Come (Fantasy) Camping – Part VI

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 19 June, 2019 at

I arrived back at the dorm and there was already a line for the showers. No big deal, I had saved my ice in one of the sinks, I could ice for a while and let others go. I stripped down to shorts and a T-shirt. Yes, took off my cleats and socks and the toes looked perfectly fine. I placed ice in all the necessary areas. Eventually I hobbled into the shower…let the water run on me for quite a while and hardly moved. That evening Rod Woodson was the guest speaker. I brought my Woodson gear. I chose my Sandknit Jersey I bought back when I went to my first game in Pittsburgh back in 1990. The same time I bought that poster. Also, on that trip we went to Woodson’s Grille. I still had a T-shirt from back then. I would wear that underneath the jersey. Most of the guys had already left, so I made my way to the cafeteria on my own…poster in tow.

 

Again, we would sit at our competition team’s table. A few guys were missing so we hoped they went to do the Trivia challenge which they held Saturday evening. Let’s just say the guys who were the veterans at the table were not exactly team leaders. One thing they did bring to the table…literally…was Tunch Ilkin. Apparently over the years they had gotten to know him. They would seek him out when they went to games, home and away. They would call into his show and were regulars. These guys were from Chicago and even brought Tunch a deep-dish pizza when he was doing his show locally when the Steelers played the Bears. Tunch brought over a full plate, I said, still eating like a lineman. He said, this is nothing. He bowed his head and said a low but audible grace. Tunch started to tell stories, mostly non-football. Family, places to go in the different cities. He did say, and I heard him say it a few times over the weekend, the team is better off without AB. For whatever he brought to the field, his change in demeanor, he was no longer worth it. Tunch almost seemed angry about it…like AB let him down. Eventually he did talk about his football days. Since the guys he knew were from Chicago, he talked about the times he played the Bears. How as a lineman, in 1986, he had to face the Superbowl Champ Bears D…which was no easy task. He said they played them tough and lost in OT (I checked, they did). He talked about the ’89 team and felt it was special one. He thought fate was on their side, until it wasn’t. He talked about the rain game against Miami. How after being tackled, Mike Mularky almost drowned in a puddle when the D didn’t get off him right away. I hated to leave, but I wanted to get a good seat to see Rod Woodson talk. I excused myself from the table. Tunch must have lost track of time too. He was like Geez, I got a get moving.

I grabbed a couple of Bud Lite Limes and settled in to a third-row seat. Each of the players would speak. I did not know that, so this was a nice surprise. First up was Shaun Suisham. Suisham, oh Shaun Suisham. He is my favorite now. Apparently, Friday night he was one of the many who went out to Sharkey’s. He started with asking us to remember how instead of “Heads Up” on an errant punt I told you to yell “Peter”? Well, let me tell you a story. Suisham got back late to the dorms, possible the last one arriving. He also stayed in an RA room and was part of another pod. When he got back he saw this guy was wandering around looking for his room. Well, there are only 10 rooms to choose from. That, and the number is on the key and the door. Suisham said this guy was staggering around, drunk off his ass, bouncing off the walls. Suisham led him to his room, opened the door for him, and “poured” him in. Suisham asked him what his name was…he responded Peter. So, any punt off in the wrong direction now would be called out with “Peter”. With that, Suisham raised his cup and said let’s drink to Peter. Suisham went on to toast a few dozen, yes, dozen, different things. I quickly went through my two beers. It definitely set a good mood for the rest of the evening.

Lipps was up. He talked about coming up from the south with everything he owned. He was determined to make his mark. He busted his ass in the now defunct two a days. He wanted to prove himself and he volunteered for a drill every chance he got. He said one practice he was pulled aside by Calvin Sweeney. He told Lipps you don’t need to run all these drills, you’re a first-round pick, you’ve got the team made. Lipps said, I don’t have this team made until I am told I made the team. I am taking nothing for granted. I am going to go out and show them the player I am. I guess that is why Lipps was Lipps and Calvin Sweeney was, well, Calvin Sweeney. Lipps did lament that the team did not draft Marino. I guess he had nightmares of Malone, Woodley, Campbell, Bono and Brister. Later Woodson would say the same thing about drafting Marino. I said to the guys sitting next to me, if Marino was drafted in 1983, me might not have been in a position to draft Lipps and Woodson…we would have had a better record. I don’t think they understood my point…lol. Dwayne Woodruff was next. He talked about how he stepped in as a rookie onto a 3-time Superbowl winning team. All the talent around him was amazing. He said he kind of got his swagger from these guys. They came to play, and you were not going to push them around. He said he tried to carry that into the 80’s as the guys retired, but unfortunately the talent level was just not there.

