Los Angeles—Rick Neuheisel knows exactly what it is like to be sick at the Rose Bowl.
The former UCLA quarterback and current CBS football analyst came down with a bad case of food poisoning on the eve of the Bruins’ Rose Bowl date with Illinois on Jan. 2, 1984 (New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday).
“There were nine of us who got sick and seven of them weren’t able to play in the game,” said Neuheisel, who was here to do his daily show on Sirius XM radio. “The doctor tried to give me something to settle me down but I asked him if it would make me drowsy. He said probably and I wouldn’t take it.”
Neuheisel was so sick that head coach Terry Donahue didn’t want to put him on the team bus. So Neuheisel was placed in a private car for his trip to the stadium. When he arrived at the stadium Neuheisel’s dad was waiting on him.
“I told him I was sick and thought he would feel sorry for me,” said Neuheisel. “He basically told me to get my butt in gear because this was the Rose Bowl.”
Let the record reflect that Rick Neuheisel was voted the Most Valuable Player of the 1984 Rose Bowl, throwing for 298 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-9 victory.
So Neuheisel knows of what he speaks when he told me Saturday that Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is “going to be just fine” for Monday’s Rose Bowl game with Georgia.
Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, made a surprise appearance at Media Day about halfway through the scheduled 45-minute session with Oklahoma’s players and coaches.
Mayfield, who said he started feeling ill with cold and flu-like symptoms on Christmas Day, had missed his previous media obligations since the team arrived here on Dec. 26. We were told by Oklahoma officials that he would not be attending this function.
Mayfield said he woke up feeling pretty bad on Saturday morning and did not plan to attend the media session at the L.A. Hotel Downtown.
“But then I saw my teammates here on television and knew they were going to have to answer a lot of questions about me,” Mayfield said.
It was fairly dramatic for him to walk into that large media room. It wasn’t Willis Reed in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden dramatic, but it did cause quite a stir.
“He’s got to deal with it and we’ve got to deal with it,” Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley said of Mayfield’s illness. “I don’t think it will have an impact on the game.”
Georgia has certainly not done anything different in preparation because of Mayfield’s illness.
“He is a great player he’ll be ready to go,” said Coach Kirby Smart. “We’ve got some sick guys too but they didn’t win the Heisman Trophy.”
Neuheisel said playing in the Rose Bowl had a healing effect on him.
“Trust me. The adrenaline that he’s going to feel before the game is going to be the perfect cure,” he said.