I just got back Sunday night from a whirlwind trip with some fellow com padres. I had spent the last month honing my Spanish speaking skills while watching “Dora the Explorer” on the Sprout Network with my two and three year-olds, Hannah and Esther, in preparation for a trip south of the border. Accompanied by Charlie Batch, Brett Keisel, Ryan Mundy, Emmanuel Sanders and James Harrison, Tunch Ilkin and I made the 8-hour trip (with layovers) south. Steelers chief negotiator Omar Khan headed this intrepid group and served as a translator while camp director and head of Steelers Youth Football Mike Marchinsky and John Simpson from Steelers marketing (and the genius behind Steelers Men’s Fantasy Camp) also made the trip.
Mexico City served as the backdrop as the Steelers Nation Mexico poured out to attend a Steelers Youth football camp set up by Mike, otherwise known as “Chin.” It was an incredible trip that had us leaving Pittsburgh Friday morning and in Mexico City by late afternoon. We were picked up at the airport by security teams that whisked us off in Escalades like we were in a Harrison Ford movie. After settling in at the beautiful Westin Santa Feat Resort Hotel, we attended a press conference later in the afternoon/evening and James Harrison showed up in a Sombrero and had the crowd eating out of his hand.
After the press conference wound down we were treated to a feast at the Puerto Madero 5-star restaurant, if i got the name right. After we were seated, we looked around and realized we were down a man. Suddenly it became apparent that Ryan Mundy had missed the pickup time and a car had to be sent back for him. Better whiffing on a team pickup now than later on in the football season for the newly wed I would say. Anywho, it was a grub-fest and caloric slaughter of magnificent proportions. We all went away overloaded and loosening the belt quite a bit. It was a weary group that rode back to the hotel for much needed sleep as Saturday would begin the camps.
First of all I cannot express my gratitude enough to the people of Mexico City who came out for their tremendous outpouring of love and friendship. Their gracious hospitality was overwhelming and they attacked the football field for drills at the Technical University of Monterrey with a passion.
The first day of the two-day camp was held for adults and while we didn’t uncover any “stars in the making,” we sure saw a lot of energy and drive to learn football from some of their favorite Steelers. Expecting a crowd of 300-something, nearly 600 folks showed up to learn how to throw the football with Charlie Batch, catch the ball and run pass routes with Emmanuel Sanders, pass rush with Brett Keisel and James Harrison, learn cover skills with Ryan Mundy or pass protection skills from Tunch Ilkin and eat donuts and take a nap with me at the offensive line station.
The highlight of the day was at the “greet and meet” just before the adults hit the field on Saturday that saw James Harrison try his hand at crowd diving. After a little surfing through the crowd, James returned to the stage with a big smile on his face, not something you see everyday from “Deebo.”
Sunday dawned bright and early with the youngsters hitting the field filled with more energy than the EverReady rabbit. They were passionate about all things Steelers related, and the guys got into it by coaching up the youngsters along with the coaches of the University of Monterrey football team. Coach Chocalas (Hi-five in spanish), known better as Tunch Ilkin, was a crowd favorite for actually high-fiving all 250 something of the campers in attendance. Mucho pictures and autographs were in demand, and i must say that every player was more than accommodating to all the requests.
Straight from the football fields to the airport we made our way and began the long trek back to the ‘Burgh. After a stopover in Dallas-Fort Worth, and ribbing the Dallas customs officials who were “Cryboys” fans, it was home-sweet-home, and nighty nite.
All in all, one heckuva good time. Look for pictures to come!
Craig’s BioCraig Wolfley is a 12-year veteran of the NFL who played 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and 2 years with the Minnesota Vikings. [read more]
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