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Hungry UCA Bears Give Buffet Servers Exercise
It’s a routine evening at the buffet. Then, the herd, many of them weighing close to 300 pounds, shows up.
Their eyes reflect have that “I haven’t eaten much all day look.”
For employees, there goes the break.
A average night at the restaurant becomes a fire drill.
The University of Central Arkansas Bears, particularly the offensive linemen and anyone else who wants to join in the fun, are chowing down and bonding.
“Sometimes we walk in and it’s all quiet in the restaurant, then all of a sudden you hear the clanking of pans, and the sounds of all kinds of stuff coming out,” said UCA senior lineman Brad Gordon. “We closed down quiet a few buffets.”
Some restaurants offers group rates. That’s good for the profits and gives the employees pretty good exercise.
“We go out every week together and we can put away a lot of food,” said center Casey Thurber. “We’ve completely cleaned out some buffets. That keeps us together and helps us know each other.”
Food and fellowship, universal bonding agents. It’s a good situation for players who are on customized workout plans that wipe out the guilt and mitigate the caloric damages.
From a series of interviews with about 30 UCA players a few weeks ago, this reporter, at least at that juncture toward the end of the school year, detected a special passion emanating from this UCA team.
Other UCA teams in recent years have had passion. But this one seems to have it in greater quantities up and down the lineup than any we’ve watched lately.
Some of it comes from one of the largest groups of upperclassmen in recent history.
Part of it comes from the bonding sessions.
Part of it comes from the frustration of coming so close to a share of a Southland Conference championship last season in UCA’s second year in NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Some of it comes from the confidence gained from the success against the best teams in the league.
During the interviews, almost a third of the Bears’ defensive players, a few of the offensive players, used the word “swagger” to describe the attitude.
“Coming out of spring, we had more unity than we did last year,” said running back Brent Grimes. “We’re going into the summer with our minds set on getting better. A lot of guys are staying up here just so they can work with teams and all work together to get better.”
Any particular thing that ignited the almost universal flame?
“It was the offseason workouts, I think,” Grimes said. “We had to make times at each station. Even though we were separated by positions, we all had to make it as a team. It carried over into the spring. Even though the offense and defense competed, we all tried to make the team better. By that, unity came with it.”
Unlike the laid-back bonding sessions at the buffet, the offseason work started early.
“Before spring drills, those morning workouts, weight work and running at 6 a.m. helped the process,” Gordon said. “I think getting up and doing it as a team brought us closer and when we got on the practice field, it showed.”
There’s no guarantee that all that collective drudgery, all those fun meals and all those times of watching restaurant employees try to make their times will produce a championship team.
But going into the summer, it’s a unified group that shares a common work ethic with players who know each other’s traits and tendencies on and off the field and is willing to labor and sacrifice for the common good.
For that more laid-back, less-structured, often-mysterious and usually formative interim period between final exams and the start of preseason camp, it’s a good sign.
Hungry Bears give those buffet servers some exercise
By David McCollum, The Log Cabin Democrat