ANDERSON, Ind. —
"It's all about seeing our boys."
That was the sentiment held by Nanette Williams at Day 1 of the Indianapolis Colts' training camp at Anderson University on Sunday. It's safe to say it's the same for the few thousand fans who lined up along University Boulevard, walked through a chute of NFL merchandise and kiosks and sat on bleachers or even in practice field grass just to get a glimpse of their favorite gridiron stars.
Many made the short drive from Indianapolis, but fans came from all over the state to catch the retooled team in action for the first time in 2013. Some spent time picking up gear from a gift shop tent, others watched their children play games at Colts City, but everyone eventually made their way to the practice field. The message was clear: football is back. And the fans can't wait.
"At events like this, I'm like a 12-year-old boy," said Williams, who came from Rising Sun with her husband Dennis. "And I think they do a good job. A lot of training camps don't let you get so close."
The Williamses are die-hard. They've been to every Colts training camp since the team moved in 1984 and they're season-ticket holders. They even travel to a few road games every year. What they've seen is a surge in popularity with the team in recent years, partly because of the rise in football popularity throughout the country.
The sport has supplanted baseball as the de facto national pastime, and even in a state known for its basketball tradition, football is quickly becoming king. Fans are starved to watch even exhibition action at events like training camps, and NFL teams are the beneficiaries.
But the city is also benefiting. The Colts traveled to Anderson for training camp every year from 1984 to 1998, then spent a decade-long stint at Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute. Since 2010, the camp has come back to Anderson, and the fans are generally appreciative. Dennis Williams said the area improved considerably during the 10-year hiatus.
"It used to be a little shady, and there weren't many places to go if you wanted a hotel or something to eat. It's gotten a lot better," he said. "Compare that to Terre Haute, which is kind of out of the way and there's really nothing to do there."
Those feelings were echoed by Indianapolis residents, representing a good portion of the fans attending the camp Sunday. Todd Mattern of Indianapolis traveled to camp last year and this year brought his wife and 9-year-old son. For families like his, the accessibility of Anderson is very convenient. He said he plans to spend some time in the city and visit some favorite food spots.
"Terre Haute is kind of a jaunt for people from Indy. You can just shoot right up I-69 to get here," Mattern said.
Brenda Dagan and Kate Risch of Indianapolis agreed. Sunday was their first taste of training camp after years of being Colts fans. They came hoping to get in, get some autographs and get out, and the central location of Anderson made it easy.
"This is a beautiful campus. Plus the weather is amazing so that should make it more enjoyable," Dagan said.
Still, the fans came to see the team more than anything else. It was also the first training camp for Kokomo natives Joe Martino and Cally Ayers. Martino's family has attended in years past, but the anticipation of football was an impetus for the couple to come this year. The two said they enjoy Anderson, but for real fans, it doesn't really matter where training camp is.
"I don't think it matters. It's a statewide fan base, and no matter where it is, people will show up and have fun," Martino said.
Another common theme for the spectators was expectations for the team. Despite near-wholesale changes in personnel and front office and the exodus of longtime franchise face Peyton Manning in the past two seasons, fans said they like the direction the team is going. Fueling those expectations is last year's performance. After posting a 2-14 mark in 2011, the team rebounded with the help of rookie quarterback Andrew Luck to go 11-5 and return to the playoffs.
"There are a few exceptions, but I think for most of us, the name on the back of the jersey doesn't matter too much. We just want to see our team win," Ayers said.
Like Jack Molitor on Facebook and follow him @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.
Fans enjoy accessibility of Anderson, glad football is back
ANDERSON, Ind. —
"It's all about seeing our boys."
- Local News
- Survivors of violent accident, mother and baby return home from hospital The past two and a half weeks of Rebecca Sperry's life have been a harrowing series of ups and downs.
Democratic congressional candidates discuss issues
The three candidates hoping to become the first Democrat to represent portions of central Indiana in more than 25 years met Wednesday in the only planned debate of the primary campaign.
- Federal trial finds man guilty of 2003 attempted bank robbery, shootout with police A man has been convicted in federal court, more than 10 years after he exchanged gunfire with an Anderson police officer during an attempted bank robbery.
Reservoir opponents take message to Earth Day
Opponents of a proposed reservoir in central Indiana hope to use this weekend's Earth Day festivals to spread the word about their concerns about the $350 million dam project, which would inundate part of a state park known for its ancient earthworks.
- Smoke leads to crash on Indiana 13 A girl was hit by a motorcycle, but not seriously injured, after smoke from a controlled burn limited visibility on Indiana 13 Wednesday afternoon.
- Arrest Log: April 24 Arrests made by Madison County law enforcement on Tuesday and Wednesday, based on Madison County Jail records.
- Ritz to speak at APA's Senior Girls Luncheon Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz will be the guest speaker at Anderson Preparatory Academy's Senior Girls Luncheon on April 29.
- What's Where: April 24 Local meetings and activities are scheduled Thursday.
- Hospital's ER Department plans annual golf tournament Community Hospital Anderson’s Emergency Department will host its 12th annual golf tournament on Friday, June 20, at The Edge golf course. The Florida-style scramble will begin with a Lifeline helicopter liftoff at 1 p.m.
- Colts donate $18,000 to city cleanup campaign A donation of $18,000 from the Indianapolis Colts will cover the costs of the city's participation in the 30th annual Rev. JT Menifee Cleanup campaign.
- More Local News Headlines