One of Jon Embree's long-range goals for the Colorado football team is representing the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl.
With that in mind, Embree said Monday following the Buffs' first practice of the week that it will serve his younger players well to go on the road to UCLA this week and get a feel for the legendary stadium, its history and aura.
Not many visions get the hair to stand up on Embree's arms the way it does when he thinks about Ralphie running in the Rose Bowl with a blanket of roses on her back.
Embree is hopeful the Buffs play in the Rose Bowl -- the game not just the stadium -- before the freshmen and redshirt freshmen on this season's team graduate.
"It will be a good experience for these kids," Embree said. "A lot of them obviously have never been there, let alone played in it. It will be a lot of fun. It's a special place."
Embree coached in the Rose Bowl for three seasons as an assistant at UCLA (2003-05) before taking a job in the NFL as a tight ends coach. In some ways, those three years were a dream come true for him.
Colorado's first-year coach spent most of his childhood in the Denver area but he had relatives in Los Angeles and spent plenty of time there as well. He grew to appreciate the significance of the Rose Bowl as a child.
He said the opportunity to play four years' worth of home games in the Rose Bowl almost made him choose UCLA over CU and Ohio State when he was being recruited in the early 1980s out of Cherry Creek High School.
"That was one of the hardest decisions about me choosing Colorado, coming out of high school, was I always dreamed of playing in the Rose Bowl, playing in that game," Embree said. "Now to have the opportunity as a coach, and with the kids we have committed from California, and the kids on the team from California, you can't help but grow up wanting to be a part of that game."
Embree and everyone else associated with the 2001 Colorado team had an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl snatched away by the Bowl Championship Series system, which was still in its infancy at the time.
The Buffs won the Big 12 title that season and crushed Nebraska at home in the regular season finale 62-36. But somehow the Cornhuskers advanced to the national title game against Miami in the Rose Bowl ahead of the Buffs.
"The double whammy of not getting picked to play in that game against Miami in 2001, the fact that it was a national title game and it was the Rose Bowl, that was a hard one to get over," Embree said.
Senior defensive back Travis Sandersfeld was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week for his part in beating Arizona and earning the Buffs first Pac-12 victory in program history.
Sandersfeld made 14 total tackles, including 11 solo stops. He registered three tackles for a loss and also made an interception. It was Sandersfeld's second game back after missing seven games with a broken lower leg.
"He played a great game," Embree said. "... He's been missed not being around and you could tell getting his legs back underneath him in the second game was good for him."
Embree said he thought linebackers Jon Major and Patrick Mahnke played the best games of their seasons, too. Embree said Major played as physical as he has all season.
The Buffs will probably be as healthy for their trip to UCLA as they have been since the season started in the first week of September at Hawaii.
Embree said he expects every one of his players to be available to play, aside from those who suffered season ending injuries at some point this fall.
He said that list of healthy players includes cornerback Parker Orms, who left last week's game with a hamstring injury and safety Kyle Washington, who was recovering from a concussion.
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel has been on the hot seat all season and his job remains in jeopardy, even though the Bruins could still win the South Division and play in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game next month.
Embree was asked Monday if it is strange to be in a situation where if he beats Neuheisel, his friend could be fired.
Neuheisel and Embree coached together for two seasons in Boulder under Bill McCartney and the three years Neuheisel was the Buffs' head coach.
"Who says he's going to get fired?" Embree said. "You know what, I don't even look at it that way and I don't think that's appropriate."
Embree, when asked who his wife would root for this week, him or Embree's son Taylor, a wide receiver for UCLA: "I told her to root for her baby. It wouldn't be the first time she rooted against me, going against him. Pool, basketball, it's all the same."