So many football dreams now live in hang time here, floating above the humidity and two-a-day practices that combine to vaporize the senses at the Washington Redskins training camp.
Right now, this training camp is populated largely by rookies from schools seemingly smaller than the Redskins' current 110-man roster and by free agents from Canada, other NFL camps or places not known in this galaxy. There are also a few selected veterans hoping to improve their lot in Redskin life.
Some are called prospects, others are called bodies, guys who fill out the roster. But they are dreamers, all. And they have some great stories to tell.
"They call me 'Bigtime,' " says Nathan Newton, a 6-foot-2, 289-pound offensive lineman, a rookie free agent from Florida A&M. Redskins coaches say Newton has quick-footed potential.
"My high school coach in Florida told me in ninth grade that most people start on the JV, but that I should think 'Bigtime' and make the varsity right away. I've been called 'Bigtime' ever since."
Newton says his dream is to block for John Riggins. "The Gunner," says Newton. "That's what everybody calls him: 'the Gunner.' Who's everybody? The Hogs. And that's everybody to me."
Before playing sandbag in front of the Redskins' Gunner, though, Newton says he must trim down a bit.
"The thing is, I can't stop eating french fries," he says. "French fries and sodas. I can't stop drinking Coca-Colas either."
Rookies' psyches here bend to each extreme, from Newton's naivete to top draft pick Darrell Green's cool strut and confidence. Green, the cornerback/kick returner from Texas A&I, naturally has received the most media attention.
Earlier this week, Green removed his shaded sunglasses, talked about making the Pro Bowl in his first year, then asked two inquiring reporters, "Are you guys paid to ask about all this stuff?"
Then, there are all those free agents, players whose dreams chug along like a train, making so many whistle stops, after getting cut from other teams in other NFL cities or in Canada. Many free agents here are quick to point out that safety Mark Murphy, running back Clarence Harmon and tackle Joe Jacoby were Redskin free agents once, too. Perfect precedents, they say.
This is a rationale, of course, but it keeps the train chugging. Exhibit A is cornerback Leo Gray, who in the past three years has been cut by the Cowboys and the Raiders in the NFL and traded and/or cut by British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Toronto in the Canadian Football League.
"Can't sit around and pout," Gray says. However, Gray is unique here, because he is the only free agent with a Super Bowl ring. He was a special teams player with the Raiders in 1980, the year Oakland won the Super Bowl. Gray was injured in the preseason, placed on injured reserve for the entire season, but was given a Raiders' ring anyway.
"When I showed the Super Bowl ring to guys in Canada, they went crazy," says Gray, 26. "I was the only guy in Canada with a Super Bowl ring. Now, nobody up there has one. I think things can work for me here. If I make the team, I'll be the happiest person running around."
Former Princeton passing mates Bob Holly, the quarterback, and Cris Crissy, the wide receiver, are among the handful of veterans who reported before next Saturday's mandatory reporting date.
Though he was married two weeks ago, Holly, 23, reported early anyway, saying practical things like, "I'm not a superstar. I need the work." And: "I think half my paycheck goes to phone bills."
And: "I don't want to have time to take a honeymoon in September."
Holly didn't play one down during the regular season last year, his rookie season, and says he now is kidded by Redskins coaches about receiving a Super Bowl ring.
Crissy, cut three times in 1981 (twice by the Redskins) and picked up again and again and again, doesn't get kidded about a Super Bowl ring simply because he didn't get one. After fracturing his cheekbone in the first exhibition game last year, he went on injured reserve and remained there the entire season. He practiced with the team, but didn't play in games.
The Redskins say they will give Crissy a Super Bowl watch instead of a ring.
Somehow, optimism still runs routes through Crissy's mind: "When you get cut so many times, well, I guess it helps that I was a psychology major," he says. "LeCharls (McDaniel, cornerback) and I sit down sometimes, look at each other and say 'So how many cuts is that for you?' "
Why does Crissy, a smart sort, continue to climb aboard the dream train? "Because I want to answer the ultimate question: can I play? Injuries have always stopped me. I have got to find out if I can play in this league."
Then, there is the case of Don Laster, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound member of the Hogs, who has had it typically tough. For his second straight training camp, Laster sweated his way to dehydration Friday, losing 11 pounds (down to 294) after just three practices. He went to a hospital to receive intravenous replenishing of lost fluid.
First, though, Laster tough-talked, then chased away from a locker room fan running back Reggie Evans and tight end Mike Williams, who, apparently, valued their bones more than the fan's breeze.
"Donnie was talking awful mean," Evans said, smiling, after scurrying away from the perspiring Laster.
Laster was able to chuckle himself today, saying of his fan-fleeing mates, "I had to let them know what was going on."
These days at Redskins training camp, nothing comes easy.
Except sweating and dreaming.