Even with intense heat overtaking the area, Redskins fans packed the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va., for the team's annual Fan Appreciation Day.
Thousands of fans attended Fan Appreciation Day for the penultimate day of Redskins training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
Check out all of the fans who attended the Redskins' 2016 Fan Day at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
The line wrapped around the entire W. Leigh St. block to attend camp. The training center resembled a fairground with musical performances, dance competitions and booths from local vendors in a day that ended with players mingling with fans long after practice had ended.
"It's great that the Redskins set out this day," said Mack Howard, who waited in line for three hours with his grandparents. "I think it's great that they are appreciating the fans because I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we all appreciate the Redskins so much that I think it's amazing that they would set up a day like this to appreciate us back and I think that's just great. It's going to be so much fun to be here and watch everyone do their thing and being here is great."
For Kevin Berger, Fan Appreciation Day is a tradition that allows him to spend time with his son and pass down the Redskins fervor that his father bestowed upon him.
"We've been coming every year since it's opened up and we've absolutely loved it," Kevin Berger said. "It's a great situation, it's wide open, it's very welcoming and all the people that work here keep it flowing and it's just fantastic. The players are very open to meeting people. It's just a fantastic setup and a great way to get the season started. We always look forward to it. Every year we plan our days around it so fan appreciation is a cool day to come out because this is where you probably see the most fan support. It's a great time to get the energy and excitement generated."
Before practice, fans were treated to musical performances from the Varina High School Marching Band and a UVA acapella group. The First Ladies of Football, who held a youth dance camp on Friday, performed a dance routine with their campers for the crowd. Afterward, Larry Michael, the Voice of the Redskins, hosted a dance off on the field for kids (and one man in his forties) while the crowd voted on the winners. The kids, clearly inspired by general manager Scot McCloughan's moves after the Redskins captured the NFC East last season, alternated dabbing with Rob Gronkowski spikes to the crowd's delight.
But practice was the real reason that the fans came in droves. For the hundreds of fans wearing DeSean Jackson and Josh Norman jerseys, the two lining up against each other was a marquee matchup to see in person. On the final drive of practice, Kirk Cousins led the first team offense down the field against the first team defense, ultimately scoring a touchdown on a throw to Jordan Reed that drew cheers from the crowd.
"These guys come out here in the heat and they really support the team," head coach Jay Gruden said. "It's awesome to watch. It gives them a little extra motivation when they come out here and play in front of the fans. They'll spend an extra 20 or 25 minutes with them, get some autographs – it's fun for them – and thank them. We really do appreciate the support. It's fun coming down here to Richmond."
Water and shade were in high demand as the temperature reached into the upper nineties on Saturday, but the fans who braved the heat were rewarded. As soon as practice ended, each player spread into the crowd to meet fans. Every player gave their jersey away to a lucky fan.
Mitch Durham was euphoric after one of his favorite players, wide receiver Rashad Ross, gave Mitch his jersey. Mitch and his father, John, are diehard Redskins fans who traveled from Cincinnati for Fan Appreciation Day and were thrilled that their favorite players they usually watch on television were even more friendly in person than they imagined.
"[Rashad Ross] came over and he was signing his ball and I said, 'This is your biggest fan. All day Tuesday, all I heard about was 'Rocket' Ross,' and he just took his jersey off, signed it, and handed it to [Mitch]. It was awesome."
Amidst the drudgery of training camp in the brutal August heat of Richmond, seeing the emotional impact the Redskins have in the community serves as a reminder of why they play the game.
"The Redskins in my opinion have the most passionate fans in the NFL," linebacker Will Compton said. "That's not me being biased because I grew up as a rival of the Redskins and I truly believe that we have the best fan base in the country."