Reliving the past you never had, that of a real live football hero, is the latest enticement for fulfilling a fantasy. It's scheduled to happen this summer at Western Maryland College, where the Baltimore Colts once bivouacked for preseason practice. There's an age eligibility requirement -- 30 years for rookies and continuing all the way to senior citizen status.
The program is under the direction of the Rotary Club of Westminster, which has a long and distinguished record for contributions to humanity. In this instance, if profits are accrued, the proceeds will be used for the continual funding of college scholarships for deserving youth of Carroll County.
Each camper, even if he's drawing Social Security, will follow the simulated regimen of a player who is trying out for a pro football team. There'll be medical coverage, plus specific waivers to be signed, that relieve the Rotary Club of any responsibility in case of injury or illness. Practice sessions will be conducted by the Western Maryland College coaching staff.
The Western Maryland campus is considered one of the most scenic in America, a contention advanced by numerous pro football scouts who travel the country visiting colleges and universities in search of prospects. The setting is ideal. Players will be quartered in the dormitory and partake of meals at the training table, which dietitians prescribe for professional athletes.
To relieve the monotony of the practice routine, there'll be a crab feast, attended by Hall of Fame member Art Donovan; a golf tournament and an intrasquad game at Scott F. Blair Stadium, between the Blues and Whites. This will conclude the week of practice preparations.
Before the kickoff, individual introductions will be made by announcer Jack Dawson. It will be a special time when each player runs on the field to applause from family and friends. Prior to all this, a parade will be held along Main Street that is to be led by the Baltimore Colts' Band. Then comes the thrill of hearing their name over the public address system and then to run the "gantlet" of Colts' Band musicians, just as used to unfold at Memorial Stadium.
At this time, plans have not been completed to bring back the cheer-leading squad or a horse mascot to circle the field after touchdowns and field goals. Dates for the Rotary football event are from July 25-31. The cost to enroll is $995, which is considerably cheaper than the fantasy camps operated by major-league baseball teams that are staged for their own money-making purposes.
Arnold "Skip" Amass, a proud Rotary Club member, says the maximum number of campers is 100, and there will be no "scholarships" awarded. "We've cleared all the early logistics through Rick Carpenter, the Western Maryland College athletic director," explained Amass. "Those interested in enrolling can call me at (410) 848-3326. The coaches on the field will decide how much actual blocking and tackling will be conducted or whether the older players will be confined to flag football or two-hand touch games.
"It's expected the college coaching staff will handle the entire program, including meetings, workouts and the pre-game planning sessions. It'll be interesting to see them grade the personnel, probably by age brackets, put in the offensive plays and set up the defenses. I doubt if they permit blitzing. It's not allowed in the Pro Bowl. There's just not enough time to coordinate the blocking."
Anything else? "Yes," says Amass, "we are in need of a commercial sponsor and are hopeful some company in the Baltimore area will want to participate. I can't emphasize enough how important Westminster Rotary has been, helping with assistance to hospitals, funding the first public playground, backing the Babe Ruth Youth Leagues and so many other worthwhile endeavors."
Whether any Colts, other than Donovan, will make guest appearances isn't known. But John Ziemann, director of the band, has promised a "wowser of a parade with a lot of oom-pah-pah to get players and fans in the spirit of football."
Each player has a practice and game uniform, which he gets to keep, including his name on the back of a jersey and a helmet he can later wear to the office, family reunions or social functions. NFL clubs aren't expected to scout the talent.