ANDERSON – As the Colts began their exit from Anderson University on Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of people began pouring on to campus grounds.
Their job was to turn AU back to the college itself, with Colts headquarters picking up and moving back to Indianapolis after three weeks of Training Camp away from home.
The operation to go off site for Training Camp is a massive project, one that Chuck Pagano believes is invaluable in building team camaraderie and bonding.
"It's hard getting here, it's hard getting home. There's a lot of work that goes into it, it's a major production but it's a necessary evil," Pagano said earlier this week. "We're a tight group and they keep getting tighter with every practice, every game, every meeting, it doesn't matter.
"I love this group and I love the guys we've added to this group."
Life in Anderson provides the Colts seclusion on a college campus with a daily routine that helps build the foundation for another NFL season.
From meetings on the south end of campus, to lifting and practice on the north end, Pagano likes the appeal of minimal distractions during the Colts three-week stay at the Division III college.
The Colts are just one of 14 NFL teams who train away from home, a number that has seriously dwindled in the recent years.
"Everybody loves having the comfort of home and not having to pack up your organization and operation and move for a short period of time," Pagano said.
"It's a strain on everybody but I still think there are benefits to getting away, being together, the sacrifice you have to make, you limit distractions because your whole focus has to be on football. It can't be anywhere else. Then when you have a day off, you have time to mentally get away from it and you can get with your families, get with your loved ones, get with your children but then we're right back. There's a ton of benefits to getting away and I think we've seen that over the course of the last two years."
As the Colts began to file out of Anderson on Wednesday afternoon, fans still lined the outskirts of campus to offer their final goodbyes with the NFL season just a few weeks away.
For some, these three weeks in Anderson provides the lone chance they get to see their favorite NFL team up close and personal.
It's that reason why Colts players show their appreciation daily in thanking those fans for helping them through the grind of an NFL Training Camp.
"For those that are unable, for whatever reason, to get to a game or two, it's a great opportunity for them to connect to this football team and get close," Pagano says of the more than 30,000 fans that showed up to practices. "If you stay home, you may travel to a city or two here and there and have a practice at the stadium and open it up that way but it's nothing like going to camp.
"They're our lifeblood. There are no better fans than Colts fans."