Hello Browns fans. I am in Day Five of my journey on the 2013 NFL-USO Tour, and here’s what I’ve been up to since the first blog entry.
The troops have been great; the security’s been great; the hospitality has been unbelievable. I’ve met a lot of big-wigs in the military here. We’ve visited a lot of FOBs (Forward Operating Bases), and just meeting the different troops and being able to actually hang out with them now and seeing the sacrifices they make is truly inspirational.
The first day we touched down at one of the FOBs, they had this big boardwalk where there’s American-style restaurants and there’s a lot of activity going on. They have a full-length soccer field and we were able to play a game of two-hand touch football with the troops. It got competitive. With Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers being a receiver, guys wanted to cover him.
When we visited another FOB, there were some guys that challenged him to a race. Steve told the guy that if he won, then, Steve would give him however many tickets he wanted to go see the Carolina Panthers play, and if Steve Smith won, the serviceman had to give him 20 push-ups. Obviously, Steve Smith beat him in the footrace. He wasn’t going to lose. The guy had to do push-ups where all the aircraft were.
We got a chance to see the Apache helicopters. The guys who fly this aircraft, it’s just amazing what they can do. They actually have a helmet that correlates with the movement of the pilot’s head to be able to aim wherever he wants to aim, where he turns his head. We were able to meet the crews, different pilots and see how they operate each system. We had a chance to sit inside of one and have the pilots tell us how all the buttons work, what they use them for. It’s been a great experience.
We’ve gotten to fly in a Blackhawk helicopter. What was very exciting was we rode on these helicopters with no doors. We’re actually strapped down, and it was definitely a different experience. I’ve always wanted to sky-dive and that actually made me realize how intense it can be. We were riding with the doors open for 30 minutes or so, and it was a different experience, I’ll tell you that, and a great one at that. It was a great ride.
I think I still want to sky-dive, but it definitely made me re-think doing it. That’s something that will happen when I’m done with football. That’s one of those “Bucket List” things.
While riding in the helicopters was a great experience, the vests with the helmet that we have to wear, that took a couple days to get used to. That thing is heavy. With the metal plates inside, that thing took some getting used to. That was probably the hardest part of the trip, carrying those things around and wearing them. They’re not like our pads. Those things can get up to 70 pounds on top of your natural weight.
It gives me an appreciation for the troops. They have to be mentally in shape. The physical part is the easiest part. We went to a certain FOB, and it’s on the top of a mountain. We had to take four-wheelers up there. We talked to one of the head guys there and he said this is where they do the PT, physical training. We couldn’t walk up because it was too high, too steep, but going up that steep hill in a four-wheeler, I can only imagine what it would feel like to run up and down that mountain with a vest on. I definitely see where the two, football and the military, could correlate, but there’s a big difference when you’re hauling your gun, the different things that you need, your boots, your helmets, a lot of things that weigh you down. Their job is much tougher than what I do every Sunday.
I’ve gotten a chance to meet many Browns fans over here. There’s a ton of Ohio guys here. The Browns gave a lot of memorabilia, shirts and things to hand out, and they’ve been everywhere, from the top colonels to the main troops. I’ve also been recruiting a lot. I’ve been talking well about the Browns and for them to be optimistic. Once a Browns fan, always a Browns fan. Whether we win or lose, they’re going to be there, no matter what.
I will check back again later in the week as I continue on the 2013 NFL-USO Tour to visit our troops overseas.