As the California sun beamed down on Flo’s V8 Cafe and the Cozy Cone Motel, rows of wooden chairs and a swarm of Southern California and Penn State fans shut down Route 66.
No, not the actual “Main Street of America,” but rather the street passing through Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land.
Seemingly dropped into the kids’ movie was the first scene of Rose Bowl week: after comments by the Disneyland vice president and President of the Tournament of Roses, Penn State coach James Franklin and four Nittany Lions, along with USC coach Clay Helton and a few Trojans, were introduced to the crowd.
With the Rose Bowl game less than a week away, slated to kickoff at 5 p.m. Monday, this was the first official joint public appearance of the 2017 Rose Bowl teams, No. 5 Penn State and No. 9 USC.
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Disneyland has hosted the tradition dating back to 1959, and the Nittany Lions were ecstatic to be there.
“We always talk to our players about being present,” Franklin said. “When we’re at practice, be at practice. When we’re in meetings, be at meetings. And when we’re at Disneyland, be at Disneyland and enjoy it.”
The coach and his players flew from Harrisburg to Los Angeles on Monday, got settled at their new digs in the Omni Hotel, and decompressed from a five-hour flight that was filled with eagerness.
Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin, a Delaware native, has never been to the Golden State before, so joining teammates Koa Farmer, Brian Gaia and Garrett Sickels on-stage at California Adventure was neat.
“We were all really thrilled and really pumped,” Godwin said. “To get out of the 20-degree weather of State College, it’s pretty cool.”
Meanwhile, Gaia — oddly enough a Pasadena, Md., native — was asked about playing in Pasadena, Calif., in a handful of days.
“Back home it’s actually decently warm for winter time,” he said. “But it’s definitely nicer here.”
Prior to Franklin, Helton and their players addressing the crowd, Brad Ratliff, the President of the 2017 Tournament of Roses, issued a few remarks and told the fans to pray for weather like Tuesday.
Patrick Finnegan, the Disneyland Resort Vice President, recognized Penn State and USC’s accomplishments.
“For all of us college football fans, I know where we’ll be next Monday: we’ll be watching the Rose Bowl game,” Finnegan said. “On behalf of the Disneyland Resort, I give a big welcome to both teams, and best of luck.”
After the joint public appearance, Franklin and his four players were able to join the rest of the team roaming the park, trying to hit up as many rides as possible.
Franklin’s wife, Fumi, and their daughters Addi and Shola were on-hand, hopping on rides such as the Radiator Springs Racers.
The coach was happy to open the Rose Bowl experience at California Adventure. He said his daughters were enjoying it and so were his players.
Several Nittany Lions were seen walking around the park, hearing “We Are” chants and other support from patrons.
It was just the start of an activity-filled week, but Franklin isn’t concerned with the Nittany Lions’ focus.
“As long as our guys can be mature and handle these things without it being a distraction,” Franklin said, “and we’ve shown that we’ve been able to handle distractions throughout the season, so I anticipate them doing that this week, as well.”