Luke Fickell is known for his energetic and determined coaching style when he paces the sidelines in the fall, but he’ll be the first to tell you that sometimes, the players simply need some downtime to soak up the experience of being a student-athlete.
Fickell, who is entering his third year as the head football coach at the University of Cincinnati, decided to let his team have some fun before spring practice begins Saturday by holding a slam-dunk contest Wednesday in the newly renovated Fifth Third Arena.
Nothing screams “entertainment” like putting a bunch of athletic football players in a gym and asking them to do something with a basketball.
Junior safety James “The Freak” Wiggins, who stands at 6 feet tall, started it off with a windmill dunk that rivals anything I’ve seen from the UC men’s basketball team during pregame warmups this year.
You may recognize Wiggins as the guy who sealed three victories for the football team with interceptions this past season. He picked off Ohio University (Sept. 22) and Virginia Tech (Dec. 31, Military Bowl) in the closing moments to ensure wins, and he also won the Southern Methodist game (Oct. 27) in walk-off fashion by returning an interception for a touchdown in overtime.
Next, 6-foot-3 freshman wide receiver Alec Pierce displayed his leaping abilities by throwing the ball off the backboard and catching it for a one-handed dunk, much to the enjoyment of his teammates.
To cap things off, 6-foot-6 freshman tight end and Cincinnati-native Josh Whyle (La Salle High School) threw down your average 360 dunk. You know, the one every human is capable of pulling off.
The judges, aka a Twitter poll, chose Wiggins as the winner with 52 percent of the vote. Pierce received 29 percent and Whyle was awarded 19 percent.