By Jourdan Rodrigue, Digital Communications Intern
Camp Tontozona is a special type of glue.
Past brotherhoods echo through the lush pines. It was Plummer’s Place and Tillman’s and Frank Kush’s; a place within which players swear they can smell a hint of roses; and the floors are worn by hundreds of bare feet still salty from sweat-soaked cleats.
The field itself is a cocoon-a pristine blanket of natural Arizona green is nestled within 50-foot tall pine trees. It’s a bubble of camaraderie, a special place where “team” is synonymous with “brother”.
And for a week, Sun Devil Nation is invited to peer into the bubble and experience just exactly how Camp T turns a group of players into a team.
“It’s a bonding experience,” said Head Coach Todd Graham.
The fans arrived as early as 5 a.m. to set up chairs and tents around the perimeter of the field. They steadily amassed to a crowd of over 5,200 maroon-and-gold clad football nuts—all with the equivalent of “lower-bowl” seats. Families were a dominating presence and the crowd was full of kneeling fathers pointing out players to their kids.
“We knew there’d be a lot of fans coming out today,” said running back D.J. Foster. “But we never expected this many!”
And as the players began their traditional end-of-camp scrimmage, the crowd transformed from a massive horde of individuals to one supportive mind with one emotion: excitement.
“[Camp T] sort of sets the tone for the season,” said ASU Alumnus Andy Young. “It’s awesome to see all these people here and to see everyone talk about it on social media…it just shows the direction the program is going…I’ve been hearing how excited other fans are and I’m looking forward to the season.”
The crowd gasped as one when Foster slipped an impossible gap; roared as one when quarterback Taylor Kelly scrambled for the first time, and laughed as one when each PAT went sailing off into the surrounding forest for hiking-boot and basketball-shorts-clad equipment managers to retrieve.
And when the friendly matchup was over, the players immediately ran around the perimeter of the field, shaking hands and giving high fives and hugs and thanking fans and even media for their support.
“Sun Devil Nation always comes out in full force,” defensive back Osahan Irabor said as fans were let onto the field for autographs. “It inspires us. We do it for them.”
Thunderclouds began to roll into Tontozona, a gentle eviction for the fans from the brotherhood’s bubble. But as the exodus up the sloping hill out of the field surrounded by pine trees began, dripping jerseys and cleats dotted with tufts of turf mingled with sweat-stained t-shirts and sensible walking shoes. Camp T sent the players and the fans away from its champion-haunted halls the best way it knew how: together.