The day started with St. Xavier visiting Midway Primary School and West Central Elementary and Carroll at Darlington Lower School and Garden Lakes Elementary School in Rome. Both teams talked about the NAIA Champions of Character program and the values that football teaches them. The Fighting Saints and Cougars enjoyed the interactions with the kids and the chance to share what their championship experience is like.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes/Chick-fil-A Champions of Character Luncheon featured the Champions of Character High School Athlete Award and keynote speaker John Croyle. One female and male high school student-athlete earned a scholarship as part of the award. Croyle played football at the University of Alabama under coach Bear Bryant and is the father of NFL quarterback Brody. He is the Founder of Big Oak Ranch, which is a Christian home for children who were abused or neglected.
In the evening, players and coaches from both programs attended a press conference at the Darlington Upper School. Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest and Saint Xavier University head coach Mike Feminis discussed their preparations heading into the 56th annual event. Also, Carroll players Matt Ritter and Thomas Robison joined St. Xavier’s Michael Prosser and Jimmy Coy who were on the panel.
Below are quotes from both head coaches from the press conference.
CARROLL HEAD COACH MIKE VAN DIEST
"It’s great to be back in Rome and all the people here make us feel like it is a first-class event. It is unbelievable to be playing down here against a first-class program like Saint Xavier and head coach Mike Feminis. You will see two great programs coming into the game Saturday. Our preparation has been great. It’s a wonderful experience and we are blessed and honored to be here."
SAINT XAVIER HEAD COACH MIKE FEMINIS
"If coach Van Diest is so nice, I think he has enough rings on his fingers maybe he can give us one. I don’t look up to anyone more in this profession than coach Van Diest. We will try to beat their brains out Saturday but from a respect standpoint; there is no one else we respect more than Mike and his program.
"The people down here are unbelievable. You all are the nicest people in the world. I told my guys that you are going to be treated like kings and like you were playing at the Rose Bowl. For our guys to experience this firsthand is something they will never forget."