Every year they come to Carlisle with stars in their eyes and glee on their faces. They eat breakfast with a Billy Kilmer, share a Gatorade with a John Riggins, hit the night spots with the player of your choice.
And every year, they skulk quietly out ot town with a check for a couple of hundred dollars to cover a few weeks salary and the plane ride home. For some, it is enough to return to Everytown, U.S.A., and tell the boys at the corner bar you spent the summer in a Redskin training camp.
"What's ol' Chris Hamburger really like?" they may be asked. And usually, it will be explained that had it not been for the nagging hangnail, the dislocated toe, the pulled hamstring, "I'da had that team made."
And so it goes, year after, body after body, and the Redskin training camp of 1977 is no exception. Sixty-eight men reported for rookie camp last Sunday, and for 50 of those players, if not more, the odds on making this or any other NFL team are minute, at best.
Still, they drip and drop in the blistering heat for the one chance that probably will never come. But they try, and their reasons are as fascinating as their diverse backgrounds. Here are some faces in the crowd.
It's better in the Bahamas, except, of course, the football. So what is Steve Thompson, a native Bahamlan who traces his ancestry back to original settlers - and pirates - of the 17th century doing in a place like this?
"Hey, mon, I think I have the ability to be a receiver in the pros," he says."I know the situation I'm in, but I've got a chance to do something no one from my country and very few Americans has ever really done."
Thompson is 23 and trying out at wide receiver. He paid his way to a tryout camp at Redskin Park in May, impressed the coaches with his speed and was invited back.
His parents allowed him to come stateside to play two years of high school football in Tampa military academy. He played spring football at Tampa U, his freshman year, but the school dropped the sport the next fall.
Last year, Thompson played for the Citybank Chargers in Nassau, mostly before crowds of 500 people or less.
"My biggest problems now is that I don't have any experience," he says. "The most important thig a receiver needs is confidence. I'm still learning and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing, but if they give me a long enough chance, I think I can play."
Thompson says he has watched American football all his life, tuning in televised games beamed from stations off the nearby Florida coast.
"My favorite team has always been the Raiders," he said. "I got relatives who were pirates. I like the skull and crossbones on the helmet." At the moment, however, he'll settle for a Redskin feather. And, oh yes, he slays, "please thank Coach Allen for the chance."
Three months ago, Phil Clabo earned his living as a 345pound sales representative for a tobacco company in Knoxville, Ten.
Today, he is a 275pound offensive tackle trying to earn a job with the Redskins.
"I was under a doctor's care for about a month and then I just did it on my own," Clabo said. "Yeah, I lost 7 pounds in three months. I had no liquids and about 200 to 300 calories a day. That's a lot of celery sticks."
Clabo played three different positions at the Univeristy of Tennessee and spend three weeks in the training camp of the expansion Seattle Seahawks last year before being cut.
He came to a Redskin tryout camp last May, and just on his size alone - 6foot7 and over 300 pounds - the Redskins decided to take a look. "Actually, when I went to Redskin Park I weighed between 320 and 330," he says. "But their scale only went to 300 so I told 'em I was 305.
Since there are olly three right tackles in camp at the moment. Clabo believes he has a oneinthree shot at making the team. Unfortunately, Allen has several versatile veterans - Bob Kuziel. Terry Hermeling and Ted Fritsch - who could play any position on the line.
"I'm not worried about it," says Clabo a friendly giant. "If I don't make it here, I might try one more time. I know one more thing, I'm never gonna' get fat again. It hurts too much to come down."
They keep telling Cliff Laboy he's a middle linebacker. Never mind that he never played the position before. Just make an impression on the special teams, they tell him, and you've got a shot.
So far, however, the only shot Laboy has received in the Redskin camp has been an injection from a local doctor to combat a case of flu that sidelined him for three days last week.
When he became woozy in practice on Friday, the doctor told him he was one man out of 20 bothered by the injection. "If I'da come in here yesterday." Laboy told the doctor, "it woulda' been someone else."
Laboy is a native Hawaiian who came to the Redskins by way of Don Ho's night club in Honolulu, where he distinguished himself as a bouncer.
His college coach at Hawaii, Larry Price, once played for Allen and recommended Laboy, who says he made it to the last cut with Denver last year before a double hernia operation ended his season.
"I'd like to make this team to help my parents. I'd like to get them out of the ghetto," he says. "I know people don't believe there are ghettoes in Hawaii, but there are. They live out in the country in these old cement houses. It's very dirty and its very cheap.
"If I don't make it? I think I'd like knocked - 10 days on, 10 days of. And if worse came to worse, I could always go back and be a bouncer."