An estimated 6,800 fans showed up at Springboro High School to watch the Cincinnati Bengals practice Monday night, and standing in the middle of that crowd was one woman who personifies the passion the Miami Valley has for the team.
Carolyn Nugent of Centerville had season tickets in her family from the time the team was founded in 1968, so when the Bengals had a chance to go to their first Super Bowl in 1981, she wasn’t going to let a minus 59-degree wind chill – or the fact that she was seven months pregnant – stop her from going to the AFC Championship game with her husband Dan.
“Everyone told me I was crazy, and looking back now I probably was,” Nugent said. “I have girls now and if they told me they were going to do that, I’d say ‘No, I don’t think so.’
“But we were such freaky fans, I had to call my doctor and ask if it was OK,” she continued. “He said ‘If you stay warm, your baby will be warm.’”
Her baby was born less than two months later, and Monday night that baby – Bengals kicker Mike Nugent – was on the Care Flight Stadium field with his teammates for their final public practice of the preseason.
“I always tell people I was at that game,” Mike said of the infamous Freezer Bowl. “Thinking about it now, I’m kind of surprised she went at seven months pregnant, but my parents are such big football fans.”
The trip to Springboro was the Bengals’ first to the Dayton area since 2010 when they practiced in a jam-packed Welcome Stadium. Monday’s crowd started arriving as early as 90 minutes before practice began at 5:30.
“It’s a good crowd,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “I think it’s good for us to go out and practice at a different spot and adjust to different conditions. You don’t get an opportunity to control things that happen when you’re traveling, when you’re away from home so you get adjusted.”
Before the 90-minute practice, Lewis met with the Springboro varsity team in the weight room and gave an eight-minute speech.
“They had a good season last year,” Lewis said of the Panthers, who went 10-0 and, like the Bengals, lost in the first round of the playoffs. “They don’t get an opportunity to start where they left off, they’ve got to go back to work and get busy and do things and make plays. Guys that were on the football team last year have got to push more and work harder.”
Lewis also implored the players to make sure they take care of their academics, driving that point home as the conclusion to his speech.
“The last thing I’ll say is take care of the academic part,” Lewis told the team. “You have to be a great student. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around seven or eight guys that are Hall of Fame players or will be in the Hall of Fame – first ballot – and they’ve always been the smartest players I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach. They’re great students. They know how to take great notes. They know how to study. They know how to prepare. Make sure you take care of your grades.”
Once practiced started, the crowd was treated to the return of defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, but quarterback Andy Dalton, who suffered a slight ankle injury in Saturday night’s 27-19 preseason win against Tennessee, did not take part in any 11-on-11 drills.
“They just wanted to give me a little rest, I guess,” Dalton said.
“He’s fine,” Lewis added.