View Full Version : "Camping" Not A Fun Experience

08-21-2008, 03:09 PM
No, this isn't about "that" kind of "camping"..... :lol:


This is a pretty good article that was posted in the Steelers Digest by Craig Wolfley...
Camping Not A Fun Experience
by Craig Wolfley

A faint clanging sounded in the backdrop of the wonderful dream I was experiencing at the moment. The irritating, yet undeniable cacophony grew louder and would not be denied. Stirring from a deep sleep, with much regret I surrendered to the inevitable.

Where was I?

Reality in the form of body aches and my little bed quickly brought me around to where I was. Training camp.

As I attempted to strangle the belligerent bell of the alarm clock I banged my swollen knee against the wall. The jolt of pain from my now ACL-less left knee worked far better
at waking me up than having a steaming hot Starbucks Grande with four shots of espresso.

As I flopped onto my back, I slowly became aware of a general dampness all around my body. Yeesh, what’s this about? Oh yeah, the horsehair mattress I had slept on was soaked from the ice bag I had packed on my knee last night when I fell asleep in the hot, humid nonair-conditioned dorm room I shared with Tunch Ilkin. I was relieved the
dampness by my feet was just melted ice.

I sat upright in bed and turned and set my feet on the floor while doing a quick body part scan. I rubbed my head while attempting to shake out the fuzziness and dull ache from, oh, 100-plus high-velocity head butts. My grandfather always maintained that a man should use his head, but somehow I don’t think he had offensive line play in mind.

Besides the knee, my shoulder crunched as I pushed off the bed to stand up and that reminded me to stay lower while digging linebacker Hardy Nickerson out on those 2-traps.

Why is my back aching so bad?

Oh, yeah, that was NT Gary Dunn. He was just returning the “favor” in the form of a helmet to my back in a pile from a perceived injustice on an earlier play. I made a mental
note to even up the score when the opportunity presented itself.

The bed I was in was more a glorified cot. It was butted up against the wall in that little dorm room on the second floor of Bonaventure Hall. That poor bed creaked and groaned under the weight it had to bear, because it was built for your average 150-pound Saint Vincent College student, not a fat hog tipping the scales in the 270s.

My roommate was already out the door. Tunch Ilkin was always an early riser. Good, at least he wouldn’t be there mocking me and my bent-over Groucho Marx imitation. Monday morning at Saint Vincent College. Already two days deep into two-a-days, I was looking straight down the barrel at an entire week of doubles. The weather report on the
radio called for a week’s worth of 90-degree temperatures with the same in humidity. I began to wish I had gills like a fish.

Surprisingly enough to those who know of my fondness for eating, I normally skipped breakfast during double sessions. I’d rather sleep or lay semi-comatose than get up early
enough to hobble all the way across campus to breakfast. Maybe if I had golf cart service to and from the dining hall like today’s players, I would have changed my mind.

First job of the day was to get some treatment for the ol’ throbbing knee. Back then there were only three ways to treat your injuries: ice, a scalding heat pad, or mind over matter. As in “If you don’t mind the pain, it don’t matter.”

Just survive the day, I thought to myself as I climbed up on the training table to get my knee taped. Survive today, and then you’d have tomorrow. Survive enough tomorrows, and then you might make the final cuts. Best to keep your sights set on the short term.
“Board up” was written on the chalkboard when I entered the locker room. Like I needed that to tell me we were in full battle regalia.

We were ALWAYS in pads. And it better include knee, thigh boards and hip pads, too. If Chuck Noll caught you not wearing the required pads and you got hurt, you would spend
some time in the Noll doghouse. Not a good place to be, I assure you.

After getting taped and suited up it was time for the team meeting with Chuck Noll. Before every practice and in the evening we had these meetings.

We moved like cattle from the locker room over to the meeting hall in front of Bonaventure. I always thought it was to make sure nobody was AWOL. More than once there were empty seats where warm bodies had been because some went “over the wall” on a one-way ticket.

Facing two practices a day for six days straight, plus running tests three to five times after practice, brought forth a certain gallows sense of humor. Hilarity was not a hot commodity.

The running was the worst. Today’s player faces a running test on the first day of camp.
Back in the day it was not only the first day of camp, but punishment was administered almost daily. It’s easy to hit it and get it when you’re fresh. Try the same test after a couple of two-hour practices. It’s a whole new experience in agony.

So on this fine Monday morning we were all padded up and sweating, sitting in a classroom built for espousing theory in English literature. I love Coach Noll, and he is undoubtedly the finest coach I have ever played for. At times, though, Chuck could lose you. You had to listen carefully. This day, we got both lecture and theory. Chuck was
lecturing, and I was theorizing. It was apparent he wasn’t happy with the tempo of the previous practice.

