SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Essex (LHD 2) hosted the 2017 San Diego County Credit Union (SDCCU) Holiday Bowl and tour in the ship's hangar bay Dec. 26.
The Holiday Bowl is a post-season NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision college football game that has been played annually since 1978 at SDCCU Stadium in San Diego. Since the 2014 game, it has featured a matchup of Pac-12 and Big Ten teams.
The teams playing this year's game on Dec. 28 will be the Washington State University Cougars and the Michigan State University Spartans.
More than 300 football players, coaches, sponsors and Sailors gathered in the hangar bay to kick off the event and honor the recipients of the Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp trophy as well as two Essex Sailors who were named as honorary team captains: Aviation Electronic's Technician 3rd Class Tyrese Jamison for the Spartans and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Hajen Gwyn for the Cougars.
The Holiday Bowl committee also presented tickets to Thursday's game to the ship as a show of their appreciation.
Essex Commanding Officer, Capt. Jason Burns, personally thanked each coach for the opportunity to host the event and for the Essex Sailors to meet players and coaches.
"We encourage the teams to interact and ask questions because our Sailors are very proud of their ship," said Burns.
Sailors were given the opportunity to demonstrate operational capabilities and shipboard-life by giving tours to coaches, players and sponsors.
"There was a lot of mutual respect between our Sailors and the players," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class James Timanus. "You could tell that the players were very interested and appreciative of what we do."
Essex last took part in the Holiday Bowl in 2014, when they hosted the Trojans of the University of Southern California and the Cornhuskers of the University of Nebraska.
Essex is currently homeported in San Diego, preparing for it's Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) inspection following an extensive maintenance period and trial and evaluation cycle.
For more news from Expeditionary Strike Group 3, visit www.navy.mil/local/esg3/.