View Full Version : Steelers Fantasy Football Camp ... Living the dream with the Steelers, alumni

06-08-2009, 07:06 AM
Steelers Fantasy Football Camp ... Living the dream with the Steelers, alumni
Monday, June 08, 2009
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

LATROBE -- The first year Tom Pisano went to Steelers Fantasy Football Camp at St. Vincent College, it was a birthday gift from his wife.

Every camp since has been a gift from himself.

"I've met a lot of good people here. One year it was Franco [Harris]. This year it was Hines Ward. I really like the interaction with the Steeler alumni," said Mr. Pisano, 50, originally from Beaver Falls and now living in Orlando, Fla. "And this year, we got to hold the Super Bowl trophy and get our picture taken with it. That's once in a lifetime. I mean, how many times am I going to hold the Super Bowl trophy?"

Now in its seventh off-season, the weekend-long Steelers Fantasy Camp gave 300 men from 38 states and two Canadian provinces an opportunity to experience camaraderie, competition and compression bandages on the same practice fields where the Super Bowl champion Steelers will begin real practices in less than two months.

For $599, this year's fantasy campers received gold Steelers Fantasy Camp football jerseys with their names on the back, a DVD of camp drills and highlights and were visited and coached on the field Saturday by former and current Steelers, including Dermontti Dawson, Delton Hall, Tunch Ilkin, Louis Lipps, Jerry Olsavsky, Edmund Nelson, Frank Pollard, Daniel Sepulveda, Greg Warren and Craig Wolfley. On Saturday evening, they listened to football stories from many of those same players and heard from Mr. Ward as guest speaker.

Mr. Wolfley, a Steelers offensive lineman during the 1980s and now a broadcaster, has attended all seven of the fantasy camps and said they're all about the love affair between the fans and their team.

"These guys are out here going through what the players experience on the same fields, in the same dining halls. It's the coolest. You can't get this anywhere else in America," he said. "If you dig football and love the Steelers, this is a great place to experience that up close and personal."

It was a sentiment echoed by many in this Steelers Nation cross-section, which seemed to include a disproportionately high percentage of Wolfleyesque, offensive-lineman body types.

"It's an amazing experience," said Steve York, 45, an engineering manager for the U.S. Defense Department and Baltimore resident attending his first camp. "The connections formed with the players are the most amazing thing, but I'm also surprised at how physically demanding it is. I pulled a hamstring reaching for a bad pass from Louie Lipps. Everyone wants to be competitive."

Yesterday morning, on the lushly green and manicured football fields, new spikes, knee braces and ice packs were almost as common as the gold football jerseys the campers wore as they competed in punting, passing and placekicking contests.

The Steelers' on-the-field trainers, student sports medicine interns Bonnie Virag of Duquesne University and Brandon Desantis of the University of Pittsburgh, said they'd treated only around 20 participants, mostly for leg strains, hamstring and groin pulls and sunburn.

"They're having such a good time they don't want to come off the field," said Ms. Virag.

"A lot of these guys are going full speed and they haven't maybe done that for a while," Mr. Desantis said. "And the coaches told them not to dive but ... ."

Nate Weems, 35, of Harrisburg, was at his first camp but already trying to figure out financing for next year's camp.

"Oh my gosh, this is wonderful," said Mr. Weems, who was taking it easy yesterday morning after "overdoing it too much" in the defensive back "slide drills" with Delton Hall on Saturday. "Talking to the former players is the best. There's no athlete attitude. After talking to Dermontti Dawson, it's impossible for him not to be my favorite Steeler."

David Dornack, 54, a retired auto dealer from Akron, Ohio, who hails from Uniontown, was attending his seventh camp and said he'd learned over the years not to take the drills too seriously after cracking his ribs the first and third year and pulling hamstrings the second and sixth year.

"Take it all in and enjoy yourself," he said, offering advice while showing off a wrapped thigh muscle and new pair of pass-catching gloves to a fellow camper. "There's so much to experience. It lets you experience what the players do, although on a more low-key basis.

"And it lets you know, too, that the real football season is right around the corner."

Don Hopey can be reached at dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.
First published on June 8, 2009 at 12:00 am


Dino 6 Rings
06-08-2009, 08:39 AM
jealous. I am so doing this before I turn 40.

06-08-2009, 10:11 AM
Ya I was thinking of doing this one year as well as it sounds like a great experience.

Anyone on the board ever attended ?

06-09-2009, 11:24 AM
Ya I was thinking of doing this one year as well as it sounds like a great experience.

Anyone on the board ever attended ?

I haven't, but my wife has a cousin who drives up from near Washington, DC to go every year. Sometimes his dad and brother go with him as well.

He absolutely LOVES it, and always has a ton of pictures and stories.

He said there are two types of people that are there: those that are there and just enjoy being on the field and around the guys and other 'campers', and then there are those who treat it as a tryout for the steelers hoping to get noticed..

either way, its definitely something i plan to do some day. its just not currently in the cards for me

06-09-2009, 11:36 AM
Yea know, to each their own, but I have never understood worshiping people. Yea, I love the black & gold and memories of players winning games, etc. But as people, I don't feel the need to treat them like gods; when I see any Steelers - current or past - I treat them like anyone else. They ARE just people after all. I feel no need to drop coin just to rub elbows. Whatever.

06-11-2009, 02:39 PM
I got to go this year...This was my second time....I love it...There's nothing else like it...

For the remark about being two types of people, that's 100% true..i am the gung ho type of person anyway...i am running routes as fast as i can, which is probably slow anyhow...and hitting and kicking like i am playing the game...buts that just how i choose to do it...I came out so sore and i just hit in the face by a blocking pad and i loved it...

You get a cool goody pack, jersey with your name on it, duffle bag, shirts, hats, chnce to win tickets and autograph items...superbowl trophy picture...dvd of the weekend activites...

I am not sure if it is worshiping or anything like that...i love the game...this brings me closer to being around the game...I like to hear the stories of the people who played the game.

Wolf came out and had a cigar with our group and we talked about his kids...

I woke up sunday, it was foggy...i went out by myself and looked down over the field...I was playing football on the field of lambert, ham and could see noll walking the sideline yelling at people...it doesnt get any better