It was a unique setting, to say the least: a group of National Football League players staging an impromptu workout Tuesday morning on the pristine tri-oval grass at Daytona International Speedway. For a couple of hours, the world’s only motorsports stadium had the feel of a football stadium.
That’s not as surprising as some might think. There was a time when football was commonplace at the “World Center of Racing.” In 1959, the facility’s first year of operation, local high school Father Lopez played several games at DIS; in 1974-75, Bethune-Cookman University, also located in Daytona Beach, played four games at the speedway.
Participating in Tuesday’s exhibition in front of the stadium’s 101,500-seat layout were NFL placekickers Chris Boswell of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cairo Santos of the Kansas City Chiefs and University of Florida All-American Caleb Sturgis of the Philadelphia Eagles; Buffalo Bills punter Austin Rehkow; and assisting with returns were Atlanta Falcons safety Ricardo Allen and Eric Metcalf, a former NFL All-Pro running back and returner. Allen is a graduate of Daytona Beach Mainland High School.
Those players are in Daytona Beach this month for the “One On One Kicking” camp being held at nearby Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. One On One Kicking offers elite training programs for kickers, punters and long snappers of all ages, ranging from grade school to high school to college to professional. In addition to the pros, camp attendees took part in Tuesday’s speedway workout.
Sturgis was surprised when told of DIS’ football history, saying “I wasn’t aware of that. That’s pretty awesome. Today is just a neat experience. You can kick anywhere but very few times in your life do you get to experience something like this.”
Added former University of Idaho player Rehkov, who the Bills signed this spring as a free agent: “I’m so excited to get out here and hit some balls; it’s crazy to see all these seats here.”
Allen, who went on to play at Purdue, especially enjoyed the return trip home. The speedway is only a half-mile away from his prep alma mater.
“I never had tickets to the races, so to be able to come out and field punts and train on this field … this is like sacred ground,” Allen said.