TORONTO – South Florida quarterback Evan Landi unexpectedly was a hot topic of discussion at practices for Saturday's International Bowl.
It wasn't for his play on the football field. It was for what he gave up to play football. Landi could have been playing professional hockey in Ontario (Toronto is in the province of Ontario), but declined a contract with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League out of high school, and chose to pursue football instead.
"That guy's unbelievable," South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said. "He's big. He's strong. He's fast. He's smart. He's tough. His agility is great. I bet you he would have made one heck of a hockey player."
South Florida doesn't have the only player with hockey experience though. Northern Illinois left tackle Trevor Olson, a native of Richmond, Minn., played two years of varsity hockey and said he has been playing it since he was 4 years old.
"I played defenseman," he said. "It's fun. I love the game of hockey. Whenever I go home I play. I try and watch as many games as I can."
On the day Canada selected its hockey team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, which was celebrated with around-the-clock TV coverage, a much-hyped live announcement and the Toronto Globe and Mail headline calling it 'D-Day,' Olson and Leavitt said they were looking forward to visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame this week.
"I think hockey is one of the most incredible sports," Leavitt said. "I'm just amazed how people can do what they do at the speed that they do it with those skates on."
Kube questionable: Linebacker Alex Kube is questionable for Saturday's game because of a sprained knee suffered during bowl practice in DeKalb, said NIU coach Jerry Kill.
"He's moved around and things like that but I don't know if he can cut on this turf," Kill said. "This surface is pretty firm."
Kill said he personally will work out Kube individually today to determine Kube's progress and his status for the bowl game.
The favorites? The Las Vegas betting lines show South Florida as a seven-point favorite over NIU. That feeling has been echoed over and over again by the national media, and ESPN college football analyst Jesse Palmer, a Toronto native, took it a step further in his bowl game rankings.
"Jesse Palmer, who was a teammate of mine is San Francisco, was sitting there and saying it was the worst game of the bowl season," NIU recruting coordinator and wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck said. "I was like 'Come on Jesse.'
"I think that inspires our kids as well and hopefully they'll be able to be motivated by that and have a good showing,"
When asked about the Bulls being favored, Leavitt disagreed as well.
"I think it's one heck of a matchup and a very even matchup," Leavitt said. "I don't know where anyone would say we're a favorite in this one. ... Jerry Kill is one of the top coaches in the country. They will be ready to play, they will execute extremely well.
"They will play disciplined and they will play 60 minutes of football until the last play of the game. We have got to match that and more to win."
Feeling cold: The talk of the first two days in Toronto for USF was the weather, when temperatures reached single digits. Most of the Bulls' players were completely unfamiliar with that kind of cold.
All but eight players on South Florida's 100-plus player roster are from the state of Florida. Tampa product Carlton Mitchell, the Bulls' top wide receiver, was unnerved by it.
"I'm not used to this, I'm not going to lie," Mitchell said. "I was outside for a total of 30 seconds the other day and it was the worst 30 seconds of my life."