SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- USS Makin Island (LHD 8) hosted a shipboard luncheon Dec. 28 in honor of the University of Nebraska and University of Arizona football teams, who faced off in the 2009 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 30.
The luncheon, a tradition for the San Diego event, gave the selected ship's crew a chance to mingle with various college football icons.
For Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Robert Fish, a Makin Island Sailor and the honorary Holiday Bowl captain for the University of Nebraska, the event was an opportunity to proudly represent his home state and the U.S. Navy.
"[Participating in the Holiday Bowl is] awesome since I've never really been to a Nebraska game," said Fish. "So instead of seeing the game on TV, I get to actually go to the game and watch it. Hopefully, my grandpa and family in Nebraska get to watch the game and see me on TV."
Prior to the luncheon, the University of Arizona's marching band performed on the pier for arriving guests and Makin Island, USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) Sailors.
Makin Island's hangar bay was transformed into a dining room for more than 1,000 guests, including both teams' cheerleading squads, for the luncheon. During the meal, each team presented an Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp Trophy to recipients who contributed notable time and dedication to the Holiday Bowl. The 2009 trophies were presented to University of Arizona's Equipment Manager Wendell Meal and University of Nebraska's Wide Receiver Wes Commack.
After the luncheon, the teams were given tours around the Navy's newest amphibious assault ship.
"It's definitely massive," said Commack. "I mean, I've never been up close to anything this big, and the Sailors and their commitment, it shows. We're committed to the football team, but it's nothing like what Sailors do every day, putting their lives on the line for our country."
For hosting the luncheon, members of the Makin Island crew received free admission to the game.
Fish and Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Courtney Smythe, honorary Holiday Bowl captain for the University of Arizona, called the coin toss and stood by their respective teams on the sidelines during the game.
For more news from USS Makin Island (LHD 8), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.