As children, we all have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up.
Be it astronauts, movie stars, musicians or professional athletes – we each dream for great success.
Last Thursday, at Patriots Training Camp in Foxborough, one of my dreams came true.
No, I did not suit up with the Pats trying to make the team as a slot receiver. I think something about a 5-foot-8, 26-year-old walk-on without the skill set of a Wes Welker, Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead had something to do with my invite from Bill Belichick getting lost in the mail.
Instead, my invite came from the Patriots Media Relations Department to represent Foxborough Patch and cover the team’s start of camp.
I accepted the opportunity and on Thursday, July 26 headed over to 1 Patriot Pl. on assignment to cover the Patriots first official day of the 2012-2013 season – a dream come true.
As the players made their way onto the practice fields wearing cleats, jerseys and helmets, I made my way over to the media tent in sneakers, polo and a press pass.
I enjoyed a brief but pleasant chat with Jeff Cournoyer, director of corporate communications and Stacey James, vice president of Patriots Media Relations before making my way down to the field with my Canon camera in hand to begin my coverage of the team’s first practice.
I wasted no time in taking photos, capturing plenty of scenes from an event that drew a crowd of over 12,000 to share with all of you.
As practice went on, I took out the good ole notepad and began jotting down observations I made about some of the players, the crowd size, the atmosphere and the overall experience of Day One of Training Camp.
I shared the photos and observations in last week’s article “PHOTOS: Patriots Training Camp 2012 Opens in Foxborough” and saved the notes on my experience for this week’s installment of Discovering Foxborough. Below is a look back at a memorable day for this journalist – one that turned out to be, in many respects, a dream come true.
On the Other Side of the Yellow Rope
The inspiration for this blog post and title of the piece starts with a yellow rope.
Let me explain.
For years, I’ve known Foxborough as the “Home of the New England Patriots.” As a kid, I couldn’t wait for July and August because it meant a trip to Foxborough down Route 1 to catch the Patriots working out at the stadium or a preseason game.
I remember in 1999 standing outside the player entrance to Foxboro Stadium – yes, that old stadium before it became a parking lot to Gillette – trying to score autographs of my favorite players before they went to work.
Some highlights of that day were meeting the likes of Henry Thomas, Lawyer Milloy and Adam Vinatieri while throwing a football over the fence to player parking where Ty Law was on the receiving end of a wobbly pass that had Scott Zolak written all over it. Just kidding Zo.
The all-pro cornerback signed the football and tossed it back.
Fast-forward to 2002 and training camp practices were no longer held at Bryant College but instead right behind the new stadium for fans and the Foxborough community to attend. A rope around the practice fields served as a barrier between fans and players and today, that rope is yellow.
The rope has also served as the front of the line for fans seeking autographs after practice.
For years I toed the rope after practice sessions with my two younger brothers hoping to meet our favorite players and get their autographs. To this day, I remember my brother Mike scoring the mother of all signatures – Tom Brady and each of us celebrating feverishly like we just won the lottery.
I’ve met some great players on the rope – Troy Brown, Deion Branch, David Givens, Kevin Faulk and David Patten just to name a few.
But on July 26, I got to experience what life is like from the other side of the yellow rope.
As I photographed excited fans anxiously awaiting the chance to get their favorite players’ autographs, I couldn’t help but see myself in the crowd of painted faces, Tom Brady jerseys and star struck stares.
I was right there on the front line of the autographing session, which rarely ever happened in my younger days – shoulder to shoulder with some of the greats – Brady, Vince Wilfork, Welker and Rob Gronkowski. Linebacker Tracy White even bumped into me as he made his way down the autograph line and believe it or not I survived the “hit.”
A young fan – recognizing my celebrity of course – asked for my autograph in the craze of it all and I obliged. I even returned the favor by asking him for his before giving him a Patch magnet … from one celeb to another. Thanks for the 15 minutes of fame “Colin.”
Looking back at it all, I’m happy to report I kept it together and remained professional, resisting the urge to join the ranks of “Colin” and the other enthusiastic youth in the front row screaming their heads off as players greeted them before signing their gear.
You see, as much of a Patriots fan as I am … and for those who truly know me may find the following statement hard to believe … I understand there’s a time and a place for all things, including being a fan. This is the same fan that proudly wore his Tom Brady jersey inside Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo on a cold November night in 2007 and cheered on the boys of fall as they beat up on the Bills, 56-10.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Appropriately … and professionally … I checked my inner fan at the door to Gillette Stadium when I picked up my press pass and refrained from putting my fan hat back on until I was well into the parking lot at the end of my assignment.
The result of last Thursday, I hope, was some unique coverage of the hometown team and two pretty cool photo galleries for my Foxborough Patch readers to view. You can take a look at both of those galleries in the links below:
- PHOTOS: Patriots Training Camp 2012 Opens in Foxborough
- PHOTOS: Record Crowd Flocks to Foxborough for Start of Patriots Camp
Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
The Bigger Picture
As I continue to reflect on my experience from last Thursday, the moral of it all should be this: Don't lose sight of what makes you happy.
Believe it or not, there’s true happiness to be found in our professions and while the pursuit may be hard work – I have years in newspapers and living in Connecticut to prove it – but it surely makes the reward worth it in the end.
I may not be playing professional football or baseball … for the record my athletic career ended in high school … but I get to find happiness in my job and that is unique. I find it most days when I wake up to something new that needs to be reported. I find happiness in bringing you, the good people of Foxborough, your daily news and information.
July 26 was a special day for this journalist, but the day-to-day has been pretty great, too.
And I'll be the first to admit we all have good and bad days on the job - it's a part of life. But finding something you’re good at like Foxborough Police Chief Edward O'Leary has ... or something you care about like Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli does ... or something that enables you to share your passion with others like I do – that is what a career is all about.
Everyone deserves a day in the sun and I’m glad I was able to share mine with you.
Closing in on a Month in Town
We are closing in on a month of me being in town as Foxborough Patch’s local editor and I’m happy to say – Patriots Training Camp or no Patriots Training Camp – I’m enjoying my time in town as I work to deliver you daily news and information you care about! I’ve been able to see in a short amount of time that it is a great community and one that I’m going to enjoy covering! As always, please feel free to e-mail me with story ideas, questions, comments, praise, criticisms, etc. I am open to all kinds of feedback because it ultimately makes me better at my job and brings you the type of coverage you want!
Until next time.