LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Hundreds of members of the Cardinal Nation gathered outside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium for the arrival of the Louisville Cardinals football team after their win Wednesday night in the Sugar Bowl.
The Cards arrived by air back in Louisville about 3:15 and traveled by bus to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, where they immediately heard chants of, "C-A-R-D-S!"
A spokesman for the university said some players weren't present because they were taking time to visit family members. Coach Charlie Strong was also absent, as he's on a recruiting trip.
One player who was there, senior offensive lineman Mario Benavides, told WDRB News, "It really didn't hit me, I mean, it was such a surreal feeling. It all kind of culminated when all of the confetti started falling down. I mean, that's the scene you watch when you're a little kid and those are the moments you dream of being a part of."
Of the game itself, Benavides said, "I think anytime anyone doesn't want to give you a chance, I think you want to prove them wrong. but we knew all along that if we executed the game plan, talent is talent. Florida has talent, we had talent. The difference was that they had an attitude, they built a tradition, when we feel like we're heading in that direction now. So we knew we just had to be the best team on the field on that day. We didn't have to be supermen." He also said it sets the bar high for the younger players and makes recruiting easier.
"It's been awesome," says fan E.J Huber. "It's cold, and half the team's coming, but it doesn't matter. We're out here to show Charlie that we do support the Cards."
Another fan, Mary Jo Elder, said she came right from the airport to the Hall of Fame Cafe for lunch, then right to Cardinal Stadium: "We haven't changed clothes, I'm still wearing my ticket -- it was awesome."
U of L officials say this was not an official celebration -- there could be several celebrations in the coming days -- but it an opportunity for the "12th man" to gather and see the team as they come home.
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