The bells from the Dickinson College church tower signaled 11 o'clock. Sitting on a small stone barrier, next to a dormitory used by outsized visitors to campus, was Dallas Hickman, who had received another kind of signal.
A half mile down the road, the Washington Redskins were going through contact drills. But Hickman sat silently, breaking a few twigs, tossing a few pebbles. Despite his 6 feet, 6 inches and 242 pounds, Hickman looked almost inconspicuous. It was the luggage at his feet that made him conspicuous.
"They called me in at 6:30 this morning," began Hickman, former Washington Redskin. "They said Coach (Joe) Gibbs wanted to speak with me. I didn't have to see him to know why he wanted to talk to me."
So on this pleasant Monday morning, two exhibition games into his sixth pro season, Dallas Hickman, age 29, was cut. Soon he would be gone.
"Yeah, it is somewhat of a surprise to me. I guess they are going with youth and that I just got caught in the numbers. It's not up to me. I'm not old; I'm not ready to hang them up yet. I have to believe that there is a team out there that could use a good defensive end or linebacker or special teams player," said Hickman, who captained the Redskins' special teams for the past two years.
"I will definitely play football somewhere. Maybe I will go to Canada to play."
It would not matter that General Manager Bobby Beathard would later say, "Cutting Dallas Hickman was the toughest thing for Joe (Gibbs) to do. Dallas was a team leader." Hickman has been worried about cuts for a few years now. This was the first time that he had been nailed by one.
"I wish the Redskins luck," he said. Just then, the pickup pulled in. Hickman's wife and 16-month-old son looked somber. "My two biggest fans," said Hickman as he tossed in his luggage and drove away from the Washington Redskins.
The coach of the Redskins is new, but this process is still the same.
The cuts. Some things never change.
"Joe has evaluation meetings with the staff constantly. Then he and I meet, too. That's how the actual decisions are made," Beathard said.
Then Billy Hickman, an administrative assistant, goes into action. When Billy Hickman comes to a player's door, it is not opportunity that is about to knock.
"I'm the bearer of bad news. I tell them to go to Coach Gibbs and to bring their playbook," said Hickman, who always carries the brown clipboard with the yellow legal notepad. On that pad, players' careers are written off.
"I like to get to them in the morning, when they are in bed. If they were told at night, they would have a bad night's sleep. It should be done alone, too, to leave the player with some dignity," said Hickman, adding, "You'd have to be warped to like doing this."
After the meeting with the coach, the players turn in their equipment and go to Dick Myers, the assistant general manager.
"I arrange their travel back home; I explain to them the waiver list procedure and I settle financial issues," said Myers. "It's a distasteful job, but this is a major-league business."
For the cut players, it is no longer a business. They are out of a job.
Everywhere Lewis Walker, age 22, went during this camp, his portable tape player went with him. His mood was like his music: upbeat.
On Tuesday, when teams in the NFL were required to be down to 60 players, Lewis Walker was cut. Still, his beat went on. He merely walked into the crowded locker room that afternoon, played his music loudly and joyously, just as he always did, wished tight end Rick Walker, punter Mike Connell and others the best of luck and left.
Somebody forgot to tell Lewis Walker to be quiet and glum.
"I'll come back for at least another three or four years," Walker said. "I'll keep trying because I think football is for me. If I haven't made it in that time, then I'll look another way to get my life going in another direction."
The cut of Lewis Walker was no surprise. Even Walker, converted from running back to wide receiver, somewhat expected it. "I figured this would happen," he said. "I have a ways to go still."
Last year Walker was drafted in the 10th round out of the University of Utah. He was hurt in camp and placed on injured reserve, but for Walker this was good: the Redskins could hold on to him, he would get paid, and he still had a possible football future. To a young player unsure if he will make the team, injured reserve has its benefits.
The cut list, however, has few known benefits.
"As of right now, I am off the Redskins' payment list," Walker said. "I will keep in shape and work hard. Maybe someone will claim me on the waiver list. The coaches gave me a good report."
Walker said he might go back to Utah to obtain his physical education degree. He is about a year short. "I might have to get another job, too, just to live on."
Lewis Walker tugged on the gold chain around his neck, the one that read "31." That used to be Walker's jersey number on the Redskins. "I think I'd like to work with kids, maybe," he said. Then, with a smile, he hopped into a car, tape recorder strapped over his shoulder, and left camp.
Quarterback Phil Kessell, age 23, and tight end Clint Didier, age 22, were placed on injured reserve Tuesday, thereby getting the roster to the necessary 60.
"I was just waiting to see what would happen with Mike Rae," said Kessell, who set records and more records at Northern Michigan University and was a 10th-round pick this year. Kessell injured his knee in Tuesday morning's workout.
"Before this, I suppose I was wondering if I would be cut. I think any rookie is. You're never sure what will happen. There are a lot of good players here."
Kessell was listed on the depth charts behind Joe Theismann, Tom Flick and the recently acquired Rae. Teams usually don't carry four quarterbacks. His Redskin future was in jeopardy.
One club official said of Kessell's injury, "It may have been the best thing that could have happened. We have a great interest in him and we didn't want to have to give him up."
"I suppose I'll be on injured reserve all year. Maybe it's for the best," said Kessell.
Didier has been bothered by a hamstring pull since May. "I suppose I am relieved by this injured-reserve thing," he said.
Didier was a 12th-round pick who caught passes as a wide receiver from Neil Lomax at Portland State last year, then was converted to a tight end this year. "This will give me a chance to get healthy again and to learn the offense better. I wasn't performing well. I feel now that I have a chance.
"I was told about this today (Tuesday) by the trainer. No, I didn't talk to Coach Gibbs. He has a lot on his mind. I don't want to pester him with this. To me, this isn't getting cut. I still will feel like I'm part of the team. I'm going to take advantage of this."
Didier added, "I try to call my folks at least once a week. I guess I'm a little homesick. It will be better to tell them I'm on injured reserve than to tell them I was cut. That's the way I feel, anyway."
Dallas Hickman's name appeared in the fine-print newspaper transactions list Tuesday and the names Lewis Walker, Phil Kessell and Clint Didier appeared this morning. There was no commotion or surprise around camp or around the league.
These were just the standard football obituaries.
"This was a very difficult cut," said Beathard. "These things are always very emotional."