The SU Football team begins its weeklong trip at Fort Drum today. It's the Orange's 3rd year spending a week of its training camp at the Northern New York military post, and 4th year total of spending some time during preseason camp at Fort Drum.
On the surface, one can look at the two years (of a full week) so far spent at Fort Drum and see the second half rallies the Orange staged in both 2012 and 2013. In essence, both years spent at the military post the Orange has dug deep to clinch a bowl bid, or in the case of 2012 a conference title too.
But the trip up I-81 is so much more than that. And as Coach Shafer told me, the idea of just looking at the football importance is overrated.
"I think for each and every one of us there's different degrees" Syracuse Head Coach Scott Shafer said on Monday.
"But for me, the military on my side is really, my two grandfathers were in World War 2. My uncle was an airborne ranger killed in Vietnam on his third tour and he was actually killed in Laos, didn't find out about it til 20 years later, how he really died. And then my cousin Todd got killed in Iraq. So for me, it's doing the right thing, giving back."
Just pause when you read that, and hold reverence and respect for all of our brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
It truly is giving back to the troops, too. In our years covering the event, every soldier at all levels of command always tell us what a pleasure it is to watch the team train for the season and then follow them into December. Remember, most of the troops are not Central New York natives. So, if they are college football fans their allegiances probably previously lied elsewhere. So to win that support shows you just how much the troops appreciate it.
Certainly though, the effect is mutual.
The players will engage in team building and military drills while on the post. This truly is a lot of fun to watch, but for the players it's a challenging and fun way to break up camp.
But the life lessons, and sense of perspective gained is unmatched.
"What I look forward to the most is the opportunity for our players to get to sit across the table from the real warriors and the real heroes in our society especially up there at Fort Drum with that Mountain Division. Especially the men and women that really kick ass for our country. So I can't wait to get up there and see the real men and women putting it on the line every day" Coach Shafer said.
The Orange will hold a scrimmage for the troops and their families on Thursday at Fort Drum before wrapping up its 4 day stay on Friday, two weeks exactly before the season opener with Villanova.