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Move-in day a rite of passage for Rice players

8/17/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
HOUSTON -- Andrew Sendejo is standing in the back of a crowded elevator that's heading to the fourth floor of Weiss College on the Rice campus.

His arms are loaded with boxes full of clothing, school supplies, food and adornments for a dorm room of a freshman he doesn't know.

It's hot. Really hot. The elevator is like a sweatbox and beads of sweat are rolling down side of Sendejo's head. But he doesn't dare move to wipe it off or everything will go crashing to the ground.

Suddenly a voice speaks from the other side of the small elevator.

"Hey, man, how are two-a-days going?" a young man in a yellow Wiess College shirt asks.

"Pretty good," Sendejo responds.

"Is the team going to be pretty good this year?" the young man continues.

"Yeah, we think so."

Sendejo smiles as the elevator doors open and the muggy air of Houston becomes a welcome relief.

Sendejo's answers are nearly rehearsed. He's already been asked about the football a few times already and he'll be asked a few more before the freshman move-in is over.

He doesn't mind. It's one of the better parts of two-a-days, especially after a 10-3 season.

"This is supposed to be our day off, but we take a couple hours and help the freshmen move into their dorms," Sendejo said. "It's fun talking with everyone and seeing them excited about football."

For two hours on Sunday, parents unloaded their future freshmen and all of their stuff on the curbs outside of their respective colleges. Colleges are assigned randomly and act as the social mainframe for incoming and current students.

Upperclassmen assistants and mentors from Wiess College usually greet the cars, but occasionally a football player was the first on the scene to help carry belongings.

"You guys are so nice," one parent says.

"Is this part of your conditioning?" Another parent jokes.

Slightly down the sidewalk, offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher is watching players grab his niece's stuff. She's just in from Massachusetts. Several other coaches and even athletic director Chris DelConte have stopped in to check on the progress.

Sendejo lived in Weiss College, as did fellow defensive back Travis Bradshaw and placekicker Clark Fangmeier, so they have no problem helping out their future college mates.

"I don't mind doing it," Bradshaw said. "It goes by pretty quickly."

Sendejo, Bradshaw and Fangmeier work in a yeoman-like fashion. The trio is excited they didn't have to wear their jerseys for this year's move-in because it gets too hot. Instead, the players are in athletic shorts and gray Nike dri-fit T-shirts with no discerning markings that they're football players, though they are in much better shape than any of the other movers.

While many know the players by face, they don't always know them by name. Sendejo was called "Mark" several times by a young woman wishing for his help. It drew a nice laugh from the players.

While Sendejo and Bradshaw are picking and choosing what to carry next -- always opting for the stuff that's going to the second floor rather than the fourth -- Fangmeier has commandeered a laundry cart, which he fills with everything from clothes to a printer to a television. He brings the cart into a dorm room where several young women and their mothers are waiting. As some of the young girls try to lift the heavier items out of the cart, Fangmeier steps in front of them and unloads the cart himself. The ladies smile and admire. One of the perks.

Moving day also means reminiscing, especially by Sendejo, a senior. He lived on the fourth floor of Weiss and stops in front of his room.

"When I lived here, I had five bags," Sendejo said. "When I moved out, I filled them all with clothes and dropped them off the balcony into the grass. Then I drove my truck up here, picked them up and was gone. That was easy."

Despite all the hard work, the players did find time to goof around. Two decided to take the laundry basket for spin and ended up toppled in the grass. Sendejo spent much of the morning taunting one of the female assistants, who was wearing high heels for the move -- and yes, she did all two hours in the heels and never complained.

And when the job was finished and the freshmen had retreated to their rooms, the football players walked across the courtyard to their favorite cafeteria and common hall in search of food, sleep and the rest of their day off.

"It's kind of like a rite of passage, yeah," said Chuck Pool, Rice's assistant athletic director in charge of media relations. "It's a good way for the guys to get out and meet the other students. ... I think they enjoy it."