Whenever his pre-practice talk was about a lack of tempo, finishing blocks and running to the ball, according to the Wolfley theory, it meant two things: A much faster pace throughout practice would be demanded, with less rest, and the intensity factor would get nudged up, but really, every practice was scrimmage-like anyway; and with this nudging came the inevitable, because as the intensity of a practice went up, so did the bad dispositions.

Buckle up the chin straps, boys, the slugging is about to commence. After Chuck’s admonishment, he cryptically finished with, “Because of the heat we want to hustle on
and off the field and shorten practice.”


Another of my theories was that whenever Chuck told you he wanted to shorten practice, you can bet the farm we’re going long. I was already sweating like a pig on a
skewer over an open fire pit. During the morning stretch, I looked over at my roomie Tunch, who sat there on the ground trying to get his hamstrings unknotted. The sun in his face was causing him to squint. “I feel like a piece of bacon,” he said.

After we stretched, there was an individual period where fundamentals were stressed over and over ad nauseum, then the “internal run period.” Internal run period was an appropriate name because it was scripted so that everything hit up between the tackles. Everybody squeezed to the ball like they were trying to board a subway train in Grand Central Station during rush hour.

The air on the practice field was so thick Aqua Man would have felt at home. All the assistant coaches had stepped up to Chuck’s pre-practice mantra and were pushing us
hard. The hitting was as nasty as the coaches’ tone of voice.

The pace of practice accelerated through the internal run period right on into team period. Everybody was edgy and eye-balling each other, and there was a lot of post-action scuffling. The incessant barking of the coaches was getting to all the players.

Thus far I’ve mulched my shoulder due to the hard head of Hardy Nickerson on a trap play yet again. I then yapped back and forth after mixing it up with Greg Lloyd on a
trap pass, and had a vision after a stunning head shot from Keith Willis. I then stuck the landing while setting a campus record for being bodytossed for distance by Donnie Shell
on a sweep to the outside. At this point, I’m not a happy camper.

And to top it off, there’s a rook DT from Auburn, Edmond Nelson, and he’s really pissing me off. Ed is young, strong, talented and hungry. We’ve already had a couple of words sandwiched in between violent collisions. He’s working hard and so am I as we both respond to our position coaches urging us on, all under the withering glare that only Chuck could provide.

On the last play of the morning session, I’ve had enough of this kid, and apparently Ed had similar feelings about me. We got locked up on a run play and started swinging. Uppercuts alternated with wicked overhands, and everything else in between was exchanged in furious infighting. Both of us gave as good as we got, and time seemed to stand still as the intensity of the morning’s practice distilled into those few volcanic
seconds of fisticuffs.

Exhaustion eventually took over and slowed the pace, as the hands of teammates reached out and began to pull us apart. Ed and I tried to get in the last shot, skulling a few peacekeepers with sluggish, illaimed howitzers.

Once we were separated, Chuck called everyone up into one big huddle and started talking, but I couldn’t hear a word he said because I was breathing so hard. As usual, Tunch was critiquing the battle and patiently trying to explain between my gulps for air that I should have stayed with the uppercut.

With the intensity of the morning practice blown away like a passing thunderstorm that leaves a fresh coolness in the air, all that was left was to walk/stumble the 300 yards
across the open field and back up the hill to the locker room.

With quivering legs exhausted by both practice and pugilism, I began climbing the hill in front of the locker room that now resembled Mount Everest. All I could think about was getting into the air-conditioned locker room.

In a strange twist of fate, I found myself walking next to the guy I had been slugging it out with moments ago. We had both emptied our tanks. The fight had zapped any remaining energy to even put one foot in front of the other, and by the halfway point of our ascent we were seen to be arm-in-arm helping each other scale the final steps to the top. Football provides a funny way of making friends for life, as Ed and I are today.

I plopped down heavily on the stool in front of my locker and leaned back, sucking in all the cool air I could. Chuck’s lecture prior to the afternoon practice suddenly popped into my gourd. While absent- mindedly rubbing my jaw where Ed had scored a point, I shot
a glimpse at the clock.

Funny, that two-hour practice got shortened to 2 hours and 45 minutes.

How’d that happen?

08-21-2008, 05:23 PM
I just read that NKy. Great article.

08-21-2008, 05:26 PM
Thanks man, quality read, it goes to show what these guys actually go through on a day to day basis during TC.

08-21-2008, 05:27 PM
I don't know about you all, but I could picture the '70s Steelers battling it out at St Vincents while reading it...

08-21-2008, 08:46 PM
very cool-

thanks for posting it AS.

08-21-2008, 09:14 PM
Great read Nky thanks.

stlrz d
08-21-2008, 09:24 PM
Did they have Starbucks back then? :D

I know he didn't mean he was drinking Starbucks back then...it's just a joke! ;)

08-22-2008, 02:53 PM
Great read, and yeah. I can see the guys out there in the heat and humidity beating the daylights out of each other.

08-23-2008, 08:26 AM
very cool-

thanks for posting it AS.

I didn't post it, but I appreciate the credit. :Boobs