 

Chris Hoke talked about the time in training camp Big Snack failed to finish the initial camp run and was placed on the PUP list. He still thinks Hampton did that on purpose, so he didn’t have to start camp. Dermontti Dawson talked about the “energy pills” the 80’s team took. My first thought was maybe that 80’s team should have taken better pills. He said one game he took the wrong dosage…and was basically stoned. He couldn’t remember the line calls at all. Wolfley had to make them instead. Noll thought Dawson had a concussion. The players knew better. I thought this was an interesting topic and admission. Woodson, Lipps and Dawson all chimed in about taking them.  Then came Arthur Moats. Moats, well, was the same boisterous Moats he was on the field. He told a story about how when his Alma Mater James Madison trounced Tomlin’s William & Mary, he snuck into his office and filled it with James Madison gear, pennants and such. He said, after that, anytime they needed a body for a drill, coach said, Hey, James Madison get in there. I wish Tomlin did that for the Jacksonville playoff game instead of putting in Spence.

Now it was Woodson’s turn. The main event. He said to the crowd, raise your hand if you can name the QB his first interception was against and he would give that person a signed Woodson jersey. I was like, how do I NOT know this. A few seconds later a hand shot up and Woodson pointed at him. Boomer Esiason. Correct! NOW, how did I REALLY not know that!!! Oh well. Woodson went on to describe the play. He said he high stepped and pointed as he took it all the way for a TD. When he got to the sidelines, Joe Greene, a coach then, said…Son, we don’t do that here in Pittsburgh. Woodson sheepishly said, Yes Sir, Mr. Greene, Sir. I need to look up that highlight now. Woodson also said when he got there, he thought he was the best punt returner ever. Then he saw Lipps do it, catch balls behind his back in practice, all his moves..and Rod was humbled. It was a nice shout out to Lipps. You forget how good Lipps was. He told a few different stories about how Cowher would treat the stars differently. He would tell them, I am going to yell at you in front of some of the other guys. If they see me yell at you, then they’ll be like, damn, if coach yells at them, I need to get my act together. Then Woodson went on to tell  us a story about another “rod”. In 1987 Woodson went in the first round but held out. So, 1988 was his first camp at St. Vincent. One of the new guys was Aaron Jones, a first-round pick that year. Woodson’s first encounter with Aaron Jones was in the shower. As Woodson was telling this story, he took a step back, dropped the microphone downwards between his legs, and looked down stunned. He said he never wanted to shower with Jones again, he’d never be secure about his manhood. Eventually word got out around the players. Some didn’t want to shower with Jones, others had to see for themselves. At the time they had a head trainer who was known for his sarcasm. One day, outside the shower when Aaron Jones was in there, he took out a big black dildo, stuck it to the wall and wrote Aaron Jones underneath. Proceed with caution. I yelled out Jones picked the wrong career! Soon Rod wrapped up his talk and it was time for autographs. I got in line as fast as my sore muscles could get me there. I showed Rod the poster and he hadn’t seen it either. He signed it but I wish he added HOF 09 to it though. I showed him my Woodson’s Grille T-shirt and he was shocked it was in such good shape. I also showed him a photo of my locker room with his memorabilia that resides in my man-cave. I told him his restaurant, which had lockers set up like that, was the inspiration. He thanked me for being a fan, I shook his hand and off I went.

 

Again, others rallied to go to Sharky’s. This time I seriously considered it. But if I didn’t want to stay, I wasn’t sure how easy it was to get back to St. Vincent. Besides I had a long drive ahead of me tomorrow. I called it a night.

 

 


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