I received the news on August 8th, 2007 that my Mom and I were going to NY Giants Training Camp in Albany. I also found out that we would actually be able to join the whole NY Giants team on the practice field.
My uncle Les worked with former Giant, Brad Van Pelt’s girlfriend. Kim asked Brad to get us on-field passes and he did! I can’t put into words how excited I was! I was too young to have seen him play, but I still couldn’t wait to meet him and watch the Giants practice up close.
We drove from where we were staying to the University of Albany, about 30 minutes away. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I noticed a couple guys in blue jerseys. As they got closer, I realized it was Fred Robbins and Plaxico Burress. Overcoming my excitement, I walked up to them and Fred Robbins signed my football. We took pictures with my family, Aunt Judy, Uncle Les, cousins Mike, Zachary and Abigail, Brad Van Pelt and his girlfriend Kim.
Brad gave us our on-field passes and off we went. I was amazed how many Giants fans were staring and whispering, ‘Is that Brad Van Pelt?’ After we sat down, Brad went and talked to a guy near the sidelines. I found out he was also a former NY Giant.
Practice started and I focused on my favorite player, R.W. McQuarters. He kneeled four feet in front of us! Practice lasted about two hours and as the team headed off the field we decided to get as many autographs as we could. At the time I really didn’t know many of the players, but still wanted to get their autographs. I walked up to Jared Lorenzen and got his autograph. Kim walked right up to Jeremy Shockey and asked him if he would pose for a picture with us. He agreed and also signed my football. Then we went up to the gate where Eli Manning was standing signing autographs. Brad flagged him down for us and we got his autograph too.
After leaving training camp, I realized I had a lot to be grateful for. I was one of the luckiest people on the planet. So many Giant fans only wish they could attend training camp, let alone be up close and personal with the players. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I got so many autographs on my ball, and I still remember the excitement of being on that field with my favorite football team. Every time I see a game, I remember those moments like it was yesterday.
This past winter, we received the news that Brad Van Pelt had passed away. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is very short and each moment should be treasured. Brad Van Pelt was one of the nicest guys I ever met. When he died, he only got a thirty second clip on the six o’clock news. It seems being a good person doesn’t get as much publicity as that of a guy shooting himself in the leg. Brad, on his own time and at his own expense, visited my cousin Zach’s Pop Warner game.
He talked to the whole football team about how important it is to do well in school. I’m grateful for his kindness and generosity. His love of life will always be with me, and I’m sure with all those young football players. I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet him and will always remember our day at Giants’ Training Camp.
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