Come (Fantasy) Camping – Part III

This entry was posted by on Monday, 17 June, 2019 at

My iPhone alarm went off and I awoke like Christmas morning. My roommate was still asleep, so I quietly gathered my things for a shower and to change. I donned the jersey I was given (each person was given a home jersey with a number and name of their choice), #26 Walsh, and had picked up gold sweat shorts. I slid on a new brace on my bad knee. The one I use for hockey was way too bulky. I hoped my knee would hold up with this one. I put my cleats on, packed up my hockey knee brace and other medical necessities into my bag and I was off to breakfast. We had been given wrist bands for the group I’d be in. I was blue so I sought out some teammates at breakfast to sit with. I listened more than spoke and was soon ready to head to the field.

Upon arriving at the field, we first set up for a photo op with the group. Shortly thereafter we did our warmups. We lined up 6-7 deep across the field. It varied from walking and squatting, walking and kicking…just really trying to get the muscles stretched. The pace was picked up. Leading off my row was a guy I recognized from last year’s photos from camp. He wore wristbands and gloves. He certainly looked the part and played it too. I, not knowing how my body would hold up, was tail end Charlie. At the end of each drill, this guy would low five each of us. He’d also encourage us during the drill…and God knows I needed that. I got to talking to him since he and I were the only ones going close to full speed in these drills. He was from Tennessee and for the life of me I forget his name now. If you watch this year’s video, he is the one spiking the ball at the end of it. I felt pretty good after the warm ups. I was ready to go.

 

There were 6 groups, and each went to a designated area and to their ex-Steeler coach for that session. You would have 3 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon. Each group would rotate through. My group went to Dermontti Dawson and the O-Line drills first. We lined up into 2-two man lines, with two guys across. Dawson was explaining the drill, but he was on the far side of the other line, so it was hard to hear him. Two teammates would hold blocking pads. The other two would go up against them. The two without the pads would hit the first guy with pads. The second guy with pads would swing around. Without hearing Dawson, I figured the guy swinging around was the RB, we would hit the blocking guy, slide off and get the RB. Well, that is what I did. Dawson’s assistant, a cute intern for the Steelers, came over to me…I figured because of my prowess in attacking the ball carrier. She said, good job, you just got your QB killed. It was then I realized I WAS the O-Line. The guy swinging around was a LB trying to blitz or stuff the run. One of us needed to stay engaged with the original guy with the pad. Whatever side the LB went to that guy would slide off (not both of us) and pick up the LB. OOPS! Well, the drill went much better after that. The intern came over and said much better. I told her I thought I was the D, once I knew what I was doing, it helped. She just shook her head and laughed. I think Dawson realized this and now switched from line to line to make sure everyone knew the drill he’d be running. After the drills, the fun part was now we went up against Chris Hoke’s DL group. I was part of the first O-Line team to line up. A little short for tackle, I went inside and played center. The other team lined up against us. A hybrid D-Line consisting of 2 DE, 2 DT and a NT. They decided to have us go one on one down the like instead of all 5 at once. Probably a good idea. They went from left to right. Soon it was my turn and a squat NT was across me. I would need to get low. He tried to bull rush me back. My two hands coming up and into his inner body slowed him down quite a bit. The push stood him up and he lost his center of gravity…and quickly lost the battle. I believe I heard Dawson say, that’s the way you do it. After everyone got their turn, we’d move on to the next area.

Next up was Shaun Suisham. Our group was split in three for FG kicking, punting and long snapping. Since my knee was already bad, and it was my kicking leg, I took up long snapping first. I’ve always been able to snap. A friend of mine from college was a long napper in High School. He showed me a thing or two on how to get that spiral. He was 6’5” with hands to match, he could rifle it through his legs one handed. I, on the other hand, had to learn how to do it with two. My first snaps were right on the money to the holder. I worked on getting a better spiral, but then lost some accuracy. Soon we rotated and our group was kicking FG’s. I gave it two tries. Not even close, maybe I’d be good at onside kicks. Next up was punting. I could do that better than kicking since I did not have to be afraid of driving my leg into the ground. Suisham said to us, on any errant punts, yell Peter, instead of “heads up”. No one thought much about it at the time. Suisham definitely had the best personality. He did have good pointers in how to kick FG’s and also talked about being a kicker in the league. After we all rotated, he said we were going to emulate a last second FG. He asked who wanted to do what. I thought about being the long snapper, but Suisham’s words of it all hinges on a good snap made me pass. I did become one of the blockers. We stood on the sidelines and he counted down from 25. The 11 of us ran onto the field. The ball was hiked…on the money…the hold was solid, and the kick was GOOD! Not bad for a bunch of never was’es…

 

Next up was Louis Lipps. Again, Lipps was very reserved…. possible hungover from the night before. He asked who could QB, again I thought about it. But I wanted to run routes. We lined up into two lines, one on each hashmark. Lipps needed 2 volunteers to QB. I had seen the one throw earlier and he was good. The guy we got, was not. Lipps had us run 5 yard slant ins. The QB was about 5-7 yds behind the line of scrimmage. I watched both lines. The other QB threw nice tight accurate spirals. Our QB did not. I was 5th in line and he had not completed a pass. I ran my route determined to catch whatever ball he threw. It wasn’t horrible but it was behind me. I reached back and caught it off my hip. I could only think how the D would have clobbered me having to reach back like that. A few more bad passes and our QB passed to another QB, thank God. He was MUCH better. My turn came to run the slant again, he hit me right in stride. Lipps held us up and then had us run 5 yd outs. The QB threw a nice hard pass to me towards the sidelines, I took it and turned upfield. When I got to run it again, this time he lofted it over my shoulders. It dropped perfectly in my arms. As I was heading back to the line, the next guy running got turned around, he caught the ball and fell backwards slamming his head on the hard ground. His glassed flew off in my direction. I picked them up and went over to him, but I could immediately tell he was woozy. The trainers came over (yes, we had trainers!) and they called for the ambulance to come over (yes, we had an ambulance onsite). They walked him to the sideline where they started asking him questions…some of them he had trouble with. Lipps once again stopped us and we would now run another new route. 5 yd slant in, then cut and slant out to the sidelines. My turn came, I slanted in and after 5 yds I planted and cut to slant out. My hamstring said, sorry bud, not happening. I grabbed the back of my leg and one leg hopped like the RB in North Dallas Forty. The QB, unaware of my situation threw the ball anyway. He yelled for me to turn around. Luckily, he was not as accurate this time, and the ball sailed way over my head. The trainers on the sideline were apparently watching. They just said Hamstring huh? I nodded yes. He said to follow him to the trainer’s table for some ice. My morning drills had come to an end. I would not get a chance to run routes against Woodruff’s DB group.

As I got to the trainer’s area there was another guy getting ice. I recognized him from the O-Line session. He told me he got hurt on one of those drills. I felt bad for him, at least I made it to the last of the three morning drill sessions. We would get to talking. We would catch up more later. Soon the whistle blew, and the morning drills were over. I returned the ice pack and hobbled off to lunch.


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