Outkick Road Trip to Death Valley

It’s safe to say that the OKTC road trip has been a success so far this season. College Football is on a crazy crash course of teams beating each other up in this inaugural year of the playoff. What better way to celebrate than to spend the next 8 days on 6 SEC campuses? Yeah, I have lost my mind. How do I make it even more fun? Invite my pal Deja Knight.

We started the week out at what turned out to be an instant classic down on the Bayou and now we’re making our way to Starkville, Oxford, Tuscaloosa, Auburn, and ending in Athens for Auburn at UGA. Stay tuned on twitter @MattieLouOKTC and @Deja_Knight to see if we survive the week.

FRIDAY

Rolling into the capital city we are greeted by fans from both sides walking up and down Nicholson with brown bags in their hands. Since neither one of us had been to Death Valley in a minute, we headed straight for the stadium. We met our friend John Hayes, AKA B1G John, who you’ve seen on The Paul Finebaum Show, right in front of the SEC Nation set. Talk about a sick backdrop for the show.

We’ve been listening to Paul Finebaum for YEARS, so walking onto the SEC Nation bus and meeting him… well, we had huge fan girl moments.

We were headed off the bus when Florida Gator favorite Tim Tebow walks in.  This was the first of a few times we would see him over the weekend.  He’s a great guy and very down to earth, and he told us we smelled good.

For dinner, we had a 5 star experience at DiGiulio Brothers Italian Cafe. Family owned for over 25 years, this bungalow-style restaurant is two miles from the Clock Tower. The owner, Mike, greeted us with glasses of wine and beer as soon as we walked in. Don’t expect to see the TV turned on in this joint though. Mike only makes exceptions for when LSU and the Saints play…..and MAYBE the World Series. Big thanks to Mike and Clint for the amazing experience.

After dinner, we headed to our friends home near campus. Mr. & Mrs. Ashy are both LSU fans. However their sons Taylor and Evan headed up north to their ultimate rival school… Bama, duh. Every year they have about 20 Bama boys stay with them for one of the most incredible series in college football. With their huge spread of food, drinks, friends, and fireplace, the Ashys know how to do game day weekends right. We brought B1G John with us and we proceeded to watch our guy friends act like tween girls at a Bieber concert. They promptly named the weekend “B1G John Initiation Weekend.” Lovely. Remember, pain is temporary; New Row’s forever.

It was time to get things turned up, if you will, so we hopped in cabs and headed to another BR hot spot. Bogie’s Bar was PACKED with everyone from LSU students, former Bama athletes, to your mom’s co-worker. Between people dancing on stage, taking tequila shots at the bar, or talking mad crap about the next day’s game, it was definitely the place to be.

Saturday morning came entirely too soon. Mattie Lou hopped up at 6am, ready to go, Deja, not so much. We managed to decide what Show Me Your MuMu favorite would be worn for the day in time for B1G John to pick us up at 8:30 AM to head to the SEC Nation set. Mattie Lou had never been to LSU before, Deja had been once, so we didn’t really know what to expect. Every school says their fans are crazy, but after seeing a woman easily throwing back a large glass of red wine and a dog bigger than MLC spray painted like a tiger on the way to the set, we knew things would be getting weird.

We had two goals while there, Deja’s picture with PAWWWLLL and Mattie Lou’s picture with Tebow, and to figure out how to be Kaylee Hartung. While I played it cool, inside I was having the biggest fan girl moment for three hours while taking in everything on the set of SEC Nation. To say that everyone at ESPN were gracious hosts would be a VAST understatement. They kept asking what we needed… they didn’t seem to understand we just wanted to be there.

The biggest moment from being on set was when Les Miles arrived and stood over the barricade to watch what Nick Saban was saying during his interview from the DirecTv bus. He literally hung on every word. I apparently was the only one surprised by this, so what do I know. We hung out with our new pal, “Matt the bus driver”, and got to meet a lot of the crew.

After the show ended we tracked down Pawwwlll where Deja tried to convince him one final time to officiate her wedding. She still doesn’t have a definite yes, but he didn’t say no, so there’s a chance. I found Tim, and I’m sure B1G John was wondering at this point what he had gotten himself into by spending the weekend with us. Whoops. Bottom line, we got the pictures.

After inviting half of the crew to the big tailgate where we would be spending the day, we headed off to T-Bob Hebert’s family condo. Along the way,we got lost and walked an extra 2 miles, B1G John was recognized by some highly entertaining fans, small children were running up to Alabama tailgates yelling “tiger bait,” and we found a tailgate with a stripper pole. A STRIPPER POLE.

