Camp ‘T’ Memories

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Arizona State University’s football team returns to Camp Tontozona Aug. 12-17.  

The stay at Camp Tontozona will culminate with the annual scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 17, under the direction of second-year Head Coach Todd Graham.

The Sun Devils, under the direction of Coach Graham and Vice President for University Athletics Steve Patterson, spearheaded the successful “Return to Camp T” campaign one year ago that resulted in ASU’s first trip to the property in the Tonto National Forest since 2008.

“I’ve stated many times that I love the traditions of college football,” says Graham. “Camp Tontozona for ASU is one of those iconic traditions. I want to take my teams to Camp T because that is where the tradition and the season begins. Coach Frank Kush had a vision and it worked out very well. I want to perpetuate that tradition.”

“Camp Tontozona is where the Sun Devil family unites,” says Patterson. “It is a place where the football team, the Sun Devil fans and alumni and the local Payson community can unite toward a common interest.We had a goal last year of raising funds so that we could return to Camp T and I am proud of everyone who made that possible. We see the unique value in bringing the football team to Camp T and we are proud to continue the tradition.”

Mountains skirt the camp with water, contributing much of the beauty to the area with clear-running Tonto Creek just a moment’s walk from the practice field. As a matter of fact, the bubbling springs on the camp property are a popular place for a cold drink or a refreshing natural whirlpool after practice. But the creek is even more popular after drills. Three man-sized waterfalls and clear-bottom swimming holes serve as refreshers to the Sun Devils.

The Roundup’s Max Foster is known far and wide for his pride in the ASU Devils and the special values that can be learned in training by truly committed athletes. He relates the following story of a visit to Camp “T.”

Wide-eyed, Bobby, 9-years-old and wearing a tattered Arizona State University football jersey, positioned himself on the Camp Tontozona sideline where he had an up-close and personal look at the Sun Devils as they conducted preseason training.

Standing attentively and clutching a football, his eyes quickly fixed on the sweaty, gritty players as they rumbled off field to an obviously much welcomed water break.

Suddenly, and without warning, a hulking Sun Devil player extended his huge arm towards Bobby and with one swat from his grizzly-like paw knocked the ball from the boy’s grasp.

As it fell to the ground, the defender stared down at the bewildered youth scolding him, “High and tight, man…high and tight.”

Before the startled boy could gather himself and retrieve the ball, the player turned, smiled, winked and trotted off.

At first, the player’s actions upset and confused some onlooking adult fans who buzzed about what they had just seen.

However, it didn’t take long for Bobby, a Pop Warner player from the Valley, to realize he had just been given a reality lesson in what is known in football jargon as “ball security.”

“High and tight” is a gridiron axiom drilled into all ball carriers instructing them to grasp the ball high on their chest with the wrist and forearm covering the ball and the hand gripping it tightly.

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber was known to use the technique to avoid fumbles, which he seldom did.

Like most of the hundreds who turned out at the scenic mountain retreat for a glimpse of the Sun Devils as they prepare for Pac 12 play, Bobby received the peep he was looking for as well as a gridiron lesson he probably won’t soon forget.

And what about that player who jarred the ball loose?

He’s now Bobby’s favorite Sun Devil player.

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