HOOVER, Ala. — As the SEC — and college football as a whole — has grown in popularity throughout the years, SEC Media Days has grown with it, becoming the offseason spectacle that it is today. In 2004 there were 500 credentialed members of the media. That number has grown each year, setting records and led to 1,239 members of the media at the event last year.
It’s hard to fully grasp the hysteria from watching at home on your television. Thousands of media members from around the country converge on Hoover, Alabama to officially kick off the 2014 season.
Our experience as media members, however, is far different than the experience of the student-athletes that make the trip from their respective schools to attend media days ad represent their university.
To better understand that experience, Gator Country caught up with former player Jon Halapio who attended SEC Media days in 2013 to find out what its like to be at SEC Media Days on the other side of the camera.
Here’s his story.
I can’t remember the exact day that I found out I would be attending SEC Media Days last year, I think it was three days before we were supposed to leave for Hoover. I went with Dominique Easley and Jeff Driskel. Before we left we had media preparation with Dan Apple (Assistant Communications Director at UF) the day before. He just told us what we wanted to talk about and what subjects we wanted to stick on and what subjects not to elaborate on.
The hardest part for me before media days was finding a suit. It was hard because obviously you want to take your time but we didn’t have time because of school and everything. Eventually I found one that was like brown with an orange tie. It ended up being a good fit for me.
Our scheduled day in Hoover was a Tuesday. We had workouts early in the morning, so I went to that before going home to change into my suit and head over to the airport. We took a private jet, which was a cool experience. It was my first time on a private jet and I was surprised at how small the jet was inside. I sat across from Easley and there wasn’t much room with two big guys like us sitting next to each other.
All of us had good conversation on the way over. We just talked about random stuff. We asked Coach Muschamp if he viewed us as the leaders of the team and we asked him if there was anything we needed to work on for the upcoming season. It’s weird for multiple players to be with the coach but to have Easley on the trip — or any trip for that matter –he will make it interesting. He was cracking jokes or farting on the plane. In that little plane there are no windows so you have 5 or 10 minutes of gas in the air.
Once we landed in Hoover we were driven to the hotel where the event was taking place and pretty much as soon as we go to the hotel it was non-stop.
First, we met in a small room with just the local members of the media. As a senior, I was familiar with all of those faces and it was a good way to ease us in to the rest of the day.
After that we just go to the places we’re expected to be at. I think it was like three hours of interviews and more interviews. It just straight interviews with either a radio station or on a show with some guys. It’s really long but cool experience.
It was the first time and only time so far in my career that I’ve that many cameras facing me. When I went into the SEC room it was just all cameras and recorders everywhere. Everyone is taking pictures of you in there. It was nerve racking and I was nervous. After the first room I was ok because pretty much everyone asked the same questions in different styles. It’s pretty much the same subject, like what do you expect with the upcoming season?
After I finished my final interview of the day I was so relieved. I was actually hungry. I don’t know the restaurant we ate at but it was good. I think I got a burger to go.
Overall, the day was a great experience. It was interesting to start the day out feeling like a student-athlete. We started by working out with Jeff Dillman and before I knew it I was on a private jet, having thousands of people asking me questions, taking pictures and interviewing me on television.
It was like being a rock star.
Then we flew back to Gainesville, the cameras turned off and obviously the next day we had to go to workout and class. Back to the grind.