The Pittsburgh Steelers Friday Night Lights practice returns to Latrobe Memorial Stadium tomorrow night and at his press conference today via Steelers.com, Mike Tomlin was asked what the practice means to the team.
“I love it because it’s a yellow bus ride. It’s nostalgic for the players. It’s a cool way to stay connected to the local fans, and the proximity of the fans makes it a cool and unique experience, and it’s just awesome. If you’re a football lover, you love Friday night lights.”
The nostalgia of the whole event harkens players and coaches back to the days of high school football, especially with the yellow bus ride. It’s a fun atmosphere for the players and the fans, and it provides a closeness between the two that professional football doesn’t usually provide.
It also helps break up players’ routines a little bit and gives them something to look forward to and get the adrenaline up. Tomlin cautioned that the event won’t serve as a break, however.
“I don’t, and I’m not looking for it to be,” he answered when asked if the players would get a bit of a break on Friday. “I’m looking for it really to do the quite opposite. I’m looking for it to turn up the volume. I’m looking for them to get caught up in the emotions of the atmosphere, and hopefully it brings the best out of them.”
For the rookies, it’s one of the first events that exposes them to a lively crowd under the lights. While there are hordes of fans at every training camp practice, each practice isn’t really marketing or amped up to be the sort of “event” that Friday Night Lights is. The environment can serve to pump players up, and it also provides a bit more pressure to perform than a normal practice environment.
Friday Nights Lights is a great event for the reasons Tomlin provided, and it just has an old-school feel to it. From playing in a high school stadium to the school bus rides there and the crowd hanging on every throw, it’s an event that players, fans and coaches look forward to every year. It’s usually a big deal, with ESPN broadcasting it in the past, and plenty of media coverage each year from various local and national outlets.
It serves as a great way to get players ready for their first preseason game on August 13 and it gives the crowd an intimate look at the team through a week-and-a-half of training camp practices so far. Hopefully, the environment and level of intensity are as high as Tomlin is hoping for and it can be a practice where players begin to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack. Regardless, tomorrow should be a fun day and a day that I’m sure the players and fans in attendance will remember.