SHREVEPORT, La. — Playing in its first bowl game in five years, the MU football team is by no means picky. Even so, when the Tigers arrived in Shreveport on Saturday afternoon to prepare for Wednesday’s Independence Bowl, they were surprised with the city that greeted them.
“It was a lot different than we expected — in a good way,” offensive tackle Rob Droege said.
Except for that smell.
The Red River, which separates Shreveport and Bossier City, La., often emits a sour odor that takes a bit of adjustment for some visitors. After a day and a half in Shreveport, players said they are still getting used to the scent.
“There is a weird smell out here, and it’s starting to get in everything I drink,” said J.D. McCoy, a senior tight end. “It tastes like river or something.”
Sophomore offensive guard Tony Palmer said he has not determined the precise origin of the smell but it seems to be the only downfall of the trip thus far.
“You don’t know where that smell’s coming from,” Palmer said. “You don’t know if it’s the sewers around here or not. Other than that, this place is pretty nice.”
After a brief meeting Saturday, players had free time to explore the city.
Wide receiver Thomson Omboga said he “went downtown, checked out the scenery, got lost.”
Players checked out area restaurants and the nightlife. Although some bars in downtown Shreveport are open until 6 a.m., the players have a midnight curfew.
“It’s a pretty city,” Palmer said. “Everything is pretty much within walking distance from the hotel.”
The team is staying at the downtown Sheraton. For the players, the hotel set up a hospitality room with food, drinks, foosball tables and several video game systems. Video games are a travel must for the Tigers.
“We can’t leave home without it,” Palmer said.
In addition to the team, several athletic department officials and their families made the trip.
Marcus James, a senior wide receiver, said he has been spending time with his new “extended family.”
“There’s a bunch of coaches’ kids running around,” James said. “I love kids, so I’ve been hanging around with them.”
Several Tigers spent their recreational time on Saturday and Sunday in Shreveport’s biggest moneymaker — casinos. McCoy said Sunday’s trip to Harrah’s resulted from a disappointing Saturday night.
“I lost a whole lot, and then I won some back, so I decided I had to quit,” McCoy said. “I gotta get my money back.”
For Christmas, McCoy received golf clubs, and he said he wanted to win enough money to buy a new bag to put them in.
As part of the $1.2 million bowl payout for MU, the players receive spending money for the trip.
Although Russ Bell, a defensive tackle, said he has come out on top so far in the casinos, he said that many of his teammates did not fare so well.
“A lot of people gambled a little money here and there,” Bell said. “It was a team effort.”