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College Football Postseason Bowl Games : HOLIDAY BOWL / ALAN DROOZ : Hawkeye Tight End Went Cross-Country to Succeed

December 25, 1991|ALAN DROOZ

SAN DIEGO — Junior tight end Alan Cross played at Mt. Carmel High, but the only native Californian on the Iowa squad said Monday he won't have a large rooting section at the game. After he walked on and made the team at Iowa, Cross's family moved there. "I'm actually away from home for Christmas," he said.

Cross, who had to send out letters to get a tryout at a big-time program after earning All-CIF honors as a 190-pound wide receiver, is now a 225-pound All-Big Ten second-team honoree and the conference's top returning tight end.

"I was recruited by a lot of smaller schools. I told 'em I wanted to play tight end, but I only weighed 190 and they were skeptical," Cross said. Instead, he and his family sent letters to UCLA, USC, Iowa and Illinois--schools they considered to have strong tight end coaching.

Hawkeye Coach Hayden Fry said he doesn't normally recruit in California--"The competition's too tough"--but Cross was invited to try out, without a scholarship. "He looked like a pipe cleaner when he showed up," Fry said. "After he got on a weight program he turned into a tremendous football player."

Cross now considers himself part Californian, part Midwesterner.

Sort of a one-man Cross-section.

"I'd like to think I'm a little of both," he said. "But I'll probably come back here after I get out of Iowa. I don't like the winters there so much."

The BYU team will practice this morning, then will have a Christmas party with family and friends at the team's hotel. With about 20 of the players being married, team spokesmen said BYU parties tend to be a little different than most college teams'.

This one may not be as hectic as some past ones, Coach LaVell Edwards said, because few of the players have children. "One year we had one guy with four kids," Edwards said, shaking his head. "I don't know where he was hanging around."

As Edwards was chatting with the press along the sidelines at BYU's first practice here Monday, a cellular phone rang on the field. An assistant coach brought it to Edwards, whose face clouded as he listened. Someone had phoned the BYU athletic department to say there was a fire in his Provo home. Edwards' relatives were supposed to be staying in the house and he couldn't reach them, so he was concerned.

A few minutes later the phone rang again and Edwards got good news--his house was sound. Apparently the call was a prank.

Merry Christmas, coach.

Both teams are healthy--a marked difference for BYU, which was missing several key players in last year's Holiday Bowl and saw quarterback Ty Detmer leave with two separated shoulders. . . . BYU did lose two wide receivers to broken collarbones during the season. Oddly, both occurred on touchdown catches. Bryce Doman was injured against Penn State in the third game of the season and got NCAA clearance to redshirt the rest of the season and maintain sophomore eligibility. Junior Nati Valdez was injured against San Diego State and won't be available Monday. . . . The local economy got a boost when San Diego State didn't make it to the Holiday Bowl. Between 1986 and 1990, an average of 21,851 ticket holders from outside San Diego County attended the Holiday Bowl, occupying an average of 14,540 hotel rooms. Market research by bowl organizers shows the most free-spending matchup was Iowa vs. Wyoming in 1987. That game also drew the bowl's largest attendance--61,892. "It's nice to have the home team in, but the local businesses, bars and restaurants are happier (with two out-of-town teams)," one bowl official said. . . . It's not all work this week. Thursday is team day at Sea World, on Friday there's a kickoff luncheon and on Saturday there's a luncheon on an aircraft carrier.

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