WALLINGFORD — It’s not everyday you get to meet a football player you’ve watched on television, especially when it’s your birthday.
Yet Bridgeport resident Robert Taylor got that lucky, meeting former NFL player Blair Thomas on the same day he turned 30.
“I’m a little excited. This is the most fun I’ve had all week,” Taylor said. “I’m still shocked I got a picture with Blair Thomas.”
Thomas was visiting patients at Gaylord Hospital with a handful of other Walter Camp Football Foundation All-American players and alumni Friday afternoon. The players spoke with patients and signed autographs.
Taylor has been recovering at Gaylord since last year, after being run over by a truck while on the job. He said he’s a big football fan and usually watches the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Thomas, a former NFL running back for the New York Jets, New England Patriots, and Dallas Cowboys, has visited hospitals with the Walter Camp Foundation several times.
“I’ve been through injuries, so I know how the rehab can be draining mentally,” Thomas said. “So I just try to encourage them and let them know they’re gonna have some plateaus, but then you’re gonna overcome… (and) start getting some more improvement. It’s just a matter of working hard and pushing yourself, because the body heals itself better than anything.”
Current All-American players David Sills V, a wide receiver at West Virginia University, and Braden Smith, Auburn University offensive lineman, also joined the group, along with former NFL and Walter Camp players, Paul Palmer, Will Allen, and Ki-Jana Carter.
Carter, who played for Penn State in the 1990s and was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1995, said he hoped their visit would spread some positive energy to the patients going through tough times.
“Obviously you feel fortunate to be where we’re at and to have an opportunity to... come to a place like this where they’re rehabbing and trying to get better and shine some light onto them,” Carter said. “Obviously they’re going through some pain, and (we can) brighten up their day a little bit, it’s always good to do that.”
Beth Margaret Roche, a patient from New Britain who is recovering from a stroke, was excited to get out of bed and meet the players.
“It’s an experience, you know, it’s a fun thing to do,” Roche said. “It’s a great thing… It lifts everyone’s spirits.”