It’s 3:00 on Saturday after the Spring game, and we are having a ball with the pack of self-proclaimed “Ferndawgs” at their tailgate. Scott & Anita Locker, Ferndale natives and parents of Jake, lead the group of loyal fans 90 minutes down I-5 for the spring game and every home game during the season. The gathering of friends and family celebrate the event in style with satellite t.v., multiple grills going, and a spread worthy of an Offensive Lineman’s appetite.
With a decked out RV that contains newly updated purple and gold vinyl seats and #10 embroidered in the front seats, along with a big #10 and “Ferndawgs” painted on the sides, it is hard to mistake the Locker’s tailgate party. They have a staple group of Ferndale residents that come down and root for Jake and the Huskies, and in addition to the Tolars, Chidiacs, and Habbens, the camp is a good representation of not only the camaraderie that can continue from the hometown friends and family, but the friendships that can be made through the network of football parents.
“We have a great group,” Scott Locker said of the tailgate faithful. “Over 50 friends and family flew out to the Syracuse game (Jake’s first game as a starter in ’07). It’s one of my favorite memories.”
Not only do they rally at all the home games, travel to the away games is essential as well. “I don’t miss many games,” Scott says. When asked if he stopped attending the away games after Jake got hurt last year, Scott admitted “I missed a couple, but we still went to the majority of the games because we are a team.”
The away travel discussion brings up countless recollections of the last few years, with Mike Habben quick to say “I have tons of stories on Scott.” Of course, most of them are what you would expect from a tight-knit group of football guys; jokes and ribbing of each other, as well as talk about favorite places to go in each city and things to do before game time. The dialogue is good indication that the fun doesn’t just leave the state of Washington when they do, but that away games give them even more time to get to know each other and let loose for a weekend. “We have great fun when we go out of town. I look forward to it,” Scott says with a smile.
As the tailgate party continues on, the NFL Draft plays on the t.v. located in the back of Mike Habben’s vehicle. Sandi Lappano, mother of Taylor and wife of former offensive coordinator Tim Lappano, mingles with everyone while she follows the draft more intently than years past. Tim is now the tight end coach for the Detroit Lions, and was out in Detroit for the draft. “Tim didn’t think the Lions were going to take a tight end today,” Sandi states. “But, wouldn’t you know they took one with the 20th pick.”
It is ironic that this day of Spring Ball falls on the same day as the NFL draft, two events that symbolize new beginnings in many different ways. It is a correlation that will hopefully mean rather than tail gating for the Spring game in a couple of years, each member of this group may be somewhere watching the draft as the main event in the day, waiting to see if their kids reach the pinnacle of their football careers. Undoubtedly, when that time comes this close community will be there to take in the experience and support each other through the twists and turns that the draft and a career in professional sports can bring.
As the tailgate winds down and most fans have left the parking lot, the Ferndale group still waits for their guys to shower up and come out for some grub. Members of the casually-dressed Husky band come over to serenade the group as they walk on through the parking lot, almost seemingly as the private band of the “Ferndawgs” for a moment or two. The mood is celebratory, enjoyment from a good Spring game and the pseudo-start of the 2009 season. “This is the best time in my life,” Scott tells me. And who can blame him for feeling that way? Good family, good friends, and a good time. Let the season begin.