Training Camp Visits A Staple For Many Fans

For fans of professional football in it’s grandest form, the NFL, there is nothing like awaiting the start of training camp. After all the momentous hype that builds up to the NFL Draft and envisioning your team picking out that one missing puzzle piece to a championship, the aura wears off as OTA’s and minicamps come and go, and the lull of waiting for training camp begins. However, not for much longer, as we are two days away.

This year at the small Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA will be a special one for the fans making the trip as the team will be celebrating it’s 50th anniversary hosting camp there. On Sunday at the team’s first practice, there will be a special on-field presentation featuring Steelers from the last five decades, including Merril Hoge, Louis Lipps, Jon Kolb, J.T. Thomas and Charlie Batch. This year, coming off the team’s playoff appearance after a two-year hiatus, coupled with the hoopla of half the half a century celebrations should figure to attract quite the crowd. Another highlight of camp is the annual “under the lights” practice held on Chuck Noll Field, which always brings out the best in the team.

Since the dynasty began in the 70s, the annual summer trip is a revelation for many, whether coming from the far corners of the continent or right around the corner in the foothills of Pittsburgh. A bonus of making the trip in addition to viewing the team practice is the luxury of some fine local eateries, headlined by my personal favorite, “Dino’s”, where if you’re lucky, you may catch a coach or some of the players grabbing some wings or a brew after the brutal heat of a mid-summer’s practice.

For some, like Ralph Calise of New York, the trip is a tradition, as he’s entering his 19th season making the trip down from the Empire State. His favorite part is the up-close and personal meet and greets with the players after practice, which often yield opportunities for autographs.

“The highlight for me was walking with Greg Lloyd, coming from the dorm area, after getting lost while walking around campus,” Calise said, according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “It was my first year going there and he signed my jersey while I was walking with him.”
He also went on to cite a personal memento that he’ll cherish with him forever, as Mike Tomlin called Calise and his friend, Greg Lepani, his “Brooklyn Boys” while camping out early and waiting for autographs.
For fans like Calise, each year brings something different to the table that they can forever ingrain in their memories. For others like myself, it’s the hope of witnessing a promising team in it’s infancy as it looks to mesh and build the cohesion needed for a deep playoff trip come January and February. While many others choose baseball, allegedly “America’s Pastime” during the summer, us football fanatics are like little kids awaiting Christmas morning as we count down the days until the team reports to Latrobe. It’s an energy in the air unlike any other and it all means the season is just around the corner, and yet another chance to add to the trophy case full of six Lombardi’s.

  • dkoy85

    The wife and I will be there for the Friday night practice and all saturday. Something we’ve been doing for the past 5 years and look forward to it every year.

  • Steve

    Sounds cool bringing together all these Steelers at the site where they all started. Wonder how much has changed per the older guys and would be nice hearing some of their stories.

  • Conserv_58

    I will be there this coming Sunday and Monday. It’ll be my fifth training camp. I attended last year and got videos of the scrimmage with the Bills. This being the fiftieth anniversary of traing camp at Latrobe will be special and I wanted to be there to experience it. I plan to get as many photos as possible.

    There will indeed be a lot of electricity in the air because fans sense that with the signing of Ben to a contract extension, the addition of the new rookie class, the coaching change at D.C., the additions of Joey Porter and Jerry Olsavsky as full time position coaches and the fact that Jerome is getting inducted into the HOF in a couple of weeks, this team has the real potential to be special. With Mike Tomlin now signed a two year contract extension the Steelers arrow is pointing up toward getting a seventh Lombardi Trophy. The most important factor will be the team’s ability to stay healthy.

    The 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers, especially the offense, have the ability to break both team and NFL records. I believe and expect the defense to surprise many of their doubters. Yeah, there’s a sense amongst Steelers Nation that this team is about to do great things this year and it’s going to be exciting to watch.

  • Dan Elgin

    I’ve been taking my daughters, now 24 & 22, to Latrobe for the past 11 years. Many, many incredible stories and memories, but the best may have been our very first trip. We drove from about 3 hours away, ate at Sharkeys, and then made our way to St. Vincents.

    After buying a pile of stuff at the sideline store, we watched about 15 minutes of practice before thunderstorms and rain chased the players off the field. Two players stood in the buckets and buckets of rain and signed autographs for the kids. Troy and Hines.

    My youngest daughter, 11 at the time, was so impressed by Hines that she became his “biggest fan.” Her only mission each year at camp was to get Hines to autograph something. She went to his tv show and got a selfie with him, has numerous autographs, jerseys, and even a Gatorade bottle that Hines himself drank from (yeah, disgusting I know). We called it her “Hines Shrine.”

    The girls are both married now and Hines has taken a back seat to Brad, but we continue our trips each year. Dad and his two little girls..full of hope and the promise of another year of Steelers football.

    See you guys on July 26th!!

  • Alex Kozora

    Great story, Dan.

  • Dan Elgin

    Thanks Alex. By the way, love you on the podcast! Hope you’ll make regular appearances throughout the season.

  • LucasY59

    someday I will get out there, unfortunately I might have to wait till I retire, and that is way too far away.

  • Conserv_58

    All packed and ready to hit the road. Got a six and a half hour drive ahead to get to camp. Hopefully we don’t run into too much of the never ending road construction in Pennsylvania.

  • Dan Elgin

    We did the night practice one year and loved it! We actually met Mean Joe that year and chatted with him for a bit.

  • dkoy85

    It’s an awesome experience!