As the countdown continues to this year's training camp at Lehigh, the Daily News and Eagletarian have gone back to look at some of our favorite or most interesting events and storylines of training camps and the preseason during the Andy Reid Era. Each weekday for the next two weeks, we will count them down, leading to No. 1.
No. 9: 25,000 FANS FLOCK TO BIRDS' CAMP
Published: Aug. 7, 2004
By Les Bowen, Daily News Sports Writer
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Terrell Owens jogged over to the part of the training-camp throng arrayed on a hillside, and the cheers were so loud, Andy Reid stopped in the middle of an answer as he addressed the media in a nearby tent.
"I think you guys are missing something," Reid told reporters. "You better hurry. "
Sunny, cool weather, T.O. mania, a kids' day carnival promoted by the team, and the fact this was the only Friday of full-squad practice at Lehigh this year combined to turn Eagles training camp into Woodstock.
The Eagles estimated the crowd at about 25,000 people. Team officials said they thought it was the largest gathering ever to watch a single-team practice not held in a stadium, if you can follow all that. It blew away the largest previous Eagles crowd, 10,867, a mark set 2 days earlier.
"It's the field of dreams," Reid joked.
More people would have been there if they hadn't been stuck on the overburdened roads leading to Lehigh's Goodman Campus. Many parked at least a mile away from the practice fields and walked in. Police said an 11-year-old girl suffered non-life-threatening injuries when she was struck by a car on Mountain Drive South, near the main entrance to the fields.
T.O. TURNED ON BY FANS' WELCOME
Published: Aug. 4, 2004
By Kevin Mulligan, Daily News Sports Writer
Twelve-year-old Brad Robinson finally received his biggest 2003 Christmas present from his parents yesterday: a 2-day trip to Eagles training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, sweetened by Terrell Owens' autograph on an Eagles football. All the away from Mansfield, Ohio.
"I got Donovan McNabb [Tuesday] and now Terrell," he said, beaming. "It's amazing. "
"Tell him what you just told me," said Brad's dad, and driver, Jim.
"It's one of the best days of my life," Brad said.
Owens, drenched from practice, was the star attraction in the Eagles' well-organized autograph tent after the morning
session. He's seen a lot of wild scenes, he said, but nothing like the madness this year at camp.
"I guess this says I've made it," Owens told "Game Faces" as the line started moving toward him. "Everybody told me this was going to be crazy, but it's cool. It's really rewarding, seeing so many fans here. It's definitely a blessing. "
The Robinsons never figured that they'd have to stake out their spot in line for McNabb's and Owens' signatures more than 24 hours in advance. They arrived at Lehigh Monday night, after an 8-hour drive, got in line for McNabb, and repeated the process Tuesday for Owens' session yesterday.
Unlike several hundred other autograph hunters, the Robinsons slept in the comfort of a hotel Tuesday night and returned to their lawn chairs - third in line - before 7 a.m. yesterday for their prized wristbands, guaranteeing them Owens' signature. More than 500 people lined up overnight outside the entrance to Eagles camp, with the cutoff for Owens at 210.
Many fans unaware of the limit went away unhappy, including twentysomething Ray Garber, who was loudly upset upon learning he would not be one of the lucky ones going home with an Owens autograph on his No. 81 jersey.
"I drove 22 hours, more than 1,700 miles from Orlando, get here at 9:30 [a.m.] and they tell me I can't get one, because I don't have a wristband," Garber said. Others in line went away thrilled with their Owens autograph, many accompanied by a photograph or handshake from No. 81.
Mike Fulmer, 12, dad Scott and Mike's buddies, Ben Henry, Joey Waldespurger and Nick Spangler, all from nearby Hellertown, arrived at 8 a.m. Tuesday and slept outside that night to assure their spots at the front of the Owens autograph line.
"It was cold, foggy, wet and not comfortable," Mike said. "[Lehigh security] wouldn't let us put up tents, so we slept outside. It was worth it. "
Waldespurger had the coolest item for Owens to sign - with a Sharpie, of course - his cell phone. Sprinkled among the kids seeking autographs for fun were some pros in it only for the money. Scott Fulmer revealed that one man offered the kids $500 for their wristbands and spots in line. They declined.
"We don't do this for money," Mike said. "We're just fans, and who knows when we'll get this chance again? "