Bowl week. Not every college football player gets to participate in one, but for those that do it’s an affair of amenities that range anywhere from amusement parks to museums to walks on the beach.
For former North Forsyth lineman Colby Gossett, his first experience at a bowl is also the first for his school, Appalachian State, which went 10-2 in its first season of bowl eligibility in the Sun Belt Conference. The Mountaineers didn’t get the most touristy invitation for their program test run.
The city: Montgomery, Alabama. The stadium: The Cramton Bowl, which is 93 years old.
The Mountaineers will face off against Ohio (8-4, 5-3 MAC) in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl Saturday, Dec. 19, at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN, and while it’s not the most prestigious of the season, Gossett and his teammates are thrilled—after all, they’ve still made a lot of history to this point.
“It’s awesome. The hype around campus and everywhere we’ve been so far, everyone is congratulating us and stuff. It’s great,” said Gossett, who played offensive and defensive line for the Raiders between 2009-12. “There’s an entire player lounge, and as much snack food as possible. All kinds of free food.”
The 6-foot-6, 315 pound red-shirt sophomore has experienced a fruitful transition of Appalachian State football that he thinks speaks to the humble background of playing football at Coal Mountain, as well as in the cold mountains of Boone, North Carolina, where campus is located.
The Mountaineers, six years removed from their upset of Michigan in the Big House, went just 4-8 and .500 in conference play during Gossett’s redshirt season as a freshman. That wasn’t good news, considering they would begin play in the Football Bowl Subdivision as members of the Sun Belt starting the following year.
Then came a 1-5 start in 2014, including a tough 55-48 loss to Liberty on homecoming, Oct. 11. That was Gossett’s first start at right guard for the Mountaineers. It was also the beginning of a six-game winning streak that catapulted Appalachian State to a 6-2 conference record in the Sun Belt. Heading into this year, national media had the Mountaineers tabbed as favorites to win the conference over upstart Arkansas State and the conference’s darling, Georgia Southern.
This season the Mountaineers are 10-2, with their only losses to Clemson and Arkansas State, and Gossett says his team’s growth has been remarkable to be a part of.
“The program here has come a long way. Coach Satterfield introduced a new strength and conditioning staff, we all got bigger, stronger and faster,” Gossett said.
So what caused so much change in the program?
“Aggression,” Gossett said. “We’re a very aggressive group up front, too. I started this season at guard, which I love. With a few injuries I ended up at right tackle. It’s aggression that brings a fire to the football team and the offensive line. I like to think I add that.”
Gossett has helped push a team with offensive balance: The Mountaineers average 268.8 yards per game on the ground and 201.8 through the air and have only allowed nine sacks all season.
“We call ourselves the band of brothers,” Gossett said of the offensive line. “When I first got here I really became a big part of it. We’re a tight knit group.”
Gossett said the small-town feel in Boone, a mountain city just southeast of the Cherokee National Forest, fits perfect with his personality.
“I actually really enjoy cold weather and being in the mountains,” Gossett said. “I’ve gotten to experience some pretty crazy snow.”
Still, Gossett, with two more years of eligibility following this weekend, will have to hold off before taking full advantage of the community he now calls home, which includes short drives to skiing destinations.
“No snowboarding or skiing yet for me,” he said. “Not until football is over.”