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It’s a Whole New Experience

Oscar Lua, USC’s starting middle linebacker, is a fourth-year junior from Indio. He talked to Times staff writer Gary Klein on Thursday about his thoughts on the upcoming Rose Bowl.

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I guess this is the start of the real Rose Bowl experience because we practiced and then it’s off to Disneyland. Tonight, we check into the team hotel.

Most of the guys on the team have been to Disneyland, but it’s still a fun deal because we get to come away from the field and just hang out a little bit and play around. It’s kind of sad, though, because we have the front-of-the-line passes and the little kids are like, “Hey, these guys are taking over!” But it’s all fun and games and we just try to be as nice as possible with everybody. Space Mountain has got to be the best ride because you’re on a rollercoaster in the dark and then you’ve got all these blinking lights. You gotta go.

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We played in the national championship game last year, but this is absolutely a different experience for me. Why? Because I’m starting. I’ve got a little more riding on it. I’ve got my name stamped on the defense along with my other comrades. It’s a much more intense game experience when you know you’re going to be starting and playing a big part in it, especially facing Vince Young and this Texas offense. It’s just a lot more intense, a lot more fun and a lot more nerve-racking. It’s football.

It’s tough not to get caught up in the hype with all the media and a lot of spectacles going around. But that’s part of the bowl experience. You’ve got to enjoy it. It’s fun. I mean, I love the press and everything that goes with it. It’s part of the game. Some guys don’t like it, but it’s part of football and you signed up for it. It’s the lifestyle you chose. So you’ve got to enjoy sitting down in the interview room and playing on the gridiron.

Last year in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, I was in on kickoffs and played a few snaps, but I had [All-American] Lofa Tatupu in front of me. It was a limited role. An important one, because they all are, but limited. So this experience this year is a lot more real. It’s a very, very special role being a leader and whatnot. It’s a lot more fun.

I’m looking forward to getting to the team hotel. It’s great to practice on campus, but staying in a hotel is all part of the bowl experience. It wouldn’t be the same if you were just going home and seeing your roommates.

You get to hang out with all of your teammates, play cards and whatnot. We’ve got a players’ hospitality room, video games, pool tables, food everywhere, a Jacuzzi, a pool. What more could you ask for?


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