On Tuesday morning in a steady rain, Colts fans were lined up outside the Grand Park Events Center.
Mother Nature cancelled the planned outdoor practice, but the team announced that the first 500 fans would be allowed inside to watch from the stands. And Sanborn Darling wanted to make sure he was among them.
The first to arrive at around 6:30 AM, he loved the experience of watching an indoor practice.
“It’s nice to have a little more intimate setting when watching some of your favorite players out on the field,” he said.
Darling traveled with his wife and two kids from Des Moines, Iowa on Friday. Coming to Indianapolis for Colts training camp has become a summer vacation for them.
“We did it the last two years in Anderson and this year at Grand Park.”
It’s also a way for him to get his family in front of the team without forking over a lot of money to do it.
“Even though my boys are young, my oldest is old enough to kind of know who the people are on the field – so, to be able to see it without having to spend a ton of money to go to a game – because for us, it’s a little bit harder to do that than for people that live in the area.”
A football junkie, it was a TV show and a homework assignment that made Darling a Colts fan.
"There’s a show on Nickelodeon called ‘The Adventures of Pete and Pete.’ And they had a time travel episode where they were talking about Johnny Unitas. I was a fan of the NFL and football, I just didn’t have a team that I rooted for,” he said. “There was a book report I had to do for school, so I picked out a Johnny Unitas book and I became a Colts fan right then and there.”
The Colts moved their Tuesday morning practice inside due to rain.
And he’s stayed a Colts fan ever since.
He loved watching the Peyton Manning years, the domination of the AFC South, the playoff runs and the Super Bowl win, but he’s excited about this season too.
“This team is young, they obviously had a little bit of turbulence the last three seasons, but the leader of the pack is back and a new coaching staff with a fresh look on offense and defense,” he said. “I think the team is probably going to turn some heads and probably make the NFL and the TV networks wish they would have put them on more primetime games.”
Chris Percupchick and his family traveled from Illinois. They got their tickets weeks ago and when they saw the forecast, they were a little worried.
“Because that’s what we were always scared of. God, please don’t rain when we’re here,” he said. “But as soon as we got the messages, we made sure we were up nice and early and ready to roll, so we got here in that first 500.”
Like the Darlings, they make a trip to Indianapolis every summer to come to camp.
“It’s just awesome,” said Chris. “It’s just fun to watch these guys practice. As my wife says, I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
Heather McDaniel and her son, Jackson, drove down from Noblesville to celebrate a special day.
“His last day of summer before he goes back to school.”
Jackson (12) plays quarterback and they were excited about seeing Andrew Luck back on the field. And being among the first fans to attend an indoor practice at training camp was a bonus.
“This is fabulous,” Heather said.
Members of the national sports media were also impressed.
Former NFL Network reporter – now with MMQB, Albert Breer travels to NFL training camps all over the country and few compare to Grand Park.
“To have all the fields they have, to have the indoor facility that they have here, you won’t find this many other places,” he said. “What they have here is pretty incredible.”
Practice on Wednesday has also been moved inside. Once again, the first 500 fans with a ticket at the main entrance to the Events Center will receive a wristband to attend practice. Doors will not open until 8:30 AM.
For more information or to download free tickets, go to: Colts.com/camp.