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Sat., Apr. 04, 2015 9:00 AM PDT
Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
Tue., Nov. 24, 2015 10:00 AM PST
Chargers Honored to Practice at MCAS Miramar
For the sixth straight season, the San Diego Chargers held a very special practice at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, continuing the team’s long standing tradition of showing gratitude and appreciation for the armed services.
“It starts with Dean Spanos and the Spanos family down through the entire organization,” said head coach Norv Turner, talking about the team’s ties to the military. “It’s something that’s important to us because the military is part of our community.”
Immediately after arriving at the marine base, Turner met with Major General Steve Busby and Colonel J.P. Farnam, who thanked the Chargers for being what he called “part of the extended family.” Turner then presented them with a team signed helmet, and discussed why he enjoys bringing his squad to MCAS Miramar each season.
“Every year it’s great interaction (with the marines),” he said. “Our guys have a good understanding and appreciation of what the marines do for us, and I think it inspires them to be out here. I think the marines appreciate that we care and come out here.”
With his mom a sergeant in the army, the visit was especially important to veteran tight end Randy McMichael.
“This is always my favorite time in camp,” he said. “It just makes you thankful for what you have. They are such big fans of ours, but I don’t think they realize how big of fans we are of theirs. They make it possible for us to do what we do by protecting our country and letting us go out there and enjoy ourselves.”
Another Charger with military ties is cornerback Marcus Gilchrist, whose father was a marine.
“This is really special to me,” he said. “Having a dad who was a marine and went through the whole process of being a marine for about six years, I know what it’s about. I also think there are a lot of similarities between being a marine and being a football player. It helps prepare us getting to talk with these guys.”
This year’s trip to Miramar also meant a lot Takeo Spikes, who paid a visit to Afghanistan this past offseason.
“There is no doubt (it means more this year),” he said. “You respect them obviously, but when you go out there and see what they do and go with them, (you get) the ultimate respect.”
To kick off practice, Turner had Philip Rivers throw passes to members of the Miramar football squad in a one on one drill. On the first route, Rivers connected on a deep ball to number 84, Stephen Rhodes from Nashville, Tennessee, who relished the chance to catch passes from a professional quarterback.
“What can you say but it felt unreal to catch a ball from him,” said Rhodes, who denied having any nerves at all about dropping the pass. “I wasn’t nervous at all. You just got to do what you got to do.”
Rivers too enjoyed getting the chance to be around the marines, talking about what it’s meant to hold practice at the base for the last six seasons.
“We’ve done it a handful of years now, and it’s always special,” he said. “We realize how many of these marines and officers are fans of us, and really it gives us the chance for a short period of time to show our appreciation for what they do. We’re just as much fans of theirs and are grateful for their service.”
Following practice, each member of the team spent 20 minutes mingling with those in attendance, signing autographs and taking photos out on the turf. One of the lucky ones to snag a signature from Ryan Mathews was young Mateo Mendez, who had his number 24 jersey signed by the star running back.
“It was very special to meet him,” Mendez said. “He’s my favorite player and you see him all the time on TV and ESPN and stuff, so it was cool to see him face to face and talk with him. I’ll never forget it.”
For the Chargers, meeting face to face with the marines at MCAS Miramar was an experience they’ll never forget either.