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While the Golden Gophers' first three practices were closed to the general public, there were eighteen individuals roaming the sidelines in special credentials. These enthusiastic supporters of Minnesota football were participants in the Boys of Fall Elite Camp, which gave them a unique, all-access look at camp.
During the first three days of practice, campers could go anywhere the team and coaches were throughout the day. Practices, meals, meetings--anywhere there was room, they were welcome.
"I was surprised how really open-access it was," camper Christopher Brown said. "You walk into Coach's office in the middle of him doing something and just go sit down. He keeps working."
While a handful of Gopher practices will be open to all fans, Boys of Fall Elite Camp participants got a taste of the full camp experience that not everyone sees. In addition to practice, the team goes through weightlifting, film and meetings. On weekends during camp when there are no classes, the Gophers' days are basically filled from football from early morning until night.
"You just didn't realize the amount of work that they have to go through, and throw school on top of that," Chad Gednalske, who attended with his wife, Jennifer, said. "It's pretty amazing."
"It's certainly a grueling experience," Wesley Schultz said. "It's a lot more thinking and it's very complicated, a lot more complicated than I would have guessed."
Campers enjoyed opportunities to sit down among the players at meals and have discussions with coaches. Three days of unfiltered access helped them get to know the personalities and inner workings of the Gopher football program.
"They're very committed," Schultz said. "They're very dedicated. They certainly know what they're doing. They've been together a long time. You can really see that from their practices and meetings."
"You walk into any meeting and they can all finish each other's thoughts exactly," Brown said.
Jennifer Gednalske was impressed with how organized and smooth the team appeared.
"The first day of camp seemed like they'd been doing this for two or three weeks," she said.
Boys of Fall Elite Camp ended Sunday afternoon, but campers will follow the Gophers the rest of the way with an even more personal connection to the team, and an understanding of what happens behind the scenes.
"We're definitely on the right track," Jennifer Gednalske said. "We've got a great team and a great coaching staff and a great university that we just love to support."
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