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Fans travel from near and far to catch start of Patriots training camp

Posted Jul 27, 2014

From California to Florida, and throughout New England, nearly 46,000 fans flock to Foxborough through first weekend of 2014 New England Patriots Training Camp.


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Anticipation for the official start of the 2014 New England Patriots reached a fever pitch on Thursday, July 24, as thousands of fans stormed through the gate to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium for the first training camp practice of the season.

Through the first weekend of training camp, nearly 46,000 Patriots fans raced through the gate to the practice fields, some sprinting with chairs and homemade signs in arms, to claim front row seats to the early-morning action.

For Josh and Sarah Allard, the day started at 4:30 a.m. when they left their home in Maine for Foxborough.

"I'm so excited to be here," Sarah said. "I can't stop smiling."

Her husband, Josh added: "This is when real football starts. I'm excited to see everyone back on the field."

The Allards early-morning dedication rewarded them with front row seats in the end zone - a prime location for all the action at training camp. Sarah made a poster in hopes of catching the eye of quarterback Tom Brady. Using the letters of Brady's last name, Sarah creatively displayed the following message:

Brady jerseys ... $100
Racing from Maine to Foxborough ... 125 miles
Attending 2014 Training Camp ... no cost
Ditching work ... $600 and a mad boss
Your autograph ... priceless!

"I made the same poster last year, too," Sarah said. "We came last year to training camp, but he wasn't signing that day. I figured I would try it again and come on the first day of camp this year."

For others, the excitement of training camp started days earlier. Mirielle Juarez and Sarah Benoit flew in at 6 a.m. Wednesday from Los Angeles, Calif. to attend Thursday's practice.

"We are super dedicated Patriots fans and are beyond excited to be here," said Juarez. "I've been here twice before, so this is my third training camp. It's the atmosphere that makes you want to come back."

Juarez said she became a Patriots fan in seventh grade when she first saw Brady.

"I didn't want to cheer for the teams in California and when I saw Tom Brady, I decided then and there that I was going to be a Patriots fan," Juarez said.

She even picked her college based on its proximity to Foxborough.

"I was going to UMass Boston for school when I first came to training camp and I chose a school in Boston because of the Patriots," Juarez said with a laugh. "I made sure I came early enough for training camp that year, too."

Juarez now plans her trips back to the area around the Patriots' training camp schedule and recruited Benoit to join her this year.

"I grew up where you either rooted for New York or the Patriots and I had to go with the Patriots," Benoit said. "Mirielle told me about the trip and I said, ‘We have to do it! We have to go!'"

Juarez said she likes training camp because of the intimate atmosphere.

"It is much more personalized for the fans," she said. "You're not in a huge stadium. You are closer to the action and you get to interact with them. You can talk to them and take a picture with them. It's a completely different experience."

Juarez and Benoit plan to attend Friday and Saturday's practices before returning to Los Angeles.

"I just can't wait for football season," Juarez said. "I'm already starting to plan which game to go to this year."

Sitting next Juarez and Benoit was a family from Palm Beach County, Fla. attending their first training camp.

"I've always wanted to come to training camp and my parents finally said, ‘yes,' because I have a school project on the psychology of sports fans," said Cody Coombs.

Cody's mother, Kim, grew up a Patriots fan in Portland, Maine, and as his sister, Carly explained, "We were born into it."

"Even though we live in Florida and no one else is a Patriots fan, we are diehard Patriots fans," said Kim. "It's a lot more fun to be around people who root for the same team rather than being around people who are pointing and booing at you. It's a nice change of scenery!"

Cody has been soaking in the atmosphere around Gillette Stadium while he works on his school project.

"It's been very exciting," Kim said. "Boys don't get excited over many things, but last night we came to Patriot Place to see Gillette Stadium and it was all lit up. I swear, I've never seen him so happy. He laid on the grass on the logo in front of CBS Scene. It was like he died and gone to heaven. He was very excited because he has always wanted to come here and that makes it exciting for me."

The Coombs family plans to attend Friday's practice before returning home.

Closer to Gillette Stadium, friends John Doyle of Foxborough and Rich Bracker of Seekonk have made training camp practices a summer tradition.

"It doesn't get better than this," Doyle said. "I look forward to this every year. The whole state waits for this. We love our Patriots."

Bracker added that he's looking forward to seeing an improved defense this season, but won't make any conclusions about this year's team during training camp.

"A friend of mine made a good point," Bracker said. "He said we make our decision on the team after Thanksgiving. It's just too early to know now, but I'm excited to see the guys out on the field and practicing."

A group of four from Walpole shared Bracker's excitement for the team's defense.

"Expecting big things this year," said Matt Rockwell. "I think it's a really promising defense this year. I'm about done with summer - give me football in the fall."

Rockwell, wearing a Dont'a Hightower jersey, said he's eager to see some of the team's second and third-year players take the next step, especially Hightower.

"I'm a big Hightower fan," said Rockwell. "I followed him at Alabama and I'm really looking forward to seeing him take a leap forward this year, especially with Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork back."

A father and son from Weymouth stopped by the Patriots ProShop prior to practice to pick up a couple of jerseys. Roy Laewe, a big Ty Law fan, chose number 24 in blue.

"It's funny, I saw someone wearing a Rodney Harrison jersey earlier and I told my son back in the day it used to be Law and Harrison in the secondary shutting offenses down," Roy said. "You couldn't get by them."

Roy's son, Dillon, chose the newest number 24 on the team, Darrelle Revis.

"My son saw the jersey and said, ‘Revis Island,'" Roy said. "I then said back ‘Ty Law.' Hopefully we have a new era. The defense looks good."

Both proudly wore their number 24 jerseys as they took in the excitement of the day.

"This is insane," Roy said. "This is Dillon's first training camp and I have been looking forward to bringing him here for awhile. He might be a bit overwhelmed, but he's loving it."

Dillon, who plays wide receiver for his local youth football team, said he was looking forward to seeing the players practice so he could apply some of those techniques on the field.

"This is really cool," Dillon said. "I'm having so much and I'm happy football is back."

The Patriots announced the following training camp practice schedule for the week of July 28:

Monday, July 28

No practice. Players day off.

Tuesday, July 29

9:15 a.m. - Patriots training camp practice

10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - Patriots Fan Zone.

Wednesday, July 30

9:15 a.m. - Patriots training camp practice

10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - Patriots Fan Zone.

Thursday, July 31

9:15 a.m. - Patriots training camp practice

10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. - Patriots Fan Zone.

Friday, Aug. 1

4:30 p.m. - Patriots Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for former cornerback and three-time Super Bowl champion Ty Law. The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will take place on NRG Plaza outside of The Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon.

7 p.m. - Patriots' annual in-stadium practice for season ticket members (closed to the general public)

Fans are encouraged to call the training camp information hotline at (508) 549-0001 or visit www.patriots.com/trainingcamp for daily updates throughout camp as practice dates and time are subject to change. All public training camp practices and parking are free.

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