Kay Posvar couldn’t always be at every Arizona State University football practice at Camp Tontozona as the owner of Kay’s Lawnmowers in Mesa.
Well, that’s no longer an issue. He retired 20 years ago and has been spending his summers in Payson for the last decade.
So, these days, you can usually find Posvar on the hill overlooking the football field and watching all the Sun Devils practices at the iconic camp located in the Tonto National Forest 17 miles east of Payson.
He was there for the first of ASU’s five practices at Camp T on Tuesday morning. And he planned to return for the remaining four.
He’s been watching the Sun Devils practice at Camp T since 1975.
“I used to come on Fridays and Saturdays but now I’m here all week,” he said.
He was looking forward to seeing the new artificial turf field that will prevent the Sun Devils from having to move practices to Rumsey Park in Payson when it rains. Last year’s weeklong trip to Camp T by the Sun Devils was cancelled because the new field couldn’t be installed in time. He said second-year head coach Herm Edwards and athletic director Ray Anderson deserve credit for the new field and upgrades at the camp.
“They’ve done a good job,” Posvar said. “They’ve done some very good recruiting this year, too.”
He’s excited about the four-way battle for the starting quarterback job between redshirt junior Dillon Sterling-Cole and freshmen Jayden Daniels, Ethan Long and Joey Yellen.
“These freshmen quarterbacks are something else,” Posvar said. “I’m excited about them.”
Posvar was one of about 40 people who made their way to Tuesday’s opening practice.
While Saturday’s final practice drew thousands, these weekday practices don’t attract anywhere near that total. And that’s just fine with this group of retirees and folks who are lucky enough to have jobs that afford them the ability to sneak over to get an up-close look at the Sun Devils as they prepare for another season.
Posvar came with John Shipp, who has lived year-round in Payson for 22 years. He worked in the paint and auto body industry in Glendale before retiring 20 years ago.
Shipp has been an ASU fan since 1970. He had held season tickets for about 25 years before he moved to Payson.
He hasn’t attended Camp T practices as often as Posvar, but is a big Sun Devils fan. He’s glad he accepted Posvar’s invitation to attend just his second Camp T practice.
“It’s just nostalgia,” Shipp said when asked why he came. “I saw Danny White (on the field). I saw him when he was playing quarterback for ASU and followed him when he went to the Dallas Cowboys.”
Shipp loves the new field and the other improvements made around the field.
“Man, this is something else,” he said. “It’s beautiful. If Frank Kush was alive he’d probably be out there rolling on it. He would be very impressed by all the groundwork and everything.”
The only other Camp T visit Shipp made was in 2016, when the final practice was cancelled because of the wet and muddy field.
In addition to the new field that should hold up well when wet, they’ve also installed pea gravel around the field so mud shouldn’t be an issue anymore.
“It’s nice,” said Cody Webster, another of the diehards attending Tuesday’s opening practice. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Webster grew up and still lives in Heber, where he owns a plumbing business. He had ASU football season tickets for 20-plus years but just wasn’t able to attend enough games to keep buying them. So the chance to see his team up close is something he’s not going to pass up.
“I can’t go to the football games anymore because my business is too busy,” Webster said. “Not being at the games is weird. So, I take off work to come here because this is the only interaction I’ll be able to have with my team. I’ll try and come back all week. I don’t plan on coming back on Saturday because it’s a rat race.”
Webster can’t afford to take the entire week off because he has customers counting on him. However, for one week, he’s not scheduling any morning appointments.
“I made my appointments for 1:30 (p.m.) because I didn’t want to get caught at work before I was able to go here because once you’re on a job you have to stay there until it’s done,” he said. “I just switched everything to the afternoon and I’ll try to do that all week.”
He’s been coming to watch practices here for 20 years.
“It’s just a beautiful place,” he said. “It’s a quick jaunt down the hill and I get to take a drink out of the spring. It’s tradition.”
Webster was watching with one of his customers, retired Paradise Valley High and Phoenix College business teacher Rudy Burgoz. Burgoz, 77, lives near him in Overgaard. He’s been a Sun Devils fan since 1958 and has been attending at least the Saturday Camp T practices every year they’ve held them since 1962. A season-ticket holder since 1966, he’s been making the 42-mile drive from his home to attend all the weekday practices, as well, since he retired 23 years ago.
“I’ve missed four home games in 55 years,” Burgoz said. “I just bleed maroon and gold.”
He’s thrilled that the Sun Devils are back at Camp T for the first time since 2017.
“I was disappointed last year when the field wasn’t ready,” Burgoz said. “Since the last scrimmage in the spring I could hardly wait for Camp T to open up. It’s just something I look forward to. My wife told my son last night, ‘he probably ain’t gonna sleep tonight because he’ll be thinking of Camp T.’”
Chuck Domino, a retired critical care nurse from Phoenix and a 1987 ASU graduate, drove up from the Valley with his retired friend from high school, John Steinbach, on Tuesday morning. They headed right back to Phoenix after watching the one practice. But it was worth the drive, especially since they didn’t get to make the trip last year with the cancellation.
“We love coming up here,” he said. “We missed it last year. This is awesome and it’s ASU football. Man, this is just terrific. Herm and Ray Anderson are doing a great job. And they’ve done a fantastic job on the field because we were here two years ago and there were mud spots and it was slick. It’s first class now.”