Training Camp: A Circus Fam’s Magical Adventure

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Since going to training camp last year, my oldest has been scheming and planning exactly where he would stand to try and get Ben Roethlisberger’s autograph.  My parents got him Ben’s jersey when he was a baby.  Ben was our rookie quarterback when our son was a newborn and he has proudly worn his #7 jersey for the past 11 years.  And more than anything, he wanted him to sign his jersey. 

Since our training camp experience didn’t go exactly as we planned, we no longer had a game plan for the autograph.  We knew that after practice the players would walk off the field towards the locker room and if they chose, they would sign autographs.  So, at first we headed off towards the path they’d walk, with his hand made sign and jersey in hand.  We talked to some of the training camp volunteers/employees and they said that it was family day at training camp which meant it was the day the players family came to watch them play and visit with the players.  This meant the likelihood of getting his autograph went down.  My son and I talked about this.  We talked about how if Dad was away for two weeks and he got to go see him at work for a few hours, he probably wouldn’t want his Dad to go off and sign autographs for other kids.  My son agreed and understood and said, “But man that stinks!”  Agreed.  We then heard that most of the big players get carted off the field in golf carts and don’t walk up the path to the locker rooms.  And typically IF they sign autographs, the last few days they had been on one corner of the field.  Knowing that really it is all a gamble and there are no guarantees, we moved spots again. 

I guess you can say that is all part of the training camp experience. 

IMAG0591Part of the experience is just getting to watch the players up close.  There is such a thrill to see the players you watch on TV, in real life… on the field right in front of you. 

Another huge part of the experience for our family is just getting to experience life in the hometown.  Living in MD, means living in the arch rival of our beloved team, so being in the hometown crowd is such a unique experience for us. As we walked in from the parking lot there was this huge BLACK and GOLD sign that said, “You’re in Steeler Country!”  My 5 year old said, “Wait, you mean everyone here is a Steelers fan?”  “Yup,” I replied.  “You mean, there are no Ravens fans here?” he asked.  “None,” I answered.  This is such a unique experience for my 5 year old who is pretty much heckled by random strangers and friends every time he wears his jersey.  And he wears his jersey so often the numbers are fading. IMG_1628

I’m not gonna lie though, a huge HUGE part of training camp for my kids is hoping to get the autographs of their favorite players.   And so my 11 year old and I stood an hour before practice down by the sidelines holding his sign and hoping to get Ben’s attention.IMG_7333

When practice ended wives and children ran on to the field to hug their Dad’s and play ball.  We learned that the lady who had been literally 2 feet in front of us playing Simon Says with her toddlers was in Heath Miller’s family.  Then we watched as Ben’s wife and two kids ran over to him.  He lingered on the field a long time, playing with his kids and with his team mates children.


My son kept hoping.  But, Ben didn’t do any autographs.  Tears filled my son’s eyes as Ben eventually walked over to his golf cart with his family and left the field.   That’s ok I told him.  We will try again next year.  Let’s enjoy today. And so he got his football and sharpie and a Steelers license plate we had and went off for other autographs. 

He got our #1 draft pick.  He got some starters and he some people we had never heard of.

The older kids were running around getting autographs and my 5 year old was standing with me. 


“What about me?”  my youngest asked.  I want an autograph.  So, I handed him a terrible towel and a sharpie and lifted him up to the fence.  And he got two autographs!  This man right here was so kind and so patient with him.  He totally interacted with him, saying, “Ok, now I need your help.  Hold the towel nice and tight so I can sign it.”  It was awesome! 


The look of joy on his face as he had a real Steelers player RIGHT in Front of him, talking to him and giving him his time. 

Antonio Brown is credited with staying late after practice and getting there early.  I love that.  Brown stayed and ran drills after practice.  And his family stayed and watched.  And then he headed to the sidelines.


Antonio Brown is one of the BEST receivers I have ever seen, Steelers or not.  He is so fast and so amazing.   I have to tell you when he came to the fence, I was farther down with my 5 year old.  My big three were over with my husband.  I honestly don’t really know what all went down.  I do know that my husband was close enough to Antonio Brown to snap this picture.  (poor Scott had my 8 year old on his shoulder and his head pretty much in a trashcan but he did look up enough to snap this picture). 


AND two of our kids got Antonio Brown’s autograph!!!!   I can’t even believe it!  What a thrill!  I mean, he was right in front of them and he signed our license plate and our notebook.  Antonio Brown! 

Ya know how some families go to Disneyworld and get to meet princesses and cartoon characters?  You know how parents will stand in line for HOURS on end so their daughter can take a picture with Elsa or their son can get Mickey Mouse to sign his autograph book?  You know it’s a big deal.  They are meeting these characters that they see on tv or in movies and they are larger than life.

Well, for our family, training camp is like Disneyworld.  I am not exaggerating.   It’s that same thrill.  Meeting the players, getting their pictures and their autographs.  It’s almost magical.  We left training camp, all 6 of us grinning from ear to ear.  We met the Steelers!


And the following week when we were snuggled on the coach watching the preseason game on the internet and Antonio Brown walked on to the field, my son looked over at me with awe and said, “Mom, we have HIS autograph!” 


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