Cardinals Report To Nau Friday


Bruce Haught and Mike Loutzenheiser could be leading the Rim country charge to Flagstaff, where the Arizona Cardinals will soon begin preseason practices.

The two local teachers have long proclaimed themselves diehard Cardinal fans. Not the kind, they say, that waffle as soon as the Cards hit the skids. But rather the type of fans that remain loyal to the team through the best and worst of times.

Haught, Loutzenheiser and other Cardinal loyalists will have the opportunity for a look at the Arizona players when the team reports July 26 to Northern Arizona University.

There the team will practice, usually twice a day, until Aug 14 when it returns to its Tempe facilities.

All Flagstaff training camp practices, which are free and open to the public, are held on the fields east of the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome. If it rains, practices move inside the dome.

For Rim country football fans and evacuees from the Rodeo-Chediski fire, the camp will provide the opportunity to cheer an ally as he battles for a spot on the Cardinal roster.

During the height of the state's largest wildfire in late June, Arizona defensive tackle Mario Fatafehi was one of two Cardinal players who took the time to visit, and cheer up, evacuees that were housed in the Rim Country Middle School gymnasium.

For much of one morning, Fatafehi milled among the evacuees answering questions, signing autographs and introducing his wife and child to the crowd.

In Flagstaff, Fatafehi, a native of Honolulu, who played at Kansas State, is considered a "bubble" player, which means his fate on making the team hinges on how he performs at the camp.

Andy Bowers, a 6-foot, 284-pound defensive end from the University of Utah, also visited the fire evacuees.

Bowers was on the Cardinal roster last season and is projected to once again earn a spot among the team's reserves.

Fatafehi and Bowers' recent visits to Payson could make them Rim country fan favorites at NAU.

But most eyes will be focused on quarterback Jake Plummer who's also no stranger to locals. Rim fans have watched him in action since he toiled at Camp Tontozona as a member of the Arizona State University Sun Devils.

Another former Sun Devil who has long been a local favorite, Pat Tillman, will not be in Flagsaff. In May, Tillman rejected a million-dollar contract to join the Army. He is now at boot camp preparing for what he has said he hopes will be a position with the elite Army Rangers.

Before departing for Flagstaff to take in a practice, check to see if the schedule has been changed by calling a fans' hotline at (602) 379-1714.

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