I digress, T-Bob and I went to rival high schools. He does a pregame radio show with his dad, Bobby Hebert, and I wanted B1G John to meet him. After hearing all kinds of fun stories from T-Bob’s grandparents, Deja decided she needed a nap and headed back to the hotel, so B1G John and I headed to Parade Park and the ESPN College Gameday Radio set.

Parade Park is really neat and has everything from college tailgates, to family carnival activities, to major networks’ radio sets. I awkwardly asked for tailgate pictures, which some of these sweet people agreed to. We got to the set and B1G John and I casually sat in 2 recliners on stage and watched the pros while everyone stared at us from the quad. Pretty surreal.

After hanging out for a while and waiting on the Sigma Chi boys to finish up TWO AND A HALF hours of trying to get to their parking pass spot, we headed to the ultimate tailgate that Dave Roberts was putting on. This tailgate is incredible. There’s a motorhome, you could throw a rock and hit the stadium, it’s fully catered with staff, top shelf open bar with bartenders, white linen tablecloths, all of the Cajun food staples, great people, and a TV where everyone watched Auburn and hoped they would blow it. About an hour into the tailgate someone pulled me aside to tell me that John Rocker was in attendance at the tailgate and that he had a baseball hat. I LOVE him and looking for him was literally all I did until game time. Sadly, he was nowhere to be found. If you read this, BIG FAN JOHN. Destiny will bring us back together some day.

One of my favorite parts of the tailgate was everyone crowding around the TV to watch the end of the Auburn game. When they lost, everyone erupted, united in our hatred for Auburn.

By this time all of our new friends from ESPN had arrived and I introduced them to everyone and they were a hit. They all told me how normally on weekends they don’t get to just “act like a fan” and take in the scene and the game and how awesome the tailgate was. I felt like Santa spreading CFB cheer. It was great. B1G John was a huge celebrity, and I was asked no less than 12 times how we made our relationship work since we live 1400 miles apart. Telling people we just met Friday was pure comedy. Finally it was game time. Off to the field we went….

To say that Death Valley lives up to the hype of the most insane place to play a night game in CFB is an understatement. It felt like they were about to pull out the Cajun voodoo and make a sacrifice in the middle of the field. I’ve been in some pretty loud stadiums, but this was just nuts. Alabama’s band was the only way to find the small visitors’ section.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn this season is to not show any emotion for a particular team when standing on the field. For the most part, I handled it well, but during the Reuben Foster hit, not so much. It happens. The game was just a slugfest, Matt and Drew from ESPN radio stood with us during the second half, and it was great to get neutral analysis. After Yeldon’s fumble, because Yeldon’s gonna Yeldon, I asked if we could leave. I really did. The PA announcer pleaded for students not to storm the field, but they were waiting at the fence. If I’m going to the hospital for a CFB game it’s not going to be because I got pummeled by an LSU fan. In unison, the boys responded, “NO.”

Once OT was official and my nervous system was shot, we walked down to Alabama’s end zone to watch round one. I’m not sure what happened on the Alabama side line to where things FINALLY clicked, but I’m okay with it. It was like the air was just sucked out of Death Valley and all you could hear were the “F you Saban” chants. I had to squat down to watch Alabama’s final play so I could see it, and because I was freezing and nervous. All of the sudden everyone’s cheering and the Tide was rolling, players came from every direction, Rammer Jammer started, Mrs. Terry and Lane had a moment, and Saban ran off the field with the biggest smile I’ve seen from him in I don’t know when. To say being there is something I won’t ever forget isn’t enough, it was truly special even if I couldn’t cheer for my team out loud.

The icing on the cake? Being on CBS celebrating with Kirby Smart and Lane Kiffin. I’m all aboard the Lane train.

When we left the stadium we planned to go back to the tailgate, but after walking through the LSU fans and more F-bombs from 12 year olds than I’ve ever heard, we made it back to find the tailgate all packed up. This was not a party-despite-the-loss, this was a get-the-hell-out loss.

How much so? It took us TWO HOURS to get out. It was beyond worth it though. These games are the reason I do this every weekend and what makes the SEC so special. 

Sunday was your typical Sunday after a game weekend, except Deja and I were headed to Starkville to start this massive 10 day #OKTCroadtrip to 5 more schools. Monday in Starkville, Tuesday in Oxford, Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, Thursday in Auburn, and off to Athens for Auburn at UGA, where everyone’s favorite Vegas pro Todd Fuhrman may be making an appearance.

I have BIG PLANS for non-Power 5 grad TF, so stay tuned and let us know what to do in your town!

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.