Camp Cowher: The Renewal of Hope

August 29th, 2005

Camp Cowher: The Renewal of Hope

One hundred seventy one days have passed since you last saw your heroes in action in Honolulu. After all the waiting, if you can find your way to the end of a cornfield in Latrobe, PA, you will find the willow lined practice fields of St. Vincent College. There you can witness in close proximity the seeds of a new season, and a renewal of hope.

The Steelers reported for their 39th training camp on July 31, but the eager fans had to wait until August 2 to see their heroes take the field. Camp Cowher, as it is affectionately known, is an experience unlike any game. It is a time to get acquainted with your team and spend a leisurely summer day with your family and friends. For the first day of training camp an estimated 6,100 people endured temperatures in the 90’s.

When you walk up to the practice fields for the first time you see the welcome banner. It is something of a traditon for attendees of Camp Cowher sign the banner. Kids line up to autograph what becomes a giant good luck card. Some people express love and advice for the team. As evidence of the support from fans, within a few days, there is no space on either the front or back of the banner to leave a note.

Many fans come to training camp just for autographs. They race toward barricades where they wait for a chance face-to-face with their favorite player after practice. Children leave their parents and parents leave their children all for a brush with celebrity. Inside the crowd can be crushing yet exciting. Across the fence, it looks like a desperate frenzy. And remember this is like a casual Friday at work for the players. Most fans have favorite players and scream to get their attention. Others have never seen their favorites players without a face mask and embarrassingly ask their name. And after a long day of work, most players oblige with a few signatures and smiles while they drip sweat and limp back to the lockerroom.

On my second visit to Camp Cowher, the weather was more agreeable and the spectators more relaxed. It was also the day of the 2005 Woman’s training camp. I got to spend some time with Dwight White and Gerry Mullins go through some defensive and offensive lineman drills with several groups of women. Let it be known that you don’t have to be a man to enjoy football.

Training camp is about rebirth and returning to your youth. Rookies and veterans start anew. Last year’s losses, and last year’s victories no longer matter. Coach Cowher likes to hold at least one night practice at a local high school stadium. Here football is a pure sport. Here football returns to the community where it was born. This year the Steelers held a practice at Latrobe High School. Again the young and old came out to witness the rough gears of their team grinding towards greatness. And slowly we forget about what didn’t happen last season. Soon we will see the future emerge. And the promise of another Sixteen Sundays begins.

Camp Cowher: The Renewal of Hope

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