From Tigerland to Los Angeles

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Staff member
Foundation Member
Site Immortal
Jul 17, 2003
Ben Griffiths Contributor 

I’ve had a couple of visits to Los Angeles now and I’m starting to get my head around the areas where the AFL and US college football are similar – and where they’re worlds apart.
Take the band, for example. I used to wonder whether all that music and excitement and choreography was just made up for the movies. No way. It’s very real. The hype around every home game over there feels like a grand final back here.
I don’t officially arrive at the University of Southern California until next month – and I’m not scheduled to play until next year – but I have had a few trips over to scope everything out. On my last visit, I found myself at a rally the night before a game against Colorado standing next to my special teams coordinator, John Baxter, and dead in between the USC cheerleaders and The Spirit of Troy, the Trojans’ marching band.
Then the players arrived. The place went crazy! The band started playing, the cheerleaders were jumping around and the fans were delirious. Everyone is so passionate about their school and patriotic about their country. I was a bit rattled, to be honest, especially with the coach dragging me into the middle of it all. There’s not much in footy back home you can compare it to. I’m just glad I’ve experienced it now so it won’t shock me when I’m actually over there playing.
Preparation, on the other hand, isn’t all that different to what we’d go through at Richmond. For home games, everyone checks into a local hotel. Warm-ups and recovery are pretty similar. Team meetings are structured much the same way the Tigers’ are, although there’s probably a little more video work done with the USC boys given how structured each play is in American football.
As for Aussies in college football, we’re still pretty unique – and a bit of a mystery to the locals. The coach introduced me to the team as a ‘professional rugby player’ and added a year to my age. I hadn’t started yet so I wasn’t too keen to correct him in front of everyone! The boys asked plenty of questions about footy, but I’m not sure I advanced the cause too much. Everyone seemed convinced I’d been playing a cross between rugby and soccer. Lost in translation …
All in all, though, I can’t wait to get this new chapter of my life started. I’m grateful to the Tigers for everything they’ve done for me and I will carry so many of those experiences with me when I hit LA the week before Christmas.
And then it’s down to work.