This weekend the Steelers are hosting their annual fantasy football camp up at Saint Vincent University, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp It’s a great time of guys getting their ya-ya’s out and having a good time with both current and retired players putting them through their paces and living it up Steelers style!
Every time I go to one of these, it’s always a time of re-living memories and telling stories. After a decade of spending my summers as a player in camp, I can’t help but have flashbacks every time I go back there. One memory that always stands out was an afternoon practice where Tunch Ilkin and I were stretching out in team stretch period before practice.
It was during the first week of training camp which always meant two-a-days. Tunch and I were side by side in separate lines. As usual it was sweltering hot, a set of gills would have been greatly appreciated so humid was the air. The sun beat down unmercifully, baking us as we went through the motions of trying to limber up in a furnace after a hard morning session. Several thousand spectators sat on the hillside overlooking the practice fields anticipating the banging that was to follow. Sweat ran in rivers “under the hood” where the temperature inside my helmet had to be over 100 degrees.
We were now in the groin stretch position which might as well been an advanced yoga position so stiff were my muscles. I felt so banged up, with double sessions and all, my body was just not cooperating. I laughed aloud as Walt Evans, our strength coach called for the hurdler stretch. Simply standing up at this point would prove to be a major hurdle.
In my misery, totally soaked with sweat before practice even began, with dead legs aching incredibly from all the live-go work that featured a Chuck Noll training camp, fully aware that we would finish today’s two-and-a-half hour practice with conditioning work, absolutely hating life at the moment, I looked over at my buddy for all those years at the time hoping for a little inspiration.
Tunch looked over at me and said, “I feel like a piece of bacon.”
So much for inspiration.