There are eight players on the Colorado football roster who came to CU from what would qualify as Eastern Time Zone hometowns. Six of the eight get to play a game this week in the time zone in which they grew up.
The Buffaloes travel to play Massachusetts on Saturday in Foxborough at the home of the New England Patriots. It's the furthest east the Buffs have ever traveled for a game and the first game CU has played in the Northeast section of the country since a 1977 game at Army. CU is staying in Providence, Rhode Island, for two nights before the game.
It's a nice reward for seniors Tony Jones and Terrel Smith who have given five years of their lives to CU football since they were originally recruited to Boulder by former coach Dan Hawkins and his staff. Both came to CU from Paterson, New Jersey
As Jones was being interviewed about the trip after Wednesday's practice, Smith walked by with a smile and said, "Going back east baby, going back east."
"It's going to be a great thing to go back east and play in the east for my first time in five years," Jones said. "It's a great opportunity, but I still think it's going to be the same as playing anywhere else. You just have more family and friends there."
Foxborough, Massachusetts, isn't exactly right around the corner from Paterson, but it's close enough that dozens of friends and family members of both players are planning to attend. Jones and Smith have been hitting up their teammates from other parts of the country for their tickets to the game.
They aren't alone.
Cornerback Yuri Wright also played his high school football at a New Jersey High School but lists his hometown as Spring Valley, New York.
Ken Crawley, De'Jon Wilson and John Walker all came to CU two years ago from the same Washington D.C. area high school and dubbed themselves the 'DC Three.' They too are expecting to see some familiar faces in the stands.
"It's always good to go back east because not only family members but we've got other people back east that know about us playing football and we know personally," Walker said. "So it's going to be more than just family coming to see us."
The two players from the east who aren't on the travel squad this week are reserve tight end Connor Center (New York) and backup linebacker Deaysean Rippy (Pennsylvania). Both are continuing to work their way into playing time at their positions or on special teams.
Players like Wright, Walker and Wilson might have been in the same position if this game was scheduled earlier in their careers. Walker said it doesn't change the experience much for him that he will actually play in Saturday's game at nickleback or cornerback if needed.
"I'm a team player," Walker said. "Whatever for team. As long as we win, I'm fine."
There is an added dimension to Saturday's game that will make the experience even more special to Jones and Smith.
UMass running backs coach Marcel Shipp grew up in their neighborhood and they looked up to him as he earned a college scholarship at UMass and went on to play in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals. They're looking forward to getting to spend a few minutes with him on the field before or after the game.
"It's definitely going to be a great challenge to see him on the other side of the field and going against him," Jones said. "I think it's pretty cool to know a guy from my neighborhood who is going to be coaching against me. It's going to be fun."
Of the six players from the Eastern Time Zone making the trip this week, Jones, Crawley and Walker played the biggest roles for the Buffs in the season opener last week. Jones carried the ball four times for 11 yards. Crawley was on the field for 68 defensive plays and finished fifth in tackles with four. Walker was on the field for 39 plays and also made four tackles.