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July 21, 2013

Dream Season: Time for celebrating

So maybe there wasn't the pomp and circumstance of the Dream Bowl, which brings out Purdue's marching band, the Goldusters and covers the entire practice field inside Mollenkopf.

So maybe the participants were fewer, numbering near a dozen or so, on Sunday.

This was the kickoff to "Dream Season," the non-contact football camp for individuals with intellectual disabilities that culminates in the Dream Bowl in January.

But that didn't keep Boilermakers from coming out in the non-air conditioned facility, and it certainly didn't stop the participants from throwing, running, knocking down tackling dummies and having a great time.

Neither was going to miss the unique opportunity that Dream Season presents.

"You get to meet the players and, I'm disabled, so I can't participate in full-go football, but I love football," said Jimmy Haffner, who has been a participant in so many Dream Seasons events he now counts Rob Henry as a friend and just became a season-ticket holder for football.

"I'm a huge Purdue fan, so getting to be able to meet the players and be a part of the football experience is pretty awesome."

The smaller turnout offered a special blessing.

Players, who already are becoming familiar with the participants the more they attend these events, were able to make more personal, lasting connections.

"Most of the stations, there were three players, two participants, so it was really working one-on-one with them," said senior fullback Kurt Freytag, the player liaison for Purdue's Dream Season chapter. "It was a lot different than it used to be. Usually, you want to get everyone to go through and get their chance to go (at each station). But, they went four or five times (on Sunday)."

It was the seventh Dream Season event for offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile, whose has a simple for his repeated return trips to help.

"I really it enjoy it. It's really fun having fun with these guys," said Pamphile, who was sweating so much after the one-hour session that he joked it was just another workout. "I know them a lot better. I know them by name and we have a good time and have good conversations. It's nice seeing their faces again, having a good time."

There were plenty of moments to cherish with the smaller group.

At nearly all of the six stations, players were cheering on the participants. Arms shot up and yells were released when a pass connected into the net or sank into a bucket or a kick was executed.

And, as always, participants were encouraged to display their best touchdown dance at the end of a drill or a skill.

One participant favored a kind of chicken dance, arms bent and "flapping," which tight end Sterling Carter promptly joined in on. Another started swaying and then added rhythmic claps and a cheer, also quickly adopted by the surrounding players.

Pamphile specifically mentioned one participant, Andrew, whom the players called "Bear," and said, "He gave us a good show."

After the passing, kicking and running was done, the participants lined up for autographs and photos. Some asked for players to flex for the camera. The goal of those specific pics: To show their muscles were bigger than those of the Boilermakers, Pamphile said.

"There's nothing wrong with that," he said, smiling. "I think that's fun."

That was the theme Sunday, and one Freytag was happy to share with so many of his teammates. Because it's the voluntary event, he's never sure how many will turn out. But he was happy with the group who showed up Sunday - there were at least 20 players.

"It's encouraging," he said. "It's awesome to see. It means a lot to all the Dream Season campers for us to show up. I know it's impactful for them and for us."

Copyright, Boilers, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved. Reproducing or using editorial or graphical content, in whole or in part, without permission, is strictly prohibited. E-mail GoldandBlack.com/Boilers, Inc.

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