Here are my stream of consciousness memories of a remarkable 2005 Trojan Flashback Football Camp, not chronological but by subject. Please read, and if you are a serious Trojan Fan, I heartily recommend signing up now for the 2006 Camp. These memories will last me a lifetime.
The Trojan Greats from the past: The names are like an honor roll of Trojan Glory. All of the past Trojans were pleasant, accessible and willing to share stories. For my experience, several really stood out. Sitting at the Hotel Bar Weds. Afternoon for 2 hours with Craig Fertig, Rod Martin, Coach Dave Levy and Charles White. They invited me to join their gang of four, and treated this stranger like a welcome next door neighbor. Coach Levy held court with truly funny stories about John McKay. Martin and Fertig swapped stories about their playing days and Charles White was very engaging and funny.
My flashback team Trojan Coach was John Vella. What a tremendous person. Humorous, friendly and always more than willing to talk; and very intense about the Trojan Ball Competition. He was one of the nicest people I met during camp, along with Sam Cunningham. Sam has a very dry sense of humor. Sam, John, Rod Sherman and I were the last group ever to have a beer at the Coliseum. Being able to spend Saturday afternoon sitting at the top of the steps by The Peristyle, overlooking the playing field shooting the breeze with these guys was a great way to finish off the camp. Other very friendly and cordial Trojan Greats who stood out in my memory were Anthony Munoz, Anthony Davis, Mario Celatto, Ronnie Lott, Paul McDonald, John Jackson and John Papadakis.
I should also mention Mike Battle's pregame speech in the Coliseum Locker before the Saturday competition. I can't repeat it (R-Rated to say the least), but he lived up to his reputation as a WildMan!!
Football 101: The chalk talk sessions were a real education. Bill Cunerty from SaddleBack JC gave computer animations and detailed descriptions of dozens of plays. He talked strategy, formations, reads, audibles, terminology and play sequencing. By the time these sessions were finished, I had come to realize just how little I really know about the intricacies of football. Coach Cunerty was really cool and answered every question in layman's terms. You could tell that he really loves the game of football, and has a teachers mentality that made these sessions so much fun.
The competition: Intense, fast paced and physically demanding. Trojan Ball is like a hybrid form of Rugby. The 7-on-7 drills were a real learning experience and very competitive. Even the pre-practice stretching sessions were intense. Friday was a two practice day (AM and PM sessions) and really left me dragging my tail.
Saturday made it all worthwhile. The Trojan Walk off the bus and in to the Coliseum with dozens of fans cheering you on. Having your nameplate, jersey and equipment all neatly hanging and waiting for you in The Coliseum locker room. But the most emotional part of camp had to be walking up the tunnel from the locker room, chanting "War Time". Coach Carroll stopped us just as the playing field came in to view. The nerves and raw emotion of each of the campers was palpable. There was a real magic stepping on to that hallowed ground wearing a Cardinal and Gold Jersey, ready to do battle. There were more than a few less than dry eyes among the players. Whatever aches and pains I had brought with me that day were gone in an instant. We stepped out on that Coliseum turf and gave it everything we had. Absolutely overwhelming!
The Coaching Staff: Intense, hyper, committed and smart. Did I mention intense?? They treated us just like incoming Freshmen players. It was clear from the start that this was not going to be a patty-cake session. They demanded your undivided attention and best physical effort every moment, every drill, every play. You had to know your assignments or else. Anything less got you an earful and then some. Coach Carroll sets the tone. Everything is carried out at breakneck pace with maximum intensity. Coach Anno and Coach Burns were also very fiery, intense and interactive. Ken Norton has a permanent "don't mess with me" look that I found quite intimidating. Coach Seto, Coach Franklin and Coach Ruel were a little less verbal, focusing more on instruction and technique than volume. Coach Sarkisian was pretty laid back during camp, and Coach Kiffin did not smile once the whole weekend. Coach McNair was very cool and seemed to really enjoy his work. As a group, they were demanding and real sticklers for detail. But by the end of camp, I would have run through the wall for any one of them. They had a unique way of making you give your best......motivation was never a problem!
My teammates, coaches and owner: 11 strangers on Thursday became blood brothers by Saturday. There was a real bond that formed as camp progressed. We all were trying to compete and survive as best we could. We shared bumps, bruises, aches, pains, strategy sessions, practices, drills, team meals, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Though the "Men of Troy" were not camp champions, each of us believed in one another, supported each other and worked as one for a common goal. There was no I or me......we succeeded and failed together as a team. I will remember each of those guys as terrific teammates.
Camp Staff: I would be remiss if I did not call out a big thank you to The Flashback Football Camp Staff who made all of these wonderful memories possible. Rod Sherman-The captain of the ship. Mitch Adams-The engine that made it go. His efforts to make my camp enjoyable went above and beyond the call of duty. Virginia Foxton--Organized and patient. Strong work girl!!
In summary......This was a truly memorable weekend. It gives you real insight as to what it means to be a part of the Trojan Family. What pride and tradition are all about. And the men, past and present, who have made it what it is and what it will continue to be.