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NFL 101 makes splash at Rose Bowl

PASADENA — About the only element rarer than the mild showers that descended upon the Rose Bowl on a Thursday afternoon in mid-July was the National Football League’s return to the city of Pasadena and the greater Los Angeles area.

While water shortages comes and go in Los Angeles County, the 18-year football drought that has plagued the Southland was quenched — albeit for one day — thanks to the 10th annual NFL 101 event presented by the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission.

The event, which had been held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum the last nine years, included drills for fans, demonstrations, tours of the Rose Bowl, photos with NFL players and other activities and a one-on-one with NBC Sports Reporter Andrea Kremer and NBC sportscaster Al Michaels.

Michaels’ interview was the event’s showcase, as the veteran play-by-play man spent close to an hour speaking about his experiences covering major sports, including his approach going into each broadcast.

“I always think to myself, what is it that the fan wants to know about this game or about these players or about this head coach or about this owner or about that franchise situation,” said Michaels, who listed Super Bowl XLII over Joe Montana’s Chiefs versus John Elway’s Broncos in Monday Night Football as his most vivid NFL experience. “What is it when they tune in that they’d like to know that they might not know.”

Several present NFL players had specific ties to the Rose Bowl, including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (who played at the Rose Bowl when he was a member of Arizona State’s football team) and New York Jets signal caller Greg McElroy, who only a year earlier quarterbacked the University of Alabama to a Bowl Championship Series National Championship over Texas.

McElroy dolled out advice and instructions to fans in the quarterback arm challenge, which included passing exercises in which a participant tried to throw a football through a narrow opening from distances of five, 10 and 20 yards.

One of McElroy’s first trainees was real estate agent Jackie Lamm of Newport Beach, who not only successfully drilled a 35-yard field in the kicking contest, but also nailed a 10-yard strike on her second throwing attempt in the quarterback challenge.

“It was awesome to get advice from an NFL player. That’s the first time I’ve ever had a quarterback show me how to throw the ball,” Lamm said. “I’m a soccer player, so the field goal wasn’t tough, but to learn a three-step and five-step drop was great.”

McElroy also enjoyed his time.

“Pasadena has been great to me and it’s great to come back and do some fun things around the community,” McElroy said. “I look at the kids here and I remember that I was in their shoes at one point. Plus, if I can steer any of these young athletes to Alabama, that’s a bonus.”

Inside the Rose Bowl, Green Bay Packers equipment manager Gordon Batty gave an in-depth presentation of the modern NFL uniform in the home locker room and spoke about different rules changes that have affected the game and his experiences with the NFC North champions.

One such question, from La Verne resident Bob Berger, focused on who Batty thought were the Packers’ top head coaches during his tenure.

Batty first listed former Coach Mike Holmgren and then praised current coach Mike McCarthy.

“I learned a lot from listening to [Batty],” Berger said. “I didn’t know there were so many styles of pads and who needed what. It was very informative.”

There was also a silent auction that included memorabilia from a $125 Jim Plunkett autographed Oakland Raiders mini-helmet to a $4,000 Rose Bowl Locker Room Night.

Speaking of the Oakland Raiders, running back Marcel Reece spoke about his squad’s status as the unofficial football team of Los Angeles.

“I’m from L.A., born and raised in Inglewood and Pasadena is right in my backyard,” Reece said. “To come back home from the Bay and see the home fans, not only my home town fans, but the fans from the Raiders is great. Anything on the west coast is Raider Nation.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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