Two lines of anxious kids awaited the Colts players as they exited the practice field at Grand Park on Friday afternoon.
“Don’t be nervous,” Colts Marketing Manager Ashley Powell told them.
A few seconds later, tight end Eric Ebron walked up helmet in hand.
“You want to carry his helmet?” she asked 6-year-old Colt Walker.
“Let’s go for a walk,” Ebron said. “I’m going to learn you, you’re going to learn me, ok? What’s your name?”
“Colt,” he responded.
“Colt?” asked Ebron. “Are you named after the team?”
“Ok. Is the helmet heavy?” he asked.
“You want me to take it?” he asked.
“So, who’s your favorite player?”
“Andrew? What about Eric? He’s the new tight end.”
“Nah? It’s ok,” Ebron laughed. “I don’t like him either.”
When they hit the end of the carpet and emerged from the trees, Ebron stopped to sign his helmet.
“Have a good one, man.”
“I will,” Colt said.
As they parted ways, other Colts were doing the same.
“Alright, man. It was nice to meet you. I wish you the most success in your baseball career.”
“I appreciate walking with you, man. Thanks for carrying my helmet.”
“Thank you so much. It was nice to meeting you. You take care, little man.”
Cornerback Kenny Moore and safety Matthias Farley were checking out one kid’s dance moves.
A few feet away, Andrew Luck was surrounded by kids.
“I signed your, hat, ok?” he said.
Bob Lamey, the voice of the Colts rolled by in his golf cart. “This is what it’s all about,” he said.
Colt’s dad, Ryan, was waiting for him on the other side of the fence.
“Who did you walk with?” he asked.
“Number 85,” Colt said.
“Did you carry his helmet?”
“It was kind of heavy.”
“I love this,” said Ryan. “It’s awesome that he gets to experience this. It’s really cool.”
The Walkers, who live in Fishers, are season ticket members and true blue Colts fans.
“His sister’s name is Peyton and the dog’s name is Lucky,” Ryan said.
“And our old dog was named Marvin,” Colt chimed in.
Ryan was looking for something fun to do with his son on a Friday afternoon, so they headed up to Grand Park in Westfield.
“His sister is swimming in the state finals for swimming this weekend, so I wanted to do something special for him since he’ll be sitting at a swim meet the next two days for eight hours each day."
What he didn’t know, was just how special that trip to training camp would be.
“We were just walking by and they stopped us,” he said. “They said, ‘We’re doing the Helmet Hike’ and kind of explained it. So, we signed up around noon and they said come back at 3.”
A few minutes walking with a Colts player created a lifelong memory for his son.
“He looks up to these guys and plays flag football and wants to be just like them.”
And that’s the idea behind the Helmet Hike – for kids to get up close and personal with their heroes.
“We did one last year at Warren Central when we held our night practice there, but really wanted to open it up this year,” Powell said. “Obviously, being back out and open to the public and giving kids at camp this once in a lifetime experience.”
The Helmet Hike launched a new tradition at Colts Training Camp – one Powell looks forward to every time.
“It’s so fun seeing the kids' faces – just seeing the blue carpet before they even see a player and they’re just like, ‘Wow! This is so cool!’ The anticipation of waiting for the players and then when they start coming off and meeting these gigantic NFL players in their eyes, it’s just so cool.”
And the players enjoy it just as much.
“I love it. The kid knew my name and everything. Usually when you walk around, they’ll be like, ‘Andrew Luck, T.Y.,’ but the kid said, ‘Grover.’ I’m like, ‘Here you go, man,’” said defensive tackle Grover Stewart. “They don’t care about the sweat or anything. They just want to carry your helmet, walk with you, and talk to you.”
“It kind of brings you back to reality. It’s not all business, you can have a little fun with it,” said defensive end John Simon. “I know it makes their day, so any time we’re able to incorporate fans or kids into the practice is awesome.”
“Put a smile on their face, that’s what it’s all about,” said wide receiver T.Y. Hilton.
To sign up for the Helmet Hike, look for the tent on the hill next to Colts City. They don’t do it every practice, so if there’s no one in the tent, it’s not happening that day. The first 50 kids ages 6-14 (roughly) to check in at the Helmet Hike tent will get a wristband to come back at the end of practice to make a special memory of their own.
“Hopefully, it makes them want to come back to Colts Camp and be a lifelong Colts fan,” Powell said.
It certainly did for Colt.
Asked what he’ll tell his friends and family, he said, “This was a really good surprise.”