ANDERSON, Ind. — “They’re huge.”
Those were the first words Mark Wagner could muster about seeing the Indianapolis Colts up close on Tuesday evening at training camp on the Anderson University campus.
Tuesday’s practice was the only evening event of the three-week training camp period, with Colts City open from 5 to 9:30 p.m. So for Wagner and many other parents who work during the day, it was a once-a-season chance to take their children to see the team they love.
But for the Decatur resident, the trip served a little more significance. His 9-year-old son Andrew has a brain tumor, and he requires regular visits to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. It might sound scary, but the prognosis for Andrew, who watched the team over the railing of the practice field bleachers, is good.
For now, the tumor is benign and doesn’t affect the boy’s life day-to-day, and it’s not expected to get worse. But the family still needs to take him to Riley from time to time for checkups. Since the Wagners were already scheduled to make the trip south, Mark found it to be the perfect opportunity to bring Andrew and his brother, Adam, to practice.
“It was a stroke of good luck the practice was at night,” Wagner said. “And it’s beautiful out here.”
It was the close of an exciting day for Andrew, who got to meet and take his picture with a few Colts cheerleaders at the hospital. The young fan said he’s excited for quarterback Andrew Luck’s sophomore campaign, and he has lofty expectations for the team.
“Super Bowl champions,” the boy predicted.
The Wagners joined at least 7,000 more Colts fans, the largest practice attendance in 2013 to date. To accommodate the crowd, the team moved practice onto the main field. Fans still spilled out of the bleachers and around the track.
Watching from the track fence were a young couple from Anderson, Tyson Taylor and April Gregg, and their two toddlers, Cordney and Glaspie. Taylor said his sons are a little too young to understand the game, but he still wanted to expose them to football this summer, and he appreciated that the training camp sessions are free.
“We have to pay for parking, but it’s not too bad. I’d rather pay for parking than the other way around,” Taylor said. “And we work during the day, so this was our only opportunity to come.”
Taylor said Luck has quickly developed into his favorite player, and he’s looking for a strong follow-up after Luck led the team to a historic turnaround his rookie year. He also has enjoyed watching the developing rivalry between 2012 No. 1 draft pick Luck and No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins.
“As long as he beats out RG3, I’ll be happy,” Taylor said.
Luck, despite replacing Colts legend Peyton Manning, has quickly become a favorite for many, including 12-year-old Wyatt Drake of Frankton, who also watched from the fence.
“I can’t wait for this season,” the boy said.
And like many other children in attendance, he was able to come because his father, Mark Drake, could drive him to the later practice. Drake, a farmer, usually works during the day, and said he probably won’t have a chance to take his son to any other training camp practices. Still, the family hopes to make it to a game or two during the regular season.
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