Every fall from 1960 to 2008, Arizona State football squads traveled up Highway 87 to the friendly confines of Payson, Arizona for training camp. During that time, Camp Tontozona became a fixture for Sun Devil football fans, signaling the start to another season.
From 2008-2011 under Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils chose to stay home for training camp, choosing new and improved facilities in Tempe over the historic training ground.
When Todd Graham was named head coach, Arizona State began a "Return to Camp T" campaign, resulting in over $150,000 being raised to get the team back up to mountains of Payson. The team spent one week last August at Camp Tontozona, and the both players and coaches are looking forward to returning again this year.
"I'll be honest with you I can't wait to go," said Graham at the team's media day. "We want to have time to do a lot of team building stuff. We have a lot of newcomers and a lot of quality freshman, we need to learn each others names and get to know each other."
Last year, Graham's first at Arizona State, was focused more on the football field, with the team engulfed with two-a-days and meetings. This year, Graham will focus on his team off the field.
"I think our veterans are very close and the 14 players on our leadership council are very close," Graham said. "I want to have time to really develop as a team."
The Sun Devils leave for the 90-mile trip on Monday morning and will practice in the all this week. Camp T will conclude with a scrimmage on Saturday August 17.
Camp Tontozona is a chance for Paul Randolph's defense to come closer together. The Sun Devils have to replace two starters in the secondary and their emotional leader Brandon Magee.
"This summer and this offseason, they have grown closer as a team and when you go to Camp T it is like really putting the stamp on it," said the Arizona State co-defensive coordinator. "All they have to do is talk to each other because nothing works up there."
Players and coaches will not be using cell phones and will most likely be without internet connection for the majority of camp. Redshirt-junior defensive end Carl Bradford is looking forward to the change of scenery.
"Last year I loved it, I love the outdoors," said Bradford. "I love going outside and practicing in that weather so I am looking forward to it."
There are plenty of fan events this week for Sun Devils making the trip up North to see the team practice. The Sun Devil Club will be hosting a golf tournament and BBQ dinner on August 15, and fans allowed to come to practice and see the team on the field. However, according to the team's veterans, Arizona State will make its strides off the field.
"Some teams don't really focus on that," said tight end Chris Coyle about team bonding. "That is what keeps people together at the end of a game when times get rough. Guys build each other up, guys understand each other a little more and that's how you keep a team together."
Sun Devil teams that have gone to Camp T have gone on to have an 80% winning percentage. Perhaps it is something in the air, about 5,000 feet above sea level. Or perhaps it is the fact that football teams leave Camp T closer than when they entered it.
"I'm looking forward to turing this cell phone off, because it doesn't work up there," said Randolph. "When we leave from there (Camp T) we have accomplished what we want to be, which is guys loving each other, caring for each other and willing to lay it on the line for each other."