DALLAS - Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley strolled in the front of the Dallas Hyatt Regency on Monday afternoon looking and acting, for all the world, like a presidential candidate on the campaign trail.
He was dapperly attired in a splendid black pin-striped suit with a sparkling red tie and carried himself with a smile and demeanor that were equally as impressive as he gets ready to lead his team against Houston (12-1) on Jan. 2 in the TicketCity Bowl.
"Coach, I'm Marvin Trexler, Class of '78, we went to school all four years together," said a fan dressed in Penn State garb as Bradley walked through the lobby.
"Well don't tell anyone!" Bradley broadly smiled as he firmly shook hands with the fellow, clearly inferring those folks in the Class of 1978 are no longer spring chickens.
Of course, there is a lot about Penn State (9-3) that is no longer as it was. Something Bradley will acknowledge. In some ways, the last six weeks for him have been like fighting a 16-armed octopus. Just when you think you've got a few arms clamped down, you realize the beast still has plenty of other arms to hit you with.
To try to combat this situation, Bradley claims he has completely tuned out everything from Jerry Sandusky's legal problems to Penn State's search for a new head coach.
"I do [tune out national news on Penn State] because I owe it to these players," he said. "These are the guys we recruited, brought 'em in and told 'em we'd give 'em all we have. I am around a great coaching staff that is focused. It's been easy to keep these guys together because they know we are giving them our absolute best."
Several tweets from Penn State players may have questioned whether the TicketCity Bowl is the absolute best way the Lions could end this season, leading some around Dallas to wonder if Penn State is about as excited about this game as Cameron Diaz would be getting to perform at the Altoona Community Theater. Bradley stiff arms that notion as thoroughly as possible.
"I look at it this way, we have a great matchup," he said. "We've got one of the top three matchups of all the bowl games. We are playing a great Houston team. We have four losses between us. We know the challenge we have ahead of us. I've seen enough film to know we have our work cut out."
Bradley has been associated with Penn State for the last 37 years as a player and coach. He knows that amazing run could be coming to an end shortly, which might explain his exuberance for this bowl game.
"It's an opportunity to get one last game together with a great group of young men that I have been associated with the past four or five years," he said. "So I'm going to be excited to watch 'em play one more time."
The Penn State players sauntered into the hotel all morning and afternoon, each arriving from a different point on the compass. Bradley met with his staff at 3 p.m. and with the players at 7. At 8, the players were on their own to see the town.
"We always have a meeting before to warn them of where not to go," laughed Bradley. "We've been doing that for years and I always laugh when the guy is talking and they are taking notes on where not to go."
As for Bradley, he doesn't know where he will be going after the bowl, but made it clear he'll worry about that . . . after the bowl.