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PlayStation, Feasts, And Cactus Curiosity — Free Time Fun In Penn State Football’s Fiesta Bowl Camp

The Nittany Lions swapped Happy Valley snow for Valley of the Sun sand when they touched down in Phoenix Sunday.

James Franklin’s team arrived early in Arizona for a week of extensive practice and preparation ahead of Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl showdown with Washington. But in the downtime between training and film sessions, the Nittany Lions have relaxed and celebrated the holidays in style with a Fogo de Chão feast, luxury accommodations, and cactus experimentation. They also made time for a community kickball game with local children’s foundation and welcomed several guests to their practice facilities.

“Obviously it’s not the best being away from your family,” senior linebacker Jason Cabinda said, “but we always make the most of it.”

Games Before The Game

Lodged at the five-star Fairmont Scottsdale Princess resort, the team has access to an arcade-style PlayStation Lounge, equipped with video games, air hockey tables, and mini basketball.

The players spent Christmas together at the resort. “I think we did a great job of being together as a team and eating breakfast together and having an amazing dinner that the hotel put together for us,” running back Saquon Barkley said.

Football Feasts

A Tuesday trip to Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão, and the bacon-wrapped chicken and steak on the menu, were player favorites. Senior safety Marcus Allen was impressed by the restaurant’s continuous serving system.

“They had, like, a card. One side of it was green, the other side was red. So like whenever you were done, like, I’m full, you flip it to the red side…But I had it on green for a while, and I held strong,” he said.

“I’m sure the offensive and defensive linemen probably ate to their heart’s content,” Cabinda said.

The team also enjoyed a meal at west-coast fast food staple In-N-Out, and a night at Topgolf, a climate-controlled driving range and sports bar restaurant equipped with self-scoring golf balls.

Climate And Cacti

The Nittany Lions have practiced in consistent 70-80 degree temperatures throughout their week of training — a welcome change from 15-25 degree State College weather.

“[It’s] nice to go to practice and not see your own breath,” senior defensive tackle Curtis Cothran said.

The warmer temperatures and dry conditions of the Valley of the Sun support a host of plants that aren’t found in State College, including an extensive list of cacti. Several players found and experimented with the prickly plants while exploring the new environment.

“Me and Cam Brown were kind of messing around outside. We heard from somebody that some cactuses, I guess, they can, like, not throw their needles at you, but they’re jumping cactuses. So we were trying to throw rocks at some of the cactuses to see if the spikes would move,” Cabinda said.

“The scenery is great,” Allen said. “When I see a cactus, it doesn’t look real, but it is. That’s something that’s interesting to me.”

After a few nights of fun and exploration, the Nittany Lions turned their full attention to this weekend’s crucial matchup.

“We’re able to give the guys the first couple of nights to go out and have fun, but now it’s business,” offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne said Tuesday. “We’re ready to go and get through the normal game week.”

Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl Kicks off at 4 p.m. at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.


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