“Elvis is dead, and I don’t feel so good myself”, the book title that has special meaning for me.
A loud horn sounded, bouncing off the hardwood floors of the gymnasium and resonating off the ceilings. Moans and groans were heard as players jumped out of their stretchers and started looking for the target. “The target” was a large basket on wheels full of laundry. The laundry brawl was on. Every member of the team converged on a 4′ x 6′ basket like starved wolves over a fresh kill. The mesh bags containing our gear was never completely dry and most of the time still carried a little left over muskiness from the previous days sweat. Time was always at a premium with only 10 minutes allowed to dress and organize for our morning run.
This is just one of the memories that I have of August training camp back in the day. The day being, in particular, my first summer football camp at Mary Persons, August 1977. At the ripe ole age of 13, I had a lot on my mind. Not the least, the desire to make my mark with the team and succeed as a player. It was grueling. The reality of going through my first camp was overwhelming. Even more so than I had imagined from the stories of my older brothers.
The physical aspect was tough but the mental aspect and initiations were worse. Singing was a requirement. What? Yes, you heard me correctly, singing. As in Do, Re, Mi, Fa … you get the idea. Freshmen were the post dinner entertainment for the team. I use the word “entertainment” loosely. Every camp “newbie” dreaded the singing. I was no exception.
Being from the fine township of Juliette and a southern rocker at heart my song choice was “Ramblin’ Man”. So when my time came I jumped up on the chair that served as our stage and belted it out. My brother Mark swears I added the duh nah na na lyrics to replace the guitar licks but I cannot confirm or deny. Coach Pitts said it was “pretty good”. It would be one of the only compliments I ever received from him. Truth is I didn’t deserve many and certainly not that one.
Ironically during that freshman camp, (which was the pinnacle of my singing career) Elvis Presley passed away. I will never forget the tragic news and how it came during the challenges and rigors of my first football camp. Almost 40 years later I still remember that day. It’s not every August that I think of Elvis’ passing, but every August I do think back on those days spent surviving MP football camps.
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