August 14th was one of the most memorable days I have ever experienced. I am from Washington state and happened to have vacation scheduled for that week. So I planned to be in Canton, OH to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Once I found out the last day of Redskins training camp was taking place on the first full day of my trip, I decided to make the 6 and a half hour drive from Canton to Ashburn.
My girlfriend and I arrived in Canton Monday evening, That night I spent 3 hours making a sign that read "Travelled 2200 mi. to See My REDSKINS at Camp." 6am Tuesday morning we started on our way, armed with printed out map quest directions and Sprint Navigation on my phone. We arrived at Redskins Park just before 1pm.
When we first got there, we stopped at the Redskins Shop tent and purchased a yearbook for myself and a hat & umbrella for my girlfriend to help keep her out of the sun a little. We then found a spot along the fence near the corner of the near practice field end zone. Luckily we showed up just in time because they moved practice time up from 3pm to 1pm.
We had the privilege of meeting some very nice people there. There was an especially friendly gentleman (wish I could remember his name) on the other side of the fence with his kids, one of which was in a wheelchair, who noticed my sign and was impressed with how far we came. We conversed with him throughout practice, about what training camp is like, many of the local media that are around, and about our Redskins in general. He even offered me tickets to the Skins-Colts game if we were going to be in town that long, since I have never been to a Redskins home game. Unfortunately, we weren't going to be around for the game, but I was very touched by the offer.
One of the guys from Redskins.com saw my sign and asked to interview me about my thoughts on training camp, why I am a Redskin fan, why I came so far, and my thoughts on training camp moving to Richmond next year. I don't know if the story will make it on Redskins.com, but it was pretty cool to be interviewed nonetheless.
Some things I observed during practice are that Robert Griffin III is fast, has a strong arm, and has a great connection with Santana Moss coming across the field. Orakpo looked dominant. Brandon Banks standing next to Niles Paul in the huddle is like looking at someone with their little kid brother. Sav Rocca's punts are booming and he totally dwarfs the other kickers. It looked like Trent Williams' foot was still bothering him.
Toward the end of practice Larry Michael and Joe Theismann came walking by. The nice man who offered me the tickets walked over and convinced Joe to take a picture with his son in the wheelchair. Theismann then turned around to a mob of people who wanted his autograph. He obliged, but didn't look to thrilled to be signing autographs at the time, so I didn't push getting one. He started literally 3 feet from where I was standing, and I totally froze. My girlfriend, who was even closer to him, was amazed that she was that near to the one guy from Redskins history she hears about the most.
After practice, many of the players signed autographs and took pictures with fans. When some of them would come to our section, they'd go take a picture with the boy that was in the wheelchair. I couldn't see the boy's face, but you definitely tell by how he stiffened up in his chair he was VERY excited. After each picture with the boy, his dad, bless his heart, would point out my sign.
The first one to come over was Barry Cofield. I shook his hand and then he grabbed my sign and wanted to know where I wanted him to sign. I had every intention of using the program I bought for autographs if I was lucky enough, but Barry is a BIG guy, so he autographed my sign after I told him to sign wherever he wanted. Next to come over was Stephen Bowen. Then was Doug Worthington. London Fletcher came over and said "So, you came all the way from Washington," I said "Yep. The other Washington." Then I very lightly slapped his shoulder pad. After him was Anthony Armstrong in his yellow jersey with the number 01 done in athletic tape on it. He was very conversive and answered questions from fans about who was what number and what the black tape on his arm was for. Last one to come over was Graham Gano. He was taking his time, making sure everyone who wanted his autograph got one. Graham asked me if I came all this way to see anyone in particular. I told him he was the only one that mattered right now, which did draw a chuckle from him.
And with that, we left. It was my first time ever at Redskins Park and my first time ever at Redskins training camp. The experience being in that atmosphere was AMAZING! I hope to be able to come back sometime, maybe for fan appreciation day, or even an actual home game. HTTR!!!