Bulls host 2012 football kickoff banquet
Jeff Quinn and Buffalo legend Bill Polian help kick off Bulls' season
Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
In 31 days, the football team will be lining up in Athens, Ga. against the Georgia Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 6 in the country. But before kicking off on September 1, or even the start of preseason camp on Monday, the Bulls unofficially kicked off their season at the annual UB Football Kickoff Luncheon on Wednesday afternoon at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga.
“UB stands for Unfinished Business” was the theme of the event, as players, the coaching staff, their families, and donors were entertained by head coach Jeff Quinn, senior defensive end Steven Means, senior guard Graham Whinery, and current ESPN NFL analyst Polian, who was the Buffalo Bills’ General Manager from 1986-93.
Quinn spoke of the one problem that plagued the Bulls in 2011 that they are looking to correct in 2012 – consistency. He spoke of the close loss to Northern Illinois and the win over Ohio – the two teams that were in the MAC Championship game – as signs that the program is on the right track.
“We look at back at last year, and we talk about finishing games,” Quinn said. “We need to finish games. We have to be more consistent. Those are the little things that we talk about with our football team.”
Naturally, the senior leaders echoed Quinn’s statement.
“I think we lost those games because of the mental aspect, and this year that’s what we pride ourselves on, is winning the mental game, and being ready for that whenever that adversity hits us.” Whinery said.
Entering his final year, Means – who graduated from local Grover Cleveland High School – is on a mission.
“I believe that we can get in front of any team in the NCAA and beat anybody, as long as we play consistent and aggressive football,” Means said. “So I believe that’s all we have to work on, being consistent.”
Polian was a local hero during the Bills’ Super Bowl heyday. He led the Colts from 1998-2012 after working as GM of the Carolina Panthers. Polian was fired this year after the Colts went 2-14.
He delighted the crowd, telling stories about his time in Buffalo, including the famous “get out of town” speech he still hears to this day.
Polian has other connections to the Bulls organization, as his son, Brian, was on UB’s coaching staff in 1998 as tight ends coach, and again from 2001-2003 as running backs coach. Former players like Drew Haddad, Mike Newton, Drew Willy, Jamey Richard, played for the Colts organization during Bill Polian’s tenure. In all, Polian signed seven Bulls.
He believes that this year’s team has a chance to contend in the Mid-American Conference despite its 3-9 mark last year and 2-10 2010 record.
“If you look at the best MAC teams year in and year out, you look at an average of two players that make it in the NFL,” Polian said. “When you have two players [junior running back Bo Oliver and junior linebacker Khalil Mack] on the watch list, what that tells you is A: you’re recruiting the right guys, and B: those are the kind of guys that help you be competitive in the league. It points to everything being in the right direction.”
Means, however, made the bold prediction of the afternoon.
“I see us winning a MAC championship this year first and foremost, and I see us going to a bowl game, whatever bowl game we decide to go to and winning that one, too,” Means said.
The Bulls will hit the practice field for the first time to back up Means’ statement on Monday, Aug. 6 at 3 p.m.