Fans flock to St. John Fisher University for the first day of Bills Training Camp
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — It was a sea of red and blue as the first busses full of fans arrived at Bills Training Camp at St. John Fisher University in Pittsford — people of all ages and all football knowledge levels.
Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: “Is this your first time at bills camp?”
Dez, Bills fan: “This is our third.”
Lewke: “Oh, excuse me, professionals. What do you love most about it?”
Dez: “Probably just seeing the players and who we recognize, because we know football really well. So we like seeing who’s there.”
Lewke: “And you have a helmet here. What signature do you have and who are you hoping to get?”
Evan, Bills fan: “I have Deon Dawkins’ signature and I’m hoping to get Josh Allen or Stephen Digs.”
While it was hot, it was mostly all smiles. And while most of these folks are fans, some are scouts.
“I just kind of like to watch the plays and then during actual football season I’ll know what to do,” says Mason.
Mason is planning to bring some of that knowledge back to his football team in Holley where he’s a bit of a star player himself.
Mason, Bills fan: “Most of the time, it’s like offensive line and defensive line.”
Lewke: “So, who are you keeping an eye on out there?”
Mason: “Probably Deon.”
Lewke: “Deon Dawkins?
Of course, Bills Camp also means games, food, hair braiding, tattoos, and merch — lots of merch!
While most of the people News10NBC crews met Wednesday were from upstate New York, News10NBC found a few who traveled even further.
“I’m here with my sister and my boyfriend, and we’re visiting from the Netherlands in Europe to see our family. And our awesome aunt got us tickets to go here today and she worked really hard, so we love her very much,” says the woman from the Netherlands. “I get NFL game pass from my cousin who also lives in the Netherlands so we watch it there.”
Wednesday, they got to watch it up close and personal with thousands of others.
So, where do our expert fans fall on what kind of year the bills will have?
Lewke: “So what do you think about our season this year? What do you think?”
Dez: “I think they’re going to go 14-3.”
Lewke: “What’s your prediction?”
News10NBC will have to check back in with them during the Bills season.
Todd Harrison is in charge of making sure everything goes smoothly not just for fans but for the team too.
News10NBC asked him what’s new this year.
“There are small tweaks, it’s not anything that is major,” says Harrison. “Additions of some games and just the number of experiences that the fans can have, and I think that the walk away from the Bills perspective is this is the first time that the fans get to see the team. And so that’s a chance for them to engage, and it’s a family friendly environment.”
An environment that is by ticket only. And while these fans got lucky, many more weren’t able to secure entry this year.
“I know it’s probably frustrating for the fans that missed the que that didn’t get tickets,” Harrison says. “But for the fans that are able to come, we wouldn’t as a physical facility be able to accommodate 12,000 people. So it’s also trying to understand what is safe and what is enjoyable for the fans.”
Bills Training Camp in Rochester is, as we know, decided on a year-to-year basis. But if Wednesday’s turnout and enthusiasm is any indication of success, Fisher is already planning for next year.
“We plan ahead as if it will be here again. I think that our ability, the whole staff that is able to support the needs of the bills and the proximity and what it offers to the team itself to regionalize and coach’s desire to engage with the players in sort of a confined environment, we just keep planning as if that will continue,” Harrison explains.