Saturday, August 02, 2014

my trip to training camp

i had the wonderful joy of being able to head out to latrobe, pa (known at my house this time of year as "mecca") for last night's annual "friday night lights" practice for the pittsburgh steelers at the latrobe high school football stadium.  i don't know how many other fans were there, but there were a ton of us (they had a 50/50 and the fan won about $3000!), and i waited in line for over an hour just to get in the gate, so i could get a nice spot along the fence outside the track, where i then waited another 90+ minutes until the players arrived, and stepped off the yellow school buses, making their way to various spots along the fence to sign autographs for about 15-20 minutes.

here you can see three wide receivers signing autographs, from left to right you have new free agent lance moore, c.j. goodwin (from california university of pa), and derek moye (from penn state).  i didn't get any "pro-bowl" autographs, but i did get 11 guys to sign my terrible towel, which you can see here:

 here are the autographs i got:

#14 derek moye, wide receiver from penn state
#16 lance moore, wide receiver we just signed from the new orleans saints
#18 c.j. goodwin, wide receiver from cal
#21 robert golden, safety in his third season from arizona
#29 shamarko thomas, safety (5'9" - same as me!) in his second season out of syracuse
#40 josh harris, running back, undrafted rookie out of wake forest
#45 bryce davis, tight end and long snapper out of central oklahoma
#68 kelvin beachum, offensive lineman, out of smu
#72 cody wallace, offensive lineman, in his 5th year out of texas a&m
#73 ramon foster, offensive lineman, in his 6th year out of tennessee
#77 marcus gilbert, offensive lineman, in his 4th year out of university of florida
(these are in addition to the two signatures i already had on there (charlie batch and shawn suisham).

here i am with the obligatory training camp selfie.  wearing my #75 joe green hat in honor of the steelers retiring his number this year.

and this is our brand new first round draft pick, ryan shazier, working on some drills in the sunset.  the dude looked fast, strong, eager to learn, passionate, emotional, and very exciting.

the sky over latrobe was simply gorgeous.  i got to see all kinds of good stuff at practice, including some great wide receiver/defensive back matchups.  there was apparently a bit of a scuffle during the backs on backers drill, but that was at the opposite end of the field from me, so i missed it.  

i enjoyed watching joey porter coach up the linebackers a bit, and you can see him up there to the right in the white shirt and long shorts.  two years ago, on that very field, i watched him officially retire.  now he was back with the steelers.  it was cool to see.  

near the end of practice, they were running 11 on 11 plays, way down at the opposite end of the field, near the 10 or 20 yard line.  at one point, ben dropped back to pass, but had no one to throw the ball to.  he had some pressure, and he ducked around a bit, and then started to scramble up the middle.  in real football action, he would have been tackled for a gain of a couple of yards, but no one is allowed to tackle the franchise quarterback in practice, so he went untouched through the linebackers and into the secondary.  then, ben being ben, he just didn't stop.  he kept running.  all the way down the field.  the crowd was yelling and laughing and enjoying it, and he was hamming it up as he hustled all the way down to the end zone, where he didn't even cross over the goal line, he simply held the ball out.  we would have had to go to instant replay to see if he really scored.  bill hillgrove, who calls the plays at the evening practice (as well as all the steelers games on the radio), got into it as well, and hammed up his call of the roethlisberger scramble.  it was a fun moment of levity and connection between the players and the fans.  

so, i didn't get home until almost 1am this morning.  so, it was over 6 hours driving for the day.  so, i stood in line and waited for some 3 hours.  who cares?  it was SO worth it.  a perfect day of fully contracting my annual illness: steelers fever.  i've got it bad.

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