It was a glitzy and glamorous night at Walt Disney World on Thursday as the biggest stars in college football were on hand for the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards show. Marquee gridiron stars such as Florida’s Tim Tebow, Texas’ Colt McCoy, Alabama’s Mark Ingram and Boston College’s Mark Herzlich walked the red carpet amid a sea of fans and media before picking up some of the game’s most prestigious year-end awards.
Among all of the star players and legendary NFL pros who served as award presenters, Herzlich really stood out because he won the Disney Spirit Award that’s given annually to college football’s most inspirational player regardless of on-field achievements. Herzlich recently survived a life-threatening battle with a rare bone cancer and is determined to return to the football field for Boston College next season.
Still, despite the fierce competition for each award, these celebrity athletes found plenty of time to have a little fun, hoping on a few of the more popular attractions at Disney. Hey, when you’ve reached the pinnacle of your sport, what else are you going to do except shout: “I’m Going to Disney World!’’
The virtual image of Kobe and LeBron, which ESPN used in its NBA Finals broadcast coverage this summer, is just some of the cool new on-air broadcast technology being developed by ESPN at its new Innovation Lab at Disney’s Sports Complex.
The virtual player images are part of what ESPN calls its EA Sports Virtual Playbook application, which it also used during its NFL broadcast coverage. Essentially, it allows ESPN’s on-air talent to demonstrate team plays for the viewer by interacting with virtual players on a virtual field in the studio.
More high-tech applications are on the way. Construction was recently completed on the ESPN Innovation Lab, a new building near the complex’s tennis courts, which is where an ESPN Emerging Technology team will now work exclusively. It’s the perfect location because ESPN has no shortage of test subjects given that more than 250,000 athletes compete and train in 60 different sports at the Disney complex each year.
And ESPN has been putting them to good use, testing all sorts of funky new innovations on them – innovations that will be coming to a TV set near you soon. Nothing has been formally announced yet, but word is that a couple of things they are working on involve utilizing hologram technology for something similar to a virtual interview, as well as some funky new freeze frame and zoom applications.
We’ll be giving you the scoop on those kinds of experiences and so much more as Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex transitions into ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex over the next several months as part of the Disney-ESPN collaboration to take youth sports to the next level.
Along the way, we’ll take you behind the scenes at some of the biggest sports events at Disney, such as the Old Spice Classic college basketball tournament over Thanksgiving Weekend, the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards in December and Atlanta Braves Spring Training in February.
Essentially, this is a great place to get all of the insider information about the biggest events in amateur sports and some of the marquee names in pro sports.