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Inside the Hectic Lives of College Football Players During Bowl Week

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterDecember 30, 2015

Florida State QB Sean Maguire
Florida State QB Sean MaguireJohn Bazemore/Associated Press

ATLANTA — For Florida State and Houston football players, bowl week never gets old.

For the fourth time in four years, the Seminoles will compete in a major bowl game (BCS or New Year's Six) when they take on the Houston Cougars in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Thursday afternoon at the Georgia Dome. The Cougars will be making their first major bowl appearance of the modern era, and fourth bowl in five years.

Every experience has been different for the Seminoles, from the Northern Illinois matchup in the 2013 Orange Bowl, to the matchup with Auburn in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game, the Rose Bowl national semifinal against Oregon in January 2015 and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Houston to wrap up the 2015 season on Dec. 31.

They know how to handle the jam-packed schedule.

Houston QB Greg Ward, Jr.
Houston QB Greg Ward, Jr.John Bazemore/Associated Press

For Houston, this is a different experience that involves a crash course in time management.

During one week in Atlanta, both teams have visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, the College Football Hall of Fame, Andretti Indoor Karting and children's hospitals and participated in chalk talks and the annual Battle for Bowl Week competition.

"You have to have a little bit of self-control," said Florida State linebacker Terrance Smith, who's from nearby Decatur. "Especially in a city like Atlanta where there are a lot of things to do. At the end of the day, we're here for a game, not just on vacation. We prioritize, but it's been a very, very busy week for us."

#CFAPeachBowl @CFAPeachBowl

.@UHCougarFB spent some time with the kids today at @childrensatl. #BiggerThanTheGame 📷: https://t.co/UzgfPR8cnh https://t.co/nU4xqBGKF2

#CFAPeachBowl @CFAPeachBowl

.@FSU_Football took some time out of their day to visit with the kids at @childrensatl. 📷: https://t.co/ocNaNkcYbh https://t.co/vFROSzw5sX

The highlight of the trip for the players is a visit to local children's hospitals. It's there where the real value of bowl week comes into focus.

"It just makes you appreciate life more and what God has blessed you with, seeing kids like that and seeing a smile on their face," said Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. "Whenever us players step in and just talk to them, shake their hands and things like that, I'm just overjoyed at seeing children look up to us."

The weeklong Battle for Bowl Week brought the two teams together for five events: the milkshake combine, lip-sync battle, pop-a-shot basketball, go-karting and the "football feud," which is a takeoff of the hit game show Family Feud.

The events provide players and coaches a chance to unwind and have fun with an opponent they aren't too familiar with, while maintaining that competitive edge that football players never seem to turn off.

"The trip to Andretti to race go-karts was fun, a lot of fun," said Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo. "I was worn out after that. I played laser tag, go-karts and all of that. I was a little exhausted after that."

FSU Football @FSUFootball

/Pops in Mario Kart /Turns on N64 /Player select /Reggie Northrup https://t.co/8jvH0WCx7p

Being shuttled from event to event provides a great bowl experience for players, but there's a small little thing like a game to prepare for that, as the week goes on, begins to demand more attention.

Finding time to prepare for the game is challenging, especially for somebody like Seminoles quarterback Sean Maguire.

The redshirt junior will be making just his sixth career start when he trots out to take the first snap for head coach Jimbo Fisher on Thursday afternoon. He filled in for suspended starter Jameis Winston versus Clemson in 2014 and made four starts in place of Everett Golson in October and November this year.

The 6'3", 221-pounder from New Jersey completed 62.1 percent of his passes this season for 1,128 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions, and he is using this chance to make his case to be the starter for the young Seminoles in 2016.

"When you're on the field, you have to put all of the events and fun behind you and get the work done," he said. "When all of the fun stuff wraps up, you have to make sure you get your film time in, get your rest. There's a fine line between having fun and focusing on the game."

Florida State's players and coaches visit at Seacrest Studios at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta on Tuesday
Florida State's players and coaches visit at Seacrest Studios at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta on TuesdayBarrett Sallee

For Maguire, that means a heavy dose of self-discipline in the team hotel thanks to the marvel of modern technology. Players have iPads, but Maguire chooses to use his laptop rather than the tablet because he finds what he works on and what he focuses on is easier to control.

"I expect our offense to come out and play the way we're capable of," he said. "We've grown week in and week out, and I think we have to go out there and put the icing on the cake on this season and get the momentum going into next year."

It's a pressure-packed week for players who have to balance the business of playing a football game with experiences that not many other people get to have.

What's one trick of the trade?

"When you have that free time, take naps," Aguayo said. "That's what I do. Your body needs that rest, and we're here to play a game."

Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.