There is one thing that 14-year-old Zac Ventola loves above almost all else, and it's Patriots training camp.
After a year of not being in the stands, Zac is back at his post on the Gillette Stadium practice field bleachers. Zac hasn't missed a day of Patriots training camp since he was about 3-years-old -- with the exception of 2020. Though he is a teenager, Zac is a seasoned veteran when it comes to spectating at a day of camp.
"Obviously, not last year because nobody could come, but every single day for the last now 11 years," Zac said. "It could be 59 degrees or it could be 105."
Zac and his mother, Pia, were among the Patriots fans who weathered the rain on Wednesday morning, the first training camp practice open to the public since 2019.
"He was so excited last night," Pia said. "This morning, I overslept and got up, and he was sitting there waiting for me."
"I basically had to drag her out the door," Zac said, laughing.
It was a long wait for a return to relative normal, but it was one that was worth it for Zac. They brought a handmade sign that encapsulated what they and many others felt as they walked through the gates: "Together at last."
"It's great [to see] everybody coming back out to support the team after not being able to for so long and without having fans in the stands last year for games and for training camp," he said. "Nobody has been able to really see us in person. Having everybody back means a ton."
Of course, returning to Patriots camp day every day for more than a decade, Zac and his family have gotten familiar with the staff. They know security guards and vendors. Some Patriots players even started recognizing Zac, and when players were able to sign autographs before COVID, he walked away with one-of-a-kind gifts, like players' gloves.
While it's great to get a signature, the best part of coming to Patriots training camp is the atmosphere.
"It's a little bit of everything," he said. "Being able to have interactions with players, being able to see them practice, learn from that, be with all the fans."
Zac, who has dreams of being a sports reporter, runs his own blog. With summers spent watching the Patriots practice, Zac well on his way chasing his dream of one day watching an NFL team practice among the media instead of in the crowd.