Spending Christmas in a hotel is not unusual for LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The son of a longtime football coach, he recalls tearing the paper off his gifts in a room with two queen beds, a color television that swiveled and hand soap wrapped in paper.
It didn’t bother him then and it’s not going to bother him now.
“We’re used to having hotel Christmases linked to football, so it won’t be anything new to us,” Burrow said. “I had to make sure my parents sent the letter to Santa telling him we’d be in a hotel and send the presents there.”
This year Burrow and his LSU teammates – along with the Oklahoma football team — will spend Christmas in an Atlanta hotel as they prepare for the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Saturday. With a two-hour practice scheduled on Christmas, it won’t be a typical ho-ho-ho sort of day.
“We know you’re usually with your family on Christmas day,” LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson said. “But this is a good problem to have. In this case, I mean, we’re thankful to be in these situations.”
Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray agreed. “I wouldn’t want to spend Christmas any other way — if I had to be away — than to be here playing in the College Football Playoff. It’s a blessing to be here.”
Many of the players got a chance to go home and see their family last week. That allowed them to have an early opportunity to celebrate before Dec. 25.
“I think a lot of them liked it,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “They get a chance to have two Christmases. Santa Claus will come to see them twice and they like that.”
The Oklahoma players are more accustomed to Christmas being a work day. This is the third straight season the Sooners have made the playoffs. Last year they celebrated Christmas in Miami – cranberry sauce and conch fritters? — as they prepared for the Orange Bowl.
“Whenever you go to school at a place like Oklahoma, it’s something you’d expect,” Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey said. “These are some pretty big games that we’re playing. I get to see my family afterwards and we’ll do some Christmas things then.”
Receiver CeeDee Lamb said, “You’re not with your family, but at the end of the day they know why you’re not there and you know why you’re not there.”
For some players, like LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase, it’s their first time to be away from home for Christmas. “I’ve never been anywhere but New Orleans for Christmas, so I want to take this experience as a vacation – but a vacation of football. I’m looking forward to being here for Christmas. My family’s coming out, so I may get to go out to eat with them on Christmas.”
And there are worse things than sharing a nice meal – even though it may not be made with the same amount of love as Grandma would make it – with your teammates. Players on the team spend most of their time together, so why not the holidays?
“It won’t be the same,” LSU linebacker Patrick Queen said. “But we’ve got a lot of funny guys on the team, so it should be a funny Christmas.”