We’ve been trying to make it to the Houston Texans Training Camp every year for the past five. Every time, it seems that something comes up in our day-to-day lives to derail our plans, or in the case of last year, tickets sold out so fast we couldn’t get in. So, when we finally landed tickets for the 2016 camp, we were stoked. But like so many first timers, we had no idea what to expect.
With that in mind, I decided I’d take my ‘Texans Training Camp Noob’ lens and use it to help out all the other first timers that are heading down to the Houston Methodist Training Center over the next few weeks.
Since I’m admittedly no veteran of Texans practice-watching, I want to strongly urge the vets reading this article to add your tips and suggestions in the comments. For those who are noobs-to-be, please read those suggestions to help give you a solid idea of what to expect so you can make the most of your training camp experience. I also strongly urge you to read this and the related comments. Let’s face it: We Texans fans need to stick together.
First off, you really need to decide why you’re going. As in, what do you want out of the experience? Are you there for the fanfare, free schwag and/or the Toro Kid’s Zone stuff? Or, are you an Xs & Os junkie who just wants to see Brian Cushing tune up Alfred Blue live once more? Maybe you’re an autograph hound, dying to have Vince Wilfork sign your favorite brisket fork. Maybe you want all of the above and then some.
Well, sad to say, due to the limitations of the facility, you can’t have it all. Yes, I know, that sucks. Better that I prepare you for disappointment now than the reality of it slapping you in the face like it did to nearly a hundred people I watched get turned away from the bleachers, fences, tables, etc.
For those who simply want to watch practice, you better be in line when they open the gates and make a mad dash for the extremely limited bleacher seats. From what I could tell, there was roughly one seat in the bleachers for every ten fans who made it through the gates. If you do get a seat, don’t leave it (anyone want to imitate Burt Reynolds in Semi-Tough?), as the Event Staff will kindly invite the next person in the quarter mile long line to sit once you’ve vacated your spot.
If you’re there for the spectacle, again, be early. There are a quite a few tents and vendor tables (Texans Ambassadors, Toro Kid’s Club, Toros Bravos!, NRG, Xfinity, etc) there with lots of freebies loaded with Texans logos, but supplies are limited and they want something from you before they just hand you the key(ring)s to the kingdom. Be prepared to stand in lines and give up your info (name, address, email) for some of the freebies. You also get to do some fun stuff like a football toss, photo ops with cheerleaders, some other events for prizes, chances to be entered into ticket drawings, jersey drawings, and so forth.
Toro’s Kid Zone attendees don’t have nearly as much to look forward to as I’ve seen at other NFL training camps and the NFL Experience, but there are a few bounce house type attractions, and Toro himself was running around shaking hands and doing his best to fire up the crowd.
Now, if you’re the guy (or gal) with that brisket fork and you REALLY need Big Vince to sign it, again, be there early and go grab a place against the fence leading into the practice field across from the bridge. Most importantly, DO NOT LEAVE your spot on the fence. We were very disappointed to find out there were no organized signing booths like we’d experienced at other training camps; for those looking to get a signature, your only shot is to catch the players coming off the field at the end of practice. Since you’re there with 300 of Brock Osweiler’s new best friends, make sure to say some prayers that #75 notices you and the well=seasoned smoker fork and feels compelled to come sign it for you. Also, it doesn’t hurt to scream his name as if you’re dying and only the big man can save your life.
Overall, it’s a solid experience for Texans fans, one I highly recommend to those with a huge love of all things Battle Red. However, Bob McNair could certainly take a page from the other big-market NFL owners to make it more accommodating for the 4,500 people who attend. If the local high school has the resources to build bleacher space for 3,000+ and can sell bottled water for only $3, I’m sure the Houston Texans can as well.
Editor's Note: We'll leave this as our open thread for Sunday evening, as well. Chatter in the comments below, and please be kind to each other.