving the ball carrier downward towards the ground.

Rugby tackling however, places emphasis on tackling with the shoulder into a ball carrier’s stomach area. The tackler still must be in a correct football ready position, head-up and focusing on the belt buckle area. The object is to shift focus from the ball carrier’s breastbone area to the ball carrier’s stomach area. Lowering the hit area alone should decrease concussions.

As UofL’s Bobby Petrino told a local columnist in March, “It truly is safe. . .The difference is more emphasis on tackling with your shoulder and not your head and, once you make contact, rolling. I think they did take it from the rugby game.”

If this tackling technique does away with some concussions or destroyed knees, everyone should embrace